The vision of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies is to foster future professional talents who will lead innovation in urban and environmental fields to cope with multiple, complex crises: climate, economics, disease, and inequality.

Sun-Jin Yun, Dean of Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University

The Graduate School of Environment Studies (GSES) at Seoul National University (SNU) was launched in 1973 to solve urban and environmental problems through an interdisciplinary approach. This was half a century ago, before the term environment was widely used—but interest in the environment was beginning to grow little by little, domestically and in the rest of the world. At this time, a convergent approach across the academic system felt unfamiliar. The problems of the environment and cities have interconnected components, so there is a limit to how much they can be solved using expertise and technology from only a specific field. Therefore, various academic fields must gather their wisdom and approach the problems holistically and collectively. To achieve this purpose, professors and students from various academic backgrounds are crossing disciplinary boundaries to learn, communicate, and conduct education and research at the GSES.

The GSES is composed of the Department of Environmental Planning (DEP) and the Department of Environmental Design (DED). DEP has four majors: urban and regional planning, transportation, environmental management, and urban and social innovation. DED has two majors: environmental landscape architecture and urban environmental design. From its origin in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the Graduate School of Public Administration in 1968, the GSES has maintained and developed the urban and regional planning field, which was its birthplace, and added more detailed and specialized majors over time. In addition to national, regional, and urban planning, we have expanded our boundaries and conducted education and research on topics such as urban regeneration, urban innovation, real estate, transportation and logistics, the environment, climate change, energy, ecology, urban design, cultural environment and tourism, and landscape and public design.

Recently, both Korean society and global society more broadly are facing the climate crisis, the biggest challenge of the 21st century. The climate crisis is serious in our society and around the world, and carbon neutrality in response to it is becoming a new international norm. The climate crisis and carbon neutrality are no longer trapped within the category of the environment. Rather, we are calling for a major shift in carbon-based civilization, one that will affect our economy, use of space, and more broadly our lifestyles. The climate crisis is not just a physical risk that causes the loss of life and property from abnormal extreme weather events. It also leads to an economic crisis, a disease crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and an inequality crisis that further intensifies social polarization. It is creating a multi-crisis situation. But the climate crisis and carbon neutrality are not only risks: They are also opportunities for a transition to change the unsustainable present.

Now, the climate crisis has become a challenge to our times and carbon neutrality has become an international norm. These require attention and intervention from all disciplines. The GSES, as it marks the half century of its opening, is also seeking new changes. In an era of climate crisis and carbon neutrality, the Graduate School of Environmental Studies which led the nation’s land development through spatial policies and plans, needs to lead the fields of environmental, energy, and climate policies and plans, as well as urban renewal and regional development plans and policies, in order to help bring about a great transformation. The GSES is small in size, but it has the ability to cope with these challenges and the flexibility to respond quickly to changes. Based on the multidisciplinary tradition we have accumulated over half a century, we will do our best to cultivate creative, warm-hearted professionals who aim for the innovation and inclusiveness required by our society and the world in this era of carbon neutrality.

Thank you!

Sun-Jin Yun
Dean of Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Seoul National University