Late last year I was selected to participate in the Australia-Korea Next Generation Leaders Program (NGLP) along with nine other professionals in the water resource management field. The Australia-Korea NGLP was initiated by the Australian Government in 2007 through the Australia Korea Foundation
, in partnership with the Korea Foundation (KF
), the University of Sydney International Leaders Program
(formerly known as the Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific, RIAP), and the National Strategy Institute (NSI).
The objectives of the NGLP are:
1. To gain an advanced understanding of Korea’s sustainable water resource management and industry;
2. To promote and advance cooperation, leadership and knowledge exchange between Korean and Australian leaders in the development and management of sustainable water resources;
3. To facilitate ongoing linkages between participants and counterpart organisations in Korea;
4. To develop an understanding of Korean culture and contemporary society.
The program included 10 days in South Korea participating in a mix of cultural and water resource management related experiences. They were big, busy and enjoyable days. Cultural experiences included tours of the DMZ (pictured), National Museum
, folk villages, palace, the National Assembly
and N-Seoul tower
The water resource management experiences included lectures, business meetings and personalised tours of facilities such as Arisu drinking water treatment facility
, Doosan Heavy Industries
, Cheonggyecheon stream, Junam wetlands (pictured below), weirs constructed as part of the Four Rivers Restoration project, and an Energy Environment Science Park.
A visit to Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea
Something that stood out for me was the way that all the engineering projects in Korea took into consideration the social aspects of water management. Where we have the tendency to discourage people from interacting with water to minimise health and safety risk, in Korea, I found that this interaction was strongly encouraged. Getting up close to waterways increased the awareness, understanding and connection that people have with water, while also improving liveability within Korean cities.
Highlights of the program for me were:
At the end of our first day in Korea we heard about the restoration of the Cheonggyecheon stream
in the middle of Seoul. What we saw was the result of an ambitious 6 km urban stream restoration project costing about USD$280M. Cheonggyecheon stream had been covered in concrete for roads during 1948-1960 and in 1968 an elevated highway was built over it. The Cheongyecheon is now an open urban waterway that provides some habitat for fish, birds and insects, significant recreation opportunities, and has also helped to reduce temperature nearby by 3.6 C on average versus other parts of Seoul.
Upstream at Cheonggyecheon, Seoul – where the stream ‘begins’
and a river rossing
Lecture by Tim Flannery at Seoul National University
2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Australia, and both governments designated 2011 as the Korea-Australia ‘Year of Friendship’. As part of the celebrations, both governments held diverse cultural, social and academic events in the major cities of their counterparts – one of which was a lecture by Tim Flannery. It was a great experience to see saw how such a well known Australian environmentalist presents information and interacts in the Korean setting. It provided me with an insight into not only the global challenges of climate change, but also into the way that Australia and Korea can work together to start to address the challenges.
Tim Flannery, embassy staff and the NGLP delegation
We visited Ipo Weir which was nearing the end of construction. This weir has been designed to resemble a Heron and it’s eggs and is a striking feature in the landscape. Just goes to show that some engineering can be beautiful too.
Architectural style of Ipo weir – based on a heron and it’s eggs and inside one of the "eggs"