Koh Kyung Nam: My Year in Antarctica

Asia 21 member documents his stay in Antarctica in both work and play

Antarctic landscape from Koh Kyung Nam's presentation at Asia Society Korea Center on March 13, 2012. (Koh Kyung Nam)

SEOUL, March 13, 2012 — "The South Pole, is it really cold there?" ("Of course it is.")

"Have you seen penguins?" ("Yes, lots of them.")

"Have you eaten any penguins?" ("No, it's illegal.")

"Have you seen polar bears?" ("Polar bears live on the opposite side of the Earth from the South Pole.")

These are some the typical questions Dr. Koh Kyung Nam gets from people when they hear about the year (2006-07) he spent stationed as a medical doctor at the King Sejong Station, the Korean Antarctic Research Program in Antarctica.

Koh, a pediatrician at the Asan medical center in Seoul, brought home the dangers of global warming through an amusingly personal presentation of his Antarctic sojourn here at Asia Society's Korea Center. The Korean Antarctic Research Center focused on documenting climate and environmental changes in the Antarctic, but Koh presented his one-year adventure in both work and play.

A member of Asia Society's Asia 21 Young Leaders group, Koh highlighted the shoreline's progressive encroachment on the landscape as global warming has caused much of the South Pole to melt over the past decade. At the same time, through a playful PowerPoint presentation, he also illustrated the vibrancy of the environment we stand to lose in one of the world's coldest regions.

Koh showcased many of the "aw-inducing" fauna of the South Pole alongside photos of himself and other members of the 17-man research team taking advantage of the snowy landscape to ski and — wait for it — even pose bare-chested outdoors in the sub-zero weather. (Koh explained that there were no women stationed at the Research Center during his tenure there.)

Asia Society’s prestigious Asia 21 Young Leaders Group, a core group of leaders highly selected among leaders tasked to lend their expertise to a deserving organization that works in underprivileged sectors and to promote greater public visibility for the contributions of younger leaders of diverse backgrounds. The Asia 21 initiative has 600 members worldwide, all under the age of 40, including an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, diplomats, civil rights activists and journalists.

Slideshow: Images from Koh Kyung Nam's ASKC presentation