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A global approach to a greener future
Korea University researchers are fostering worldwide partnerships to create effective sustainable development solutions.
▲ Achieving SDGs requires a diverse range of solutions, from developing sustainable farming practices, to finding ways to recycle and reuse plastics.© Insung Jeon/Moment/Getty Images
With a vision to develop leaders who can create a better world, Korea University (KU) has an institute that is supporting a global approach to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges: the OJEong Resilience Institute (OJERI) with a focus on sustainability.
To guide their research, Korea University researchers are focusing on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a series of 17 targets and 169 associated indicators set by the United Nations in 2015 to address global problems such as climate change, environmental degradation, and access to clean water and sanitation. Achieving these goals by 2030 will require a diverse range of solutions, from developing sustainable farming practices, to finding ways to recycle and reuse plastics.
The Seoul-based university, a leading institution in the Asia-Pacific region, is well placed to contribute to the SDGs. In the 2021 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Asia University Rankings, it climbed to first place among South Korean universities and took the top spot in the international research category for the third year in a row.
Diverse solutions for a more resilient world
“Our current problems are complex—notably, climate change is not a single problem,” says Professor Woo Kyun Lee, director of OJERI. The institute aims to build ecological, environmental, and social resilience against climate change and human impacts, paving the way to a more sustainable society, says Lee. “Our institute is actively researching resilient solutions to the problems. We can find answers by adopting a multidisciplinary approach.” OJERI fosters connections between disciplines across its five research programmes that focus on climate, ecosystems, water, and waste. For example, biologists team up with social scientists to improve environmental policies, while engineers and aquatic ecologists work together to better manage water resources.
▲ Professor Woo Kyun Lee, director of OJERI.© Korea University
OJERI also promotes cross-border cooperation through the Mid-Latitude Region Network (MLRN), which Lee established in 2016 to address the rising food, water, and energy challenges in the area.
The Mid-Latitude Region is a temperate, northern hemisphere belt that includes 36 countries, including those in the Korean Peninsula, Central Asia, southern Europe, and North America. The area is characterized by dry land and desert, with rapid population growth, urbanization, and climate change leading to a depletion in food and water resources.
“Almost half of the global population lives in this region,” says Lee. “The region, particularly in central Asian countries, is facing challenges in food, water, and energy security, but has received very little attention.”
The MLRN involves 64 experts from across the globe who are working on strategies to solve these problems in line with the SDGs, such as creating sustainable livelihoods, climate change mitigation, and building food, water, and energy security.
This involves developing indicators and models to evaluate the central Asian region’s vulnerability to challenges that threaten its food, water, and energy, such as droughts, floods, and air pollution.
These data, available on an open web-based platform, are continually updated based on feedback from users. The MLRN also holds regular webinars where users discuss improvements to the methodologies and algorithms.
MLRN research results are shared with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN-SDSN), a global initiative that brings together researchers and experts to implement the SDGs. SDSN-Korea’s headquarters are at OJERI.
▲ Located in Seoul, Korea University is home to OJERI, which has a focus on sustainability.© Korea University