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Updated 6:30 PM June 5, 2007




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South Korean fact-finding visit to U-M
will focus on environmental issues

Like the United States, South Korea is experiencing problems caused by pollution from power plants, automobiles and other sources that disproportionately impact people in lower socio-economic levels. In response, the Korean government has instituted Environmental Health Plan 2006-2015 to address these issues of environmental justice.

On May 25, 10 South Korean environmental researchers will make an official visit to the School of Natural Resources and Environment to learn more about its environmental justice research, methodology, curriculum and initiatives. The one-day stop is part of an eight-day tour of the United States that includes Washington, D.C., Boston and other major cities.

The Korean Environmental Institute (KEI), a government-funded environmental-research organization, has initiated a three-year national project, Environmental Policy for the Low-income People in Urban Areas, focusing on the Seoul metropolitan area.

KEI representatives realize they still lack critical information about the impact of environmental hazards on vulnerable and sensitive populations. One month ago they contacted U-M professor Bunyan Bryant and asked if they could meet with him and other faculty at SNRE.

"I think South Korea is very concerned about the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on low-income people, and they recognize the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan is one of the few places they can go for more information," says Bryant, a professor of natural resources and environment and of urban planning. "I don't think there is any other environmental-justice program in the country that compares with ours."

During their daylong visit, the Korean researchers and their American counterparts will share and discuss environmental justice research findings and global-information system applications. They also will attend breakout sessions focusing on health disparities, environmental justice methodologies, and projects involving Head Start children and their mothers living in Detroit.

"At some point, I also plan to show the connection between environmental justice and climate change," Bryant says. In the afternoon, the group will travel to Detroit to meet with representatives of several related community groups.

"I think it would be incredible if, as a result of their visit, the Korean contingent could persuade their Ministry of Environment to take on environmental justice as an issue and formulate appropriate governmental policies," Bryant says. "It also would be rewarding to know that this University is having a positive influence in the environmental justice arena on another country."

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