*Jaeju means talent in Korean
If you have traveled to Jeju Island, you have probably visited the beach at least once. Jeju Island is famous for its beautiful beaches and seaside activities. However, the sea of Jeju Island has gradually become more and more polluted. In fact, the amount of garbage collected from the Jeju coast has increased from 9,600 tons in 2012 to 14,000 tons in 2017.
A group of people have gathered to solve this serious problem. They are called “Jaejudojoa,” and they are trying to solve the problem of sea litter through “beachcombing” and artistic activities. The Argus met Choi Yun-a, co-representative of Jaejudojoa, and listened to what they are doing and how they contribute positively to the environment.
The Argus: Please introduce yourself and Jaejudojoa.
Choi Yun-a (Choi): Hello. I’m Choi Yun-a, co-representative of Jaejudoja. Jaejudojoa was organized in 2013, and consists of six members (Kang Min-seok, Kim Seung-hwan, Shin Hwa-jung, Yu Ro-sa, Cho Won-hui, Choi Yun-a). Members also work in illustrations, glass crafts, design, photography, video, performance production, accounting, woodworking and workshop training. We meet with people who love the sea through beachcombing and try to solve the problem of sea waste, which has accumulated continuously, by transforming it into a kind of cultural art.
The Argus: How did you start to do this job?
Choi: In 2012, we first met at Hansupul Haenyeo School*. For 16 weeks, we learned how to swim under the sea from incumbent Haenyeos, female divers. It was beautiful to see the sea under the surface of the water. At the same time, we found out that sea waste was constantly pushed into the sea, and discovered garbage more easily than fish or seafood.
When the program schedule of the school was over, we all wanted to live in Jeju for a longer time; we wished that the seas would always be beautiful and healthy. These like-minded people gathered together, and so we made Jaejudojoa.
* Hansupul Haenyeo School in Gwideok2-ri, Hallim-eup, was founded on the idea of informing the gradually disappearing culture of Haenyeo. People go into the sea without breathing equipment and learn how to collect seafood under the sea, as well as learn about Haenyeos’ songs and history.
The Argus: How does sea waste turn into artwork?
Choi: We make products with materials such as glass, driftwood, plastic and Styrofoam, all of which come from waves, sand, and the wind. Making artworks from sea wastes takes a lot of time and effort than making artworks with new materials. In the case of sea glass, which is the main material that we use, we have eight steps or more, including washing, drying and cutting. It takes a long time to make it, but we make artwork with the idea that if we consider worthless things preciously, it can become a jewel and shine more beautifully than new items.
The Argus: Please introduce typical projects of Jaejudojoa.
Choi: When we started the projects, we decided upon which trash to focus, so we had set up a multi-year plan. It was glass in 2014, driftwood in 2015, plastic in 2016, and fishery waste in 2017. In accordance with each theme every year, we hold creative activities and exhibitions with various artists.
We hold two beachcombing festivals annually. In May, celebrating “Marine day,” we open a festival called “Sea that Wished.” It is a festival for which many people collect sea waste and participate in upcycling workshops, performances and markets. In October, the festival mainly consists of works from artists who participated in the Jaejudojoa residency program.
In the summer of 2018, a week-long “Jeju-sea residency program” was held. Eight art teams that passed contests all over the country made creative projects on the theme of the Jeju sea environment, staying in Jeju for one week. The results of this project were exhibited at the beachcombing festival in November.
The Argus: Have any changes come about through the projects?
Choi: Various movements for solving the sea waste problems in Jeju Island are taking place. Also, the perception of beachcombing, which was an unfamiliar concept, has spread gradually. A lot of people are aware of the problem of sea waste and there are efforts to solve the problem with concrete action methods that people can do.
For example, we conduct the beachcombing festival at Geumneung Beach every year. We have already been doing this for the past five years, and the number of participants is increasing every year. Besides, many people, as well as market sellers, enjoy the festival by bringing tumblers or personal dishes instead of plastic disposable cups or containers. I think many people feel that if each person suffers a little inconvenience, we can all enjoy the sea together.
The Argus: Do you have any difficulties in operating Jaejudojoa?
Choi: It is difficult to balance in terms of social and economic values. Developing a sustainable economic model is still a challenge for us. The current members of Jaejudojoa are working on lot of things at the same time in addition to Jaejudojoa’s activities, due to economic problems or changes in their lives. Therefore, we are wondering constantly how we can balance our social values and economic values and make our environment healthy.
The Argus: What did you find enlightening about the environment while working in Jaejudojoa?
Choi: As I was reflecting on the projects, I realized that there were respective roles and ways to solve the garbage problems. When the perception and action of government, business, civil society, village, and individual are together, we can solve any problem. I felt that it is very important for people to constantly talk and act in each place.
Furthermore, I am gradually becoming familiar with small practices for the environment in everyday life. For example, I always try to carry a tumbler at all times, or at least to use eco-friendly products, and to bring shopping baskets and multi-use containers when going to a mart.
The Argus: What are the future goals and plans of Jaejudojoa?
Choi: Jaejudojoa wants to improve the quality of the sea by combining our talents with the talents of more people. At the same time, we would like to develop a sustainable economic model more actively without losing the philosophy and identity of Jaejudojoa. In addition, I hope members to live healthy lives. I believe that our mission and vision should go with personal happiness!
The Argus: Finally, do you have any messages to convey to visitors to the sea?
Choi: I think the most important thing that can help to solve the problem of the sea waste is for individuals to be more conscious about their consumption patterns and to show more interest in protecting the environment. Therefore, I hope more people to sympathize with our story and cherish Jeju Sea. After all, change starts from within. Please continue talking and acting on how to make a healthy sea with your own talents and methods.
For us, the sea is considered a place of healing, but the sea may suffer from people’s needs. If you go to the sea and look around rather than just enjoying it, you will find that the garbage that we did not care about is widespread.
Jaejudojoa, trying to solve these pollution problems through art activities, is not only improving the marine environment but is also having a good influence on society. The reporter hopes that all of us will emulate the virtuous actions of Jaejudojoa and take care of the ocean to make it more beautiful.
By Jang Yu-jin
Associate Editor of Culture Section