As part of my speaking portion of one lesson plan, I asked about 300 of the 600 Sehwa High School students I teach, boys and girls, ages 16 and 17, this question: Do you ever throw rubbish or litter on the streets? They responded: I (throw / do not throw) rubbish or litter on the streets because ...
It's disheartening to see such a naturally beautiful island being literally trashed by the next generation. Before hiking Hallasan, in the past I got picked up around 6 a.m., at City Hall on Sunday mornings. Witness the previous night's cesspool of candy wrappers, discarded drink cans, cigarette butts, broken soju bottles, et cetera. Luckily, the government has incredibly efficient street cleaners to eliminate – like mothers – their babies' mess before the day breaks.
People litter – to some degree – all over the world, but why here in a place of such pride and potential? That's not logical.
Go to any Jejudo beach in the summer and view the garbage left by those who have just enjoyed a serene "picnic." At Samyang Beach, it happens constantly. With Jejudo's strong winds, the garbage goes everywhere and eventually cycles in the sea, to be washed up again.
My students responded they throw trash on the streets because there is no trash can around, and if I mention "How about your pocket until you find a garbage can?" I get treated more foreign than I already am. Only a handful responded they do not litter because someone taught them about the environment and it is disrespectful to do so. A few people litter because they know a government worker has been hired to clean up the waste.
Social problems can never be fixed if they are not addressed properly. In Korea, especially Jejudo, sweeping things under the rug doesn't work. The wind is too strong to not disrupt the rug's intentions.