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Learning cities in the Republic of Korea: An additional thirteen Korean cities join the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC)
The number of learning cities in the Republic of Korea is growing, with another thirteen cities joining the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC) initiative. Eight Korean cities initially joined the GNLC in Spring 2016; the following thirteen cities have now also enrolled: Daedeok, Dangjin, Dongducheon, Goyang, Gwanak-Gu, Gwangmyeong, Icheon, Sangju, Seodaemun-Gu, Siheung, Suncheon, Suseong-Gu and Yeonje-Gu. These cities have all implemented plans and addressed various issues with a view to promoting lifelong learning on a local level.
Creating an infrastructure that provides citizens with easy access to literacy classes, cultural activities and other educational resources is a key objective shared by learning cities in the Republic of Korea. To meet this objective, the cities work together to create a strong network of community learning centres, learning clubs and libraries. Good examples of these efforts so far include the book-delivery service in Gwanak-Gu, which is part of the city’s lifelong learning promotion plan; the volunteer-led English language learning programme of Dongducheon; and the at-home and in-house learning programmes of Sangju, which have been devised in response to the city’s rapidly ageing population. Goyang and Gwangmyeong, in particular, have endeavoured to inform their citizens of lifelong learning programmes, with the latter developing community maps to help its people locate learning services. Providing access to lifelong learning resources for everyone is key to cultivating a learning city.
Cities like Dangjin and Icheon have focused on unifying urban and rural development. By establishing a flexible education system that creates symbiotic relationships between farmers, fishermen and urban residents, Dangjin intends to create an infrastructure that provides education to those who live in disadvantaged areas. Icheon has established a system comprising a strong network of community learning centres, lifelong learning clubs, libraries, and centres for seniors and women. The aim of these efforts is to ensure that both urban and rural citizens have equal opportunities to learn.
Another important field of work of the Korean learning cities is sustainable social development and inclusion. Siheung, for example, offers disadvantaged citizens specific education programmes tailored to their needs, while Suncheon promotes strong collaboration between local leaders and citizens to create unbiased learning opportunities for all. Seodaemun-Gu also takes a collaborative approach, involving local universities and organizations in its efforts to tackle illiteracy. And Suseong-Gu encourages its citizens to actively participate in its global citizenship education policies, which it sees as key to building a learning city.
Inclusive approaches are also fundamental in Daedeok, a city that initiated a project called ‘mungori learning’. Mungori derives from the Korean words ‘mun’, which translates as learning for a new start; ‘go’, signifying learning together; and ‘ri’, meaning learning to communicate. Similar innovative ideas can be found in Yeonje-Gu, which holds annual ‘reading city’ events to promote the sharing of learning experiences among its citizens, and which continuously expands the number of organizations dedicated to lifelong learning.
By joining the GNLC, these cities not only provide valuable insights and experiences with regard to building learning cities in the Republic of Korea, they also benefit from those of the other member cities across the world.