EAEH 2023 Highlights


The Seventh Biennial Conference of East Asian Environmental History (EAEH) was held on June 28 – July 2 (Wednesday – Sunday), 2023 at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Institute for Basic Science (IBS) in Daejeon, South Korea.

General Theme:
Multiple Crises and the Asian Anthropocene: Climatic, Ecological, and (Post)Colonial Perspectives


Congratulatory Remark

By Dr. Myung-Ja Kim, Chair of KAIST & SAB Member of IBS


Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to deliver a congratulatory remark at such an excellent conference on “Multiple Crises and the Asia Anthropocene” hosted by KAIST and IBS. As the Chairperson of the KAIST and the SAB member of the IBS, I want to express my deep appreciation to the organizing committee of the 7th Biennial Conference of East Asian Environmental History for orchestrating this critical event.

Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to all of you, especially those who have traveled far to attend this conference. I trust that your presence and active participation throughout the conference will be enormously valuable and rewarding.

I remember attending the Center for Anthropocene Studies opening conference at KAIST in 2018. When I heard the concept of the Anthropocene some years ago, I found it enlightening as it represented many of the concerns I had grappled with during my career as Minister of Environment, academician, and scientist. The Anthropocene is useful in reorienting the attention from humanity’s self-interests to planetary situations while holding humans responsible for all the risks collectively yet disproportionately. First and foremost, the very concept requires us to think multi-disciplinary, transcending the silo between traditional academic disciplines. This is easier said than done, but it is the way we should go.

We must work hard to find technological and political solutions to the multiple crises arising from climate and ecosphere deterioration. That said, I have no illusion about simple technological fixes or grand political promises. Nor do I hold a pessimistic view of our future. To pursue a balanced and realistic approach to global poly-crises, I want to emphasize that we need a deep historical understanding of sustainability issues in their local and international contexts. That’s why I think this conference is so important.

For example, the issue of loss and damage, which was raised in the last year’s COP 27, should be approached with a proper historical sensibility about why we got into this human epoch. Based on the historical perspectives, the multidisciplinary initiative should be co-designed and jointly implemented by academia, governments, business, and civil societies to provide sustainability options and solutions to respond effectively to the risks and opportunities of global sustainability issues.

Without a doubt, it is critically important to continue to facilitate the exchange of views and ideas, as well as the sharing of collective wisdom and experiences, both among ourselves and with other vital stakeholders having diverse political, economic, cultural, and social backgrounds – all the more so because we live today in a world of unprecedented interdependence and interconnectedness.

This conference emphasizes proposing a new perspective on the Anthropocene that differs from the mainstream narrative of the term centered in North America and Europe by re-examining the age of human impact on Earth from a comparative historical perspective based on the history and traditions of East Asia. East Asia is a vital center of gravity in the Asia-Pacific, housing three of the world’s largest economies and transforming the strategic dynamic beyond Asia. At the same time, festering historical disagreements, instability on the Korean Peninsula, and the widening gap between the haves and have-nots raise security and sustainability concerns for the region and the world. The prospects for sustainable development are rather dim for the Asia-Pacific region. Developing mechanisms to strengthen regional security and prosperity through regional and global cooperation is essential. In this vein, this conference will be historic in its own right in showing the directions we should take toward the co-existence of humankind and nature.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Even in the face of such daunting challenges, we can remain reasonably optimistic because we know that humanity has always been able to innovate facing crises.  Innovation means new ways of doing things and, more importantly, new ways of thinking. I sincerely hope the conference will provide an innovative platform for generating new knowledge and expertise for collaboration with the general public and all the stakeholders to realize sustainability in the era of the Anthropocene and the so-called 4th Industrial Revolution.

In closing, I applaud all the excellent arrangements that the Center for Anthropocene Studies at KAIST has made for hosting this international festival of scholarly work in Daejeon. I hope all of you enjoy the exceptional intellectual food presented here during the conference and wish the distinguished guests from abroad a wonderful time in Korea. Thank you.

Welcome Address

By Buhm Soon Park, Director of CAS

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Association for East Asian Environmental History, I would like to welcome all of you to Daejeon where our 7th biennial conference is being held. Allow me to say a few words about our Association. It was established 14 years ago by around two dozen pioneers, and since then, the Association has been growing strong and fast. This year, we have over 300 registered attendees, with more than 150 individuals participating as speakers or commentators. They represent 17 different countries across Asia, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Australia. These numbers are truly remarkable, but once you explore the conference program, you will be impressed by the wide range of topics covered by various disciplines and diverse methodologies. I am so delighted. As we approach the end of the conference, we will engage in a serious discussion about elevating the Association with a new name. Therefore, I encourage you all to stay and not miss out this important conversation.

A couple of days ago, as the opening day drew closer, I was concerned about the weather due to the monsoon forecast in Korea. One of the guests wrote me an email saying, “Dear Buhm Soon, I am not worried about the monsoon. Having water fall out of the sky is one the best features of our plant!” Another friend also wrote, “It’s so hot and dry here. The thought of a good drenching is a happy one!” In that moment, I felt relieved, but I also realized that the term “inclement weather” could be understood differently from different perspectives and locations. In other words, the circulation of water can be both a blessing and a disaster at the same time. I believe this theme of global connectivity and local predicaments will be discussed during the conference.

Aside from the conference, I hope you find something interesting here in Daejeon.  Known as the “science city,” it is home to major government research institutes, corporate research centers, KAIST, and IBS. KAIST was initially established as a graduate school in Seoul 52 years ago, but relocated here in the late 1980s, establishing an undergraduate school. Institute for Basic Science, which is only twelve years old, is widely recognized as a Korean counterpart to Japan’s Riken or Germany’s Max Planck Institute. There are also many museums and places to eat and relax, including a department store that opened last year.

I am immensely grateful to the numerous organizations and institutions for their generous support. First and foremost, I would like to thank the National Research Foundation in Korea and the Rachel Carson Center in Germany for supporting the travel expenses of distinguished speakers. KAIST and IBS have provided us with the venues and banquets for the conference. The City of Daejeon, along with its Tourism Organization and Museum of Art, has contributed to enriching our cultural experience of the city. I would also like to acknowledge the financial and moral support from the Korean History of Science Society, Chungnam National University, Living with Slow Disaster Research Network at Pusan National University, Institute for the Humanities at Ewha Womans University, and Graduate School of Science and Technology Policy at KAIST. Thank you.