Yoon Suk-yeol’s environment minister stakes out her goals
2022-05-27
New Environment Minister Han Hwa-jin stressed Wednesday the Yoon Suk-yeol government's vision of realizing carbon neutrality and creating a sustainable future.  
 
In her inaugural speech, Han, a climate change expert, said, "It is necessary to implement environmental policies based on science, technology and innovation."
 
She said that rather than regulation, there would be a new focus on autonomy, social cooperation and opinion gathering.
 
"This year is an important turning point in environmental history, marking 30 years after the international community adopted the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development," she said, referring to the principles for future sustainable development adopted at the United Nation's Earth Summit held in June 1992. "In response to international and social upheavals such as the climate crisis, environmental policies must also take a step forward."
 

Han identified four key areas for achieving carbon neutrality and creating a sustainable future: science and technology; policy communication; international cooperation; and an environmental administrative evolution.
 
Han emphasized the need to establish policies based on information and logic and the use of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of things (IoT), and big data.
 
She said the ministry will "proactively and pre-emptively respond" to a new international environmental order in trade barriers, reducing plastic waste and green finance.  
 
Within the ministry, she asked for cooperation with local governments and called for opinions from stakeholders in industries and from experts.  
 
She called for fundamental environmental values while maximizing autonomy of the private sector to effectively achieve policy goals.
 
"Policies and administrative systems must evolve in line with scientific and technological progress and the demands of the times," she said. "We must escape the framework of regulation, which is centered on command and control."  
 
She called for "innovative and more flexible" environmental policies, indicating that her ministry will follow the new government's goal of "autonomy and innovation" rather than traditional regulations.
 
Han, an honorary research fellow and founding member of the Korea Environment Institute, was tapped as Yoon's environment minister nominee last month and underwent a parliamentary confirmation hearing last week.  
 
During the hearing, Han described nuclear power as a green source of energy.  
 
This view appears to be in line with Yoon's plan to categorize nuclear power as relatively safe for the environment, reversing the policy of the previous government.
 
A scientist with experience in dealing with air pollution and climate change, Han earned her undergraduate and masters' degrees in chemistry at Korea University and a doctorate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.
 
She previously served as presidential secretary for environment from 2009 and 2010 during the Lee Myung-bak administration and as a member of the Prime Minister's Office's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission and the Green Growth Committee. She also served as an outside director at Samsung Electronics before resigning last month.  
 
Han is a former head of the Korea Foundation for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology.

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