Wen Bo is chair of the China Advisory Board of the Global Greengrants Fund.

Monday, 22 Apr 2002

SEOUL, South Korea

Korea has always drawn me like a magnet, so this year, I chose to come to Seoul to take part in the Korean Earth Day celebrations.

Arriving at Gwanghwamun on Sunday morning, I saw traffic police start to block off the Sejong road, where the main event was to be held. The river of cars quickly dwindled to a trickle and then disappeared altogether, marking the first time I ever saw the Sejong road free from traffic.

And then the greens took over: Roller skaters and cyclists poured in, as did dancers and drummers wearing traditional Korean outfits. Banners bearing slogans such as “Protecting our home” lined the sidewalks, and the streets were full of creative sculptures; I saw one of a tree growing from a car. It didn’t take me very long to use up my first roll of film.

While I watched, over 15 Korean environmental groups gathered and set up booths to promote their messages. Green Future organized a drum circle, with most of the instruments made from recycled boxes and cans. Green Korea put up an animated figure of a frog to highlight the importance of nature conservation.

Most of the Korean groups that were getting ready for the celebration were already familiar to me from my days as a graduate student in Seoul. (As a result, I ran into several old friends during the day, a nice surprise for me and them.) Korea is known throughout Asia for its radical and dynamic environmental movement. Although small compared to many Asian countries, Korea is home to the continent’s largest environmental organization, the Korean Federation for the Environmental Movement.

One of the main attractions of the Korean Earth Day celebrations was the stage show. Dressed in costumes made from compact disks and electrical wires, the actors performed a piece about the mechanized future of human society and the importance of remembering our roots and our interconnectedness with all other beings on Earth.

April is a warm season in Seoul, and Sunday was a sunny day. But if anything, the heat and the bright sunshine seemed to enhance everyone’s enthusiasm. By the afternoon, students were gathering to march along the Sejong road. Behind the Earth Day Network banner, about 2,000 people waving placards and flags showed their commitment to our global environment. It was a very special moment, one that reminded me of the first Earth Day project in the U.S, and I couldn’t help but ask myself: When will we have an event like this in China?