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 Hong Soo-min&Kim Ji-soo
An Environmental Activist Kim Man-jae, Discussing the Beauty of All Living Creatures
제 200 호    발행일 : 2021.11.08 

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Currently, the Earth’s Environmental Doomsday Clock is 9:42 P.M. The Environmental Crisis Clock is stipulated to collect and announce the opinions of environmental experts every year. The purpose of this Clock is said to be that people are wary of the destruction of the global environment and visually express the sense of danger to human survival. As people can understand from the Environmental Doomsday Clock, the Earth’s environment is in serious crisis. This year, in western Canada, the temperature rose to 49.6 degrees in summer, killing more than 700 people in the ensuing heatwave, and in the United States an area nearly seven times the size of Seoul burned down. Also, in Korea, the heat island phenomenon occurs every summer, causing people to feel severe discomfort. To add to this, the Earth is suffering because of the increased number of disposed products since the prolonged COVID-19. The Ministry of Environment announced that the amount of vinyl waste averagely generated was 951 tons per day and plastic waste averaged 848 tons per day. In this situation, we need to cherish the environment and care for the life of the ecosystem. Therefore, CBT reporters would like to introduce Kim Man-jae, an environmental activist who is trying to prevent the endangered species of amphibians, which are the members of the ecosystem. Moreover, he is especially focusing on the survival of ‘Narrow-Mouthed Toads.’

1. First, please introduce yourself and your environmental activities.
  When I was a teacher in Pyeongtaek, children tried to find something related to the environment, but there was no ecological data related to Pyeongtaek at all. Therefore, the first thing I did was to start monitoring. I began monitoring all ecological fields in our Pyeongtaek area, and have been conducting collective ecological monitoring in Pyeongtaek for nearly 30 years. Also, I worked on writing books based on monitoring data. I provided books and brochures to the education office such as ‘Pyeongtaek’s Grass Flower World’ and ‘Pyeongtaek’s Tree World.’ Nowadays, I conduct research projects after select detailed fields.

2. After retiring from your teaching career, you havve been engaging in environmental activities without a break, what is the driving force behind your energy?
  The biggest motivation is ‘fondness.’ I was able to continue to engage in environmental activities from elementary school to high school, to university, and even until now without wavering. Because I liked it. Also, the interest and preciousness of living things, which are settled in my mind, played a big part of continuous participation. Even now, as I walk around, I’m affectionate to a weed, a butterfly, and a bird, and I’m interested in those, so I look into it. To sum up, I think I can maintain this job until now because I like it.

3. What do you mostly feels or thoughts while studying the ecosystem environment?
  It is a ‘sorriness’ that I felt while looking around the entire ecosystem. If we think a little more, numerous lives around us can exert vitality in a better environment and reproduce for generations successfully, but we are so indifferent to our surroundings. Especially, administrative and educational institutions shows any consideration for nature. Plus, I’m thinking, “How nice. What if we work together for their lives?” For example, in the case of Pyeongtaek, there are no mountains we can commonly see low lands instead of mountains. There is comparatively more water than other places. This is ideal for amphibians, and there are so many ‘Suwon Green Frogs’, ‘Gold Frogs’, and ‘Narrow-Mouthed Toads’ in Pyeongtaek, but since there is no interest or effort for them, many endangered amphibians disappeared. Looking at the disappearances, I feel sustainedly sadness even now.

4. You are steadily running a blog called ‘Gonjulbaki,’ which informs the nature of Pyeongtaek. When do you feel rewarded?
  Since the theme is ‘Nature in Pyeongtaek,’ I have been blogging for about 15 years with the important purpose of informing people of the vitality in my hometown, and I am very satisfied in that respect. In addition, I am very satisfied when not only people in Pyeongtaek but also people in other local talk about the living creature in Pyeongtaek. In particular, in the case of ‘Tail Silk Butterflies,’ Pyeongtaek was the first to start promoting, but now it is also connected to Ulsan and other regions. Now, many regions are inquiring on blogs about getting help with ‘Tail Silk Butterflies.’ I feel rewarded because I can give information to people by running blogs and Instagram. After all, it can even help with master and doctorate programs in academia.

5. What is the meaning of your blog’s nickname ‘Gonjulbaki’?
  In my childhood, I ate meals on the mountain when I went hiking. The most memorable thing was that as I cooked, birds flew overhead, and the closest flying bird was ‘Gonjulbaki,’ so I always looked out for it. Since then, I found out that it is one of the birds closest to humans, and my nickname ‘Gonjulbaki’ encapsulates my dream, “I hope to get close to many people around me.”

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6. Then, is the ‘Gonjulbaki’ the most affectionate type of creature you have ever observed or protected?
  I’m afraid not. My nickname is ‘Narrow-Mouthed Toad.’ Even my grandchild describes me as a ‘Narrow-Mouthed Toad grandfather,’I have been mnade an effort such as relief work in person for protecting them. Pyeongtaek has become more urbanized, apartments, housing sites, and industrial complexes have been built throughout. As a result, the life in need is indescribably the ‘Narrow-Mouthed Toad.’ In particular, the narrow-mouthed toad does not announce its existence by sound. June to August is the breeding season, and looking at the site of their breeding, I think “Ah, their lives must have been in such difficulties.” Therefore, I will continue to make efforts for a safe habitat for the narrow-mouthed toad that I cherish.

7. For complex reasons such as COVID-19, has the current ecosystem changed a lot from the past? If so, how is it different?
  It is difficult to relate the natural ecosystem to COVID-19 directly, but the hottest issue in the natural ecosystem is climate change. All of these things, such as swine fever and bird flu, are interpreted as result of global warming. The National Institute of Ecology published a collection of data, regarding the impact of climate change on the natural ecosystem showing that climate change has reduced inland wetlands, decreased species, and disturb domestic species and organisms are increased. Due to climate change, far-reaching changes are coming. Also, Pyeongtaek’s changes are remarkable in that direction while investigating the natural ecology of the area. Although we can’t directly see the results of disposable product emissions caused by COVID-19 on the ecology, similar results such as the previous cases are expected to appear soon.
 
8. You have been active in the Environmental field, from ecological manager to education activity. What are your plans and goals for the future?
  If I have focused on ecological monitoring, education, and promotion for about a decade while creating the Southern Gyeonggi Ecological Education Research Institute, now, I aim to focus on opening a new Pyeongtaek Natural Research Institute. Basic monitoring is ongoing, and what I am interested in these days is in-depth study such as on flowers and insects. I feel the need to conduct an in-depth study on each topic and I have been researching this topic for two years.
 
9. Do you have any message to college students about the ecosystem environment?
  The ecosystem environment is more than just theoretical academical studies. It is the very thing that exists together with life. I want students to know the importance of the natural ecosystem and all living things. In addition to us, there are always living things around us, and I hope college students can recognize their role as a partner to go together.

10. What kind of world do you hope for in the future?
  What we hope in the future usually doesn’t come true perfectly.  Still, natural ecology and human life are becoming increasingly difficult due to climate change, and I want people to have a little more environmental attitude. I hope a world that can improve the quality of life while reducing the environmental pollution in more diverse fields such as air pollution, soil pollution and water pollution, will come.

  CBT reporters hope this interview will give people an opportunity to reflect on their life who lived indifferent to the living creatures around themselves. Like the words of the ecological activist Kim Man-jae, CBT reporters want people to think about the environment as much as possible while living their daily life, and to live with an attitude that considers the importance of living creatures.


By Hong Soo-min l sm41@cbnu.ac.kr
By Kim Ji-soo l sixteen@cbnu.ac.kr

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