Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting The Message Out There

What i really like about being able to come back to Jeju and participate in World Environment and Island Summer School is that it provides a platform; a platform where i get the opportunity to get people thinking about, talking about, and engaging with the issues. This year i'll give a presentation and workshop on some of the problems affecting our seas - acidification, rising sea temperatures, over fishing, pollution, and so on. It's an opportunity to get people thinking about why they should care.

Jeju Big Swim will again be a part of the World Environment and Island Summer School program. As a platform, Jeju Big Swim has enormous potential to promote environmental education and raise environmental awareness. 

Whilst i am enormously grateful for the support given by WEISS, for Jeju Big Swim to reach its full potential there is a need for a passionate and committed individual or group to take it to the next level. It will take a lot of work as 2010 and 2011 JBS team member Sung Mi can attest to ~ liaise with community groups to raise participation levels, seek sponsorship, market, publicise and promote the event to the media and the public, arrange and organise entertainment, and the million and one other things that go into making such an event. 

Jeju Big Swim has the potential to be big - an annual event whereby dozens, hundreds, thousands of people swim for the environment. Jeju is just the start. Just imagine -  a Seoul Big Swim, a Pusan Big Swim, a Mokpo Big Swim, a Pohang Big Swim ..... Get your togs on!

Huge potential indeed!


Thursday, July 19, 2012


I have been invited, once again, to participate in this year's World Environment and Island Summer School. Though not finalised i believe i'll be presenting a paper and conducting a workshop. I'll also be swimming. There is a 1km swim scheduled for Saturday, July 28th at Udo or Biyangdo Beach (not sure on the details yet!), and a 1km swim on Sunday 29th at Kimnyoung.

If there are any swimmers out there come along and join in. You can facebook me at the Jeju Big Swim Community page or at "Jeju BigSwim". I'm also at Even if you don't swim, tell your friends and come along to show your support. This is a great opportunity to be an advocate for the sea - believe me, Mother Ocean sure needs it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gang Jeong - No Navy Base

Last year when i swam around Jeju i swam through some water that tasted very fresh and salty - completely different from everywhere else where the water smelled of sewerage, dead, rotting fish and/or oil and fuel. I swam into the little harbour and was surprised at the lack of detritus i had commonly encountered in most harbours - plastic bags, bottles, cans etc. I remember commenting to Steve and asking where we were. When he checked our chart he said we were in Gang Jeong. Gang Jeong had the cleanest water in Jeju!

And this is where the powers-that-be have decided to build a naval base.

I have seen with my own eyes the terrible state of the sea around Jeju, the result of pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction.

Nevermind that Jeju is a designated "World Peace Island" and the building of a naval base means no one will take that designation seriously - a missed opportunity.  Jeju has a reputation for being 'natural' and 'clean'. Instead of building on this branding, the powers-that-be have chosen to destroy the last of Jeju that really is natural and clean - a missed opportunity.

From an environmental, a social and a tourism perspective Jeju will lose so much more than it will gain.

Please go to

The sea belongs to us all.

Police at Gang Jeong

Protesters and police

Police guarding the lane way leading to the protest site

Entrance to the site

Protesters are living in tents

Heading down to the site

Protest Thursday 11th August, 2011.

Gang Jeong -  under threat

No Naval Base!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

World Environment and Peace Summer School

On Saturday i was a panel participant for the 2011, 11th Peace Island Forum. It was a great opportunity for me to share some of my first hand knowledge of the ills impacting our oceans. Then yesterday i gave a two and a half hour presentation to a group of 8 students titled "The Environment and the Individual".

We started the session with some fun ice breakers before getting down to the main agenda. I showed several TED Talks (with Korean subtitles) and asked the participants to note down the issues that impacted on our oceans. Students then worked in pairs to make a list which they displayed to the rest of the class on a  large sheet of butcher paper (provided by Big Swim team member Eugene - thanks Eugene!). Participants were then divided into 2 groups and  told to choose what they felt were the 3 most important issues and justify their choices to the rest of the class.

Then each group spent time discussing what they, as individuals, could do to help solve the problems they had identified They then presented their ideas to the class.

My role was only that of presenter and facilitator. When some of the ideas or solutions  presented seemed a little abstract i tried to get the students to think in more concrete terms. For example, one group suggested "provide environmental education". I then asked the hard questions such as what is environmental education? How can you, as an individual, provide it? To whom? By problematising the solutions  presented and thinking critically about how to enact change at the level of the individual, students were able to see that they, as individuals, have the power to create change for the better.

