On 15–16 March 2023, the First Korean National RCE Meeting was held at Sejahtera Forest in the Republic of Korea, hosted by RCE Tongyeong. The meeting brought together around 30 members from five of the seven Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) located in the Republic of Korea. It established a collaborative network, identified common challenges and opportunities, shared ESD projects and activities, and discussed ways to enhance joint projects.
A keynote speech by Jonghwi Park (Academic Programme Officer, UNU-IAS) highlighted global Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) trends and promising RCE cases. RCEs then presented their activities, including RCE Tongyeong’s award-winning programme fostering ESD development for educators to extend environment education, and its “Bridge to the World” programme aimed at developing problem-solving skills for youth. RCE Inje shared its “Inje Wildlife Ecology School,” a residential education programme for regional innovation leaders to foster a harmonious life with nature. RCE Changwon presented its international development project, the Cambodia–Changwon International Education Cooperation Centre, and RCE Gwangmyeong introduced its efforts to sustain RCE activities as a lifelong learning city. A model ESD project was explained by RCE Dobong-gu, which features collaboration between Dobong Municipality Office, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. This project created ESD courses at the higher education level and provided joint credits and certificates.
Participants actively discussed measures to facilitate systematic collaboration between RCEs in the Republic of Korea and beyond, and to widely disseminate best practices. Suggested measures included organising periodic national conferences, publishing case books, and further sharing ideas to strengthen RCE activities in lifelong learning beyond school education.
Following the conference, on 16 March 2023 Shinobu Yume Yamaguchi (Director, UNU-IAS) and Dr Park visited Dongwon High School, a UNESCO ASPnet School in Tongyeong, and participated in a student-led campaign on environment education “Migration Rocket to Mars”. The exhibition introduced the planet Mars in 2100 in a polluted state due to human activity, mirroring human impacts on Earth. The message focused on changing mindsets rather than the climate.
The conference ended with a visit to meet the Mayor of Tongyeong, in which Prof Yamaguchi and Dr Park reaffirmed further collaboration and support by UNU-IAS for RCEs in the Republic of Korea. The event received detailed coverage by local media outlet Hansan News, which is available on their website in Korean.