Solutions From Seoul: Jaeyong Sung's Climate Leaders Fellowship Project
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Solutions From Seoul: Jaeyong Sung's Climate Leaders Fellowship Project

Jaeyong joined the fourth cycle of the Climate Leaders Fellowship. This environmental leadership program leads high school students in researching the effects of climate change in their own communities and develop community-based volunteer projects. This program provides opportunities for students to hone leadership, organizational, and communication skills.

The online program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read Jaeyong’s community impact story below!

Climate Leaders Fellowship Project Spotlight: Jaeyong Sung

Hello! I am Jaeyong Sung, a student attending Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Yongin, South Korea. I grew up in Seoul, South Korea, an urban area crowded with people and traffic. Every morning I woke up with car noises and trash-picking trucks.

Now, I live in a dormitory in Yong-in, a suburban area, where I can hear the sound of elk every night. Just like how we miss more when we get further away, I began to know more about urban issues related to climate change and the environment. This is how I began to explore urban problems.

I saw so many news programs and articles about the city’s development and magnificence. Therefore, we found many loopholes in environmental efforts in cities. Seemingly eminent activities revealed to be meretricious. It is why I decided to set the most urgent goal of promoting those neglected issues in our society, especially the issues related to climate change.

A view from the top of Inwangsan in Seoul, South Korea when the pollution is bad. The buildings are covered in a layer of smog and are difficult to see. In the far back of the image you can barely see iconic N Seoul Tower.

A view from Inwang Mountain in Seoul on a high air pollution day. The N Seoul Tower is barely visible.

Starting this Urban Diagnosis project was just like pioneering wasteland. There were not enough resources published. For instance, filter companies didn’t provide any information about the amount of filter waste, recyclability, or related information. Since those issues were not addressed before, they lacked previous research or articles to study. However, the project did not stop; sharing ideas with other Fellows and getting encouragement from them made me continue developing this project.

Urban Diagnosis: Local Project to Combat Climate Issues

Our first goal was to address the issue of air-purifier filter recycling. Every classroom in our school has one air purifier per classroom, and we found that all used filters just become trash. Having 30 classrooms meant producing 30 filter trash per month, not being recycled, and being incinerated, which is a major cause of air pollution. Then, I thought of this phenomenon as an irony–air purifiers, which aim to make the air clean, produce air pollution as a result.

To promote this ironic phenomenon to a broader audience, we created an Instagram account called Urban Diagnosis. Since our project is still progressing, we are now in a state of uploading the background information, such as the explosion of the air purifier market, or our email address so that partner companies or organizations can contact us.

A view of the Han River in Seoul, South Korea. The Lotte Tower is in the background and on the river there are people in wind sail boats on the water. At the top is a branch of cherry blossoms.

Han River in Seoul with a view of Lotte Tower on a clear, unpolluted day.

Engage Students in Environmental Studies and Action

Furthermore, we plan to address the problems in the government’s policy or company’s. By collaborating with environmental organizations, we seek to state those issues with the press. We currently have 54 followers, first targeting our school students, but as we expand our outreach activities, we aim to achieve more than 1,000 actively engaging followers this year.

My experience in participating in this Climate Leaders Fellowship is hard to explain. I’ve learned so much from communicating and engaging in activities. Because of the time zone difference, I joined the Zoom meeting every 1 AM at night. Therefore, I was excited and really waited for this Zoom meeting, where I got to meet with other Fellows or do socializing activities.

Even when I am really tired, getting involved in conversation makes me fully wake up. I am sure that this opportunity is worth the time, and I am so proud that I contributed to solving the environmental issue. I am now so excited to gain more knowledge and experience in environmental studies and get more and more involved in activities!!

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.