Certification Level: PADI Course Director (CD – 470995)

Location: Daejeon, South Korea

Cause: Engaging Community in Conservation

The founder of Skinscuba Association in Yuseong-gu, which promotes diving in the region, Kum Ok Park has for the past two decades worked closely with the Underwater Environmental Protection Association and Environmental Guard, leading a major project to clean up nearby waterways. In 2008, she developed the Skinscuba Federation for the Disabled, enabling hundreds of individuals to access the underwater world. Since then, she has grown her PADI TK Neptune Dive Center (S – 6698) into a hub for conservation awareness and action, coordinating various environmental events and campaigns – including those of Project AWARE® – to improve the health of the aquatic environment. More recently, she’s focused her attention on nearby fishing villages and new ways to connect seniors with the aquatic world.

Which area of conservation are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about the protection of native seahorses. In recent years, divers have harmed seahorse populations in the Southern Sea through the use of continuous strobes in underwater photography. We’re now looking for institutions and measures to help protect seahorse habitats by encouraging divers to adopt more environmentally-friendly diving practices that do not harm the underwater environment.

The UN-supported Reef-World Foundation’s Green Fins Program has made educational marine conservation posters available in Korean, tackling issues like littering and trash breakdown. These dedicated materials make it easier for us as dive professionals to encourage responsible diver behaviour. I want to see more of these sorts of these institutions collaborating with Korean authorities and creating tools that educate Koreans on conservation issues along our coastlines.

Meanwhile, I’ve been running an ocean conservation class that’s introducing the types of local seahorses and habitat environment to elementary, middle and high school students in local area at the NAM HAE Youth Training Centre. Together with a small team, I hold around 30 courses throughout the year and we’ve been able to reach over 350 young people.

What environmental achievements are you most proud of?

I’ve involved hundreds of people in local environmental action to improve the quality of our local waterways and coastlines over the past two decades. In 2007, I became involved with the Underwater Environmental Protection Association, a non-profit in Daejeon City that won 15 million KRW (~13,300 USD) for conservation measures, focussing specifically on river debris.

Since then, I’ve worked closely with Yoo Seong-cheon, Founder of the Environmental Guard and launched the third campaign to clean up a local waterway, involving 150 people in that project and generating 5 million KRW (444 USD) for the cause. As a diver, I want to work with other passionate Koreans and government authorities to block live sewage from entering the sea and control waste dumping through strong legal sanctions.

I’m proud to promote Project AWARE and educate my community on issues of marine debris. The Ugly Journey of Trash infographic is available in Korean, as well as the AWARE Week Toolkit. Each year I arrange local conservation events with an AWARE ethos, hoping to encourage an attitude of environmental preservation in my community.

Have you been involved in any other initiatives that engage community in conservation?

In 2019 I helped to develop a business agreement with a large energy company in Korea called SK Networks Co. Ltd, generating 38 million KRW (33,800 USD) in community donations and opening a dedicated office for local volunteers.

I have also worked on a marine conservation campaign to directly involve fishing village seniors in the protection of the aquatic environment, which has received 4 million KWD (3,500 USD) in funding. We are asking seniors to sign up to as watchmen, creating an alert network that’s monitoring indiscriminate capture and illegal fishing. We’re running hour-long induction sessions twice a year, and have 80 participants so far.

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