Saving Water in Korea

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Today, although many may not feel it, drought is a serious issue. For most people living in the city, water shortage is not at all considered to be as urgent as it is in reality. The taps run perfectly well, and even as much of the world despairs of water shortage, to individuals in South Korea, it isn’t a big deal. Because of the recent drought in Korea, however, in parts of the country especially in the rural areas, the problem was so bad that people were getting water delivered to their homes. 

According to a National Geographic scientist, James Card, although the “Four Majors River Project” was carried out to alleviate water problems, it actually aggravated it.  Numerous factors including the “Four Majors River Project” and the drought have caused our water problems. The question is what to do about it.

One answer to this is for everyone to simply save water. It could be raining right now, so some people could see their wasteful water habits as not being detrimental, but precipitation has been inconsistent for years, and this year has been the worst – so far. Some people insist that desalination of seawater is the solution, but we must avoid this because this again would be using our limited natural resources.

Ethically, we should at least try every practical attempt to save our resources, and the government should lead the way in persuading the people to be conscious of our civic duty to save water. In fact, the fundamental responsibility of Korea’s water supply lies with the government to plan properly and persuade the citizens.

The foremost step is for the government to increase awareness among Korean citizens. South Korea ranks first in the rate of water shortage out of the OECD countries, but as mentioned before, many Koreans are complacent about the water issue. Compared to many countries, most Koreans consider water to be an endless resource, despite ongoing news of water shortage. An awareness campaign could be carried out in a couple of ways.

One, the government could inform Koreans with proper information through the educational system on the urgency of Korea's water state.  Implementing a sophisticated planned curriculum in schools to educate students at a young age would help kids to be more sensitive about the issue. Another way to make people more aware is to use the media to spread the message. Not only could popular TV news outlets be used, but dramas and other entertainment programs could also be an effective way to get the people’s attention.

The government should also invest more in water-related technology development. Despite the unbelievable development in IT, practical technology that is more directly related to the people's needs is lacking. It is a paradox to see the soaring graph of Korea's GDP statistics but to see more practical needs plummeting to the danger zone. In Japan, technology to save water is used regularly in people’s homes.

For instance, the system of tap water on top of the toilet is implemented in almost all bathrooms. The mechanism of the tap is that the water that is used for cleaning their hands is reused to flush the toilet, which is an innovative idea to save the environment. To start off, Korea could simply pick up existing technology from other countries like Japan and simultaneously continue research on new ways to save water.

However, while countries like Japan have such environmentally friendly systems already established in most households, South Korea is behind in this regard. This may be one of the effects of our rapid economic development but at least from now we must change.

 It is time for us to shift from avoidance of the problem to a proactive attitude. By increasing peoples’ awareness of the problem and by improving technology regarding water usage, future droughts could be mitigated. Not only that but by boosting more interest and creating more innovations in this field, we would create more jobs. This could consequently lead to killing two birds with one stone by solving the low unemployment rate as well as the environmental problem.

-Cho Min-kyoung (Daejeon Foreign Language High School)