I had a lot of fun and i hope the participants did to. If anyone would like to hold their own workshop i'm happy to pass on my resources. Please get in touch ~ jeju big swim (all one word) at gee mail dot com.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Team Jeju Big Swim 2011

The Jeju Big Swim team is growing. It's also changing. Of course there is team member Sung Mi who worked so tirelessly last year and without whose efforts, Jeju Big Swim would not have happened. And that is definately the case again this year.

Sung Mi was supposed to have flown off to Mongolia today however the trip has been cancelled thanks to cyclone Muifa. Mongolia's loss, but definately our gain!

We have team member Eugene who has got our web site up and running in both Korean and English.  Thanks to Eugene's efforts the day's events, schedule and other relevant information is all in one place (

We are really lucky that Mr Kim Cheon Dae has joined the team. He is the president of the lifeguard team who swam with me on the last day of last years Jeju Big Swim. Mr Kim is very committed to making Jeju Big Swim a community event  and is excited about its potential to foster environmental education and awareness. Mr Kim is liaising with the marine police, coordinating the kayakers and is responsible for swimmer registrations. He is also dealing with the safety issues and sorting out the logistics of the swims.

We are a very small team - but we are hoping that from small things, big things will grow. 

We have received support from several people. My university, Southern Cross University, provided free gym and pool membership so that i could train.

Mr Lee, from Mr Lee's Bike Shop, is supporting JBS by providing a 50cc scooter - with all the running around we've had to do it has been worth its weight in gold. A huge thankyou Mr Lee!

We are still looking for someone who can act as translator and manage our Korean blog and Facebook page.

Mr Lee and the 50cc scooter outside his shop.

Korea - Land of the Last Minute

 I have spent the past month wondering if i was going to make it to Jeju to participate in Jeju Big Swim 2011. Despite telling them that my participation was not 100% confirmed, Southern Cross University still provided me with free access to the gym and pool so that i could train. After an anxious wait, the World Environment and Peace Summer School finally came through with a return flight from Brisbane to Jeju. I received flight confirmation details on Wednesday afternoon. I had one night to pack and get myself sorted before i had to leave for the trip to Brisbane.

When i finally arrived in Jeju i was a little (a lot!) disconcerted to find that only the Jeju Big Swim  concert event had been organised. However, my arrival seemed to be the catalyst needed and since then it's been a mad scramble to pull it all together. A series of desperate phone calls very late on Sunday night culminated in Sung Mi and i, at 10.30pm, sitting in a norae bang attending a rather bizarre "emergency" meeting convened by the team member responsible for community participation. We were greeted with half empty whiskey bottles and long speeches. It was quite clear that if Jeju Big Swim 2011 was going to happen, then we were going to have to do it ourselves - and pretty quickly at that. As i don't speak Korean most of the work fell to Sung Mi who has been doing a great job.

But today Sung Mi flies off to Mongolia and won't be back till swim day. Lucky for us, on Thursday, Mr Kim Cheon Dae stepped up to the plate. Cheon Dae is the head of the life saving group i swam with on the final day of last year's JBS and was at the meeting on Sunday night. He is organising to have sea kayakers accompany any 10 km swimmers, sorting out safety and swim logistics, liaising with the marine police and so on. Mr Kim Cheon Dae totally gets Jeju Big Swim and has even agreed to be our media spokesperson.

A huge thankyou to Mr Kim Cheon Dae. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Jeju Big Swim 2011

Jeju Big Swim 2011 will be held on Saturday August 13th. This year it is a community event whereby everyone can participate. Once again, Jeju Big Swim is an official event of the World Environment and Peace Summer School.

This year there will be many ways to participate. There will be a 50 metre swim for kids and beginners, a 1 km swim and a 10km. There will also be an opportunity for non-swimmers to walk instead of swim.

We've had great support - World Environment and Peace Summer School provided my air ticket, Southern Cross University provided free pool and gym membership so i could train, and Mr Lee, of Mr Lee's bike shop here in Jeju has given me a scooter to use while i'm here.

The web page is slowly coming together at thanks to Eugene and Kenny. We've also fired up the Facebook Jeju Big Swim community page and (Korean) Cyworld will be operational soon (thanks Kenny!).

Jeju Big Swim is the result of a lot of hard work by the Jeju Big Swim team. More about the team coming soon......