Hello! This is Peng Ning from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China. Supported by the Global Environmental Scholarship Program (GESP) under the Ministry of Environment in Korea, I am now studying in the Park Chung Hee School of Policy and Saemaul (PSPS) of Yeungnam University and serving as the President of PSPS Student Council for 2018 Spring and Summer Semester.
I was admitted to PSPS in 2017 after a strict application and interview process. As soon as I started my graduate studies in PSPS, I was overwhelmingly impressed by the “Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign,” an event in which all members of PSPS get together early in the morning on the first day of every month and clean the campus. When I first heard of the event, I was very curious and wished to know why people have to do that. I was even more surprised to see in my first campaign that all the professors and staff in PSPS, including Prof. Choi Oe-chool the former Vice President of Yeungnam University, Prof. Kim Ki-soo the Dean of PSPS, Vice Deans, and professors, came to the campaign much earlier than the students. In fact, I have been astonished that all the professors and staff attend the event earlier than students in the following campaigns.
I couldn’t help asking Prof. Choi about the meaning of such campaigns and reasons for professors’ full and early attendance despite their busy schedule. Prof. Choi told me that Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign was first initiated in Korea in 1970s as one of the Saemaul Undong projects at work places, factory and schools for people to practice the Saemaul spirit of diligence, self-help, and cooperation. It was not just a regular event of cleaning but a platform for close communications among community members. It was a great chance for people to chat with one another to show their care for others, to talk about their concerns and seek solutions, as well as to check the community’s safety. It was a process of promoting communal spirit and consolidating community ties. As for the professors’ participation, Prof. Choi pointed out that implementing Saemaul spirit should always start from the leaders and the leaders have to take the initiative to encourage and mobilize their community members.
My eyes widened when I heard his words. I began to understand the real values and meanings behind our activities. Truly, in each Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign, we start by greeting one another to show care and appreciation to our friends and classmates. Students from different majors and different years get together. We discuss our academic concerns and life problems during the cleaning and try to look for proper solutions. At the same time, with our efforts, various wastes around the campus are collected and properly disposed, and their latent negative impacts on public health are abated. The Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign indeed becomes a bridge to a stronger PSPS community and an educational event for students especially the youngsters to learn how to conserve our environment.
His words about leadership in Saemaul practice inspired me as well. As the PSPS Student Council President, I am now working closely with all the Student Council members and PSPS Office to share knowledge on solid waste management and treatment with PSPS students immediately after every Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign to raise people’s environmental awareness, and the results are quite promising. Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign is a sound model of creating an enabling environment for sustainable development, and a first and key step toward a safer and happier world. Moreover, it continues and improves the true value of Saemaul spirit.
After I finish my studies in PSPS, I would like to bring the practice of “Saemaul Spirit Monthly Campaign” back to China as one of the practical strategies to create a stronger community and an effective approach toward a more sustainable environment.