It is no surprise now that the young people of today will be most affected by climate change tomorrow. Young people around the world bear the disproportionately large burden of solving the challenges associated with climate change. In recent years the world’s youth persist to be listened to when they rally for climate action, as they know that the actions of today will affect their future and the stability of the global climate. As ignited by the efforts of Greta Thunberg and others, there has been an increase in young people globally uniting and empowering one another to pressure world leaders into climate action (United Nations 2010, Lee 2020, United Nations 2021).
In South Korea, the actions and attitudes of young people play a critical role in the fight for urgent climate action. Research conducted by United Nations Development Programme (2021) found that age does matter when it comes to people’s attitudes towards climate change action as shown in the The Peoples’ Climate Vote survey results. The majority (79%-94%) of the South Korean demographic (18-65+years) show high concern about the effects climate change may have on them personally. The research also found that South Korea’s younger citizens reportedly show more concern about the effects of climate change than people of the same age bracket in other countries such as Sweden, U.S., Canada, and UK.
Thoughts and Feelings of Youth
It does not come as a surprise that when asked about their thoughts and feelings of climate change and the government’s response to the issue, fear and anger plague the minds of young people in South Korea. Feelings of “shock, betrayal and anger” (Kyunwoon, 19 years old) are common. The negative feelings are widespread, but the increase in youth climate action empowerment has seen the passionate attitudes of youth be utilised and transformed into motivation for action. Youths are voicing up to “act for everyone’s rights” (Eugene, 17 years old), and to “act[…]to protect our future” (Donghee, 17 years old). Young people feel a sense of dejection, but also understand the absolute necessity of collaboration when faced with the state of the climate one interview found (Eun-byel 2022).
Demands of Youth Groups
Above all, the most common theme across South Korean youth climate action groups is that young people to demand to be heard on climate change issues and headed by national and global decision-makers. They demand quick action by government, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, immediate transition to renewable energy sources and ultimately for their voices to be heard when decisions are being made which so imminently affect their future. Youth climate action groups also promote a range of other important issues, such as spreading climate crisis awareness, and urging fellow youth and older generations alike to make sustainably-minded changes in daily choices and practices. Common themes of equity, inclusiveness and cooperation run throughout the youth climate groups.
Effectiveness of Youth Groups
The persistent efforts of South Korea’s young people in the fight to affect meaningful change for the sake of the world’s climate seems to be gaining momentum. Making world headlines in 2019 and 2020 was a group of young South Korean climate activists who filed a constitutional complaint, arguing that the objectives of South Korean climate change law affect young people’s right to live and right to a clean environment. The complaint was filed with the Constitutional Court on the grounds that South Korea’s objectives to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions were inadequate to meet the global target of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, thus violating the constitutional rights and livelihoods of the nation’s youth. The youth activists continue to fight for change while they wait for government action in response to the climate crisis. Read more on this: http://climatecasechart.com/non-us-case/kim-yujin-et-al-v-south-korea/
Some youth groups are engaged in more specific promotion, education and implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals through on-the-ground action such as Hope to the Future Association’s (HFA) efforts to reduce plastic waste. Also in an effort to clean up South Korea, young people have begun initiatives to recycle and upcycle plastics that would otherwise go to landfill or remain unrecycled.
South Korean youth climate group members are also appearing on the international stage, where the United Nations is engaging youth from many countries to contribute to youth-led events and have their voice heard in the face of the climate emergency.
The grit of young people and their ability to engage and empower one another for climate activism is not only inspiring, but absolutely necessary, as they are our next world leaders.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard South Korea Country Manager Mia Ray
Learn More Resources
‘Sparrows’ across Korea unite to upcycle (joins.com)
FEATURE: Young South Koreans taking up fight on environmental issues (kyodonews.net)