Jeju Island – as you may have heard – is one of the finalists in the New7Wonders of Nature international campaign.
With banners, advertisements, celebrity and other endorsements, and a variety of media, it would be impossible not to know of this campaign. Not without its controversies, nor its detractors, the campaign's organizational team nevertheless is making every effort to ensure Jeju's victory.
As part of the N7W process, representatives of the New7Wonders Foundation, based in Switzerland, are visiting each of the 28 finalists this year. Jeju's turn came last weekend, and the local and national campaign managers organized a series of events to welcome these visitors.
I spoke with Eamonn Fitzgerald, head of communications for the foundation, who visited the island along with N7W founder and president Bernard Weber and others.
“Our purpose for this visit,” Fitzgerald explained, “is to meet the people of Jeju and tour the island, and to officially recognize the candidacy of Jeju Island in this campaign.”
In a ceremony held for this purpose, Weber delivered to Governor Woo Keun Min Jeju's official certificate of recognition as a campaign finalist.
“The campaign has begun in earnest,” according to Fitzgerald, noting that there are fewer than 200 days remaining before the votes are tallied.
When asked about N7W's stated purpose for filming video during its site visits, he replied that they filmed Jeju from a helicopter for one hour and would soon begin uploading clips from that footage to YouTube.
“Most impressive,” was his reply when asked about his experience of Jeju Island. “The people are extraordinarily generous, hospitable, friendly – and I'm especially impressed by their dynamism.”
Indeed, “energy” was a theme often repeated throughout our conversation.
“The sea, wind, volcanic production, all that natural energy is reflected in Jeju's people,” he observed.
N7W president Weber, according to Fitzgerald, had similar thoughts when expressing his gratitude to the Jeju people:
“There is a special energy in Jeju. This energy can be felt by the wind; it’s contained in the volcanic rocks; it’s present in the hospitality and it can be felt by the visitor.”
But did they have fun?
“It's been exhausting, with each day's events beginning before 7 a.m. and continuing straight through to the evening receptions – with much alcohol,” he laughed. “It's been a 'testing experience' of my capacity, as I have appreciated Jeju's cuisine to the fullest.”
Another purpose of the international team's visit was to hold a press conference in order to address recent controversies surrounding the New7Wonders Foundation.
“Every organization attracts criticism in some way, and yet the attention we've received has been quite positive overall,” Fitzgerald pointed out. “It is important to note that N7W has received no public monies,” he continued. “We are funded by licensing and sponsorship only.”
Next year, he reported, 50 percent of all profit realized by the foundation will be donated to charities “to help President Weber achieve his dream of 'Global Memory',” a term referring to the psychological construct of recall and used by N7W to denote global awareness for humanistic purposes.
With more than 1 billion voters estimated in the overall campaign, “this is something very positive in a world of war and strife – democratic and with a focus on the beauty of nature,” he observed.
His advice to Jeju?
“There is already so much awareness and support of this campaign within Korea, but the primary concern is for global awareness of Jeju's candidacy – especially its Asian neighbors,” he replied.
Dr. Hilty is a cultural health psychologist. <Jeju Weekly>
<Anne Hilty firstname.lastname@example.org ⓒ Jeju Weekly All rights reserved>