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Undeterred by an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), the 9th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) has been going on since Tuesday (9 June) in Seoul, South Korea.
The WCSJ is the biggest international gathering for science journalists. Over a thousand from about 50 countries have attended this year’s event. Over 40 per cent of these are from developing nations, according to Jae-eok Shim, chairman of the WCSJ 2015 organising committee and president of the Korea Science Journalists Association.
“I believe that cartoonists and journalists have a lot in common. Our audience is the general public, and both cartoonists and journalists need to disseminate accurate information in an accessible manner.”
Won-Bok Rhie, Duksung Women's University
Science journalists form African countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa and Uganda were among the attendees.
The actual turnout of participants was yet to be determined by SciDev.Net although 1,300 initially registered their participation, up from the WSCJ 2013 attendance in Finland of 750 journalists.
In his opening speech, Shim called this year's conference “special” as it is the first time it is held in Asia since the World Federation of Science Journalists was founded in 2002.
The first conference was staged in Japan in 1992 with 300 journalists and was followed seven years later with another in Hungary in 1999. Since 2007, the conference has been held regularly every two years.
Shim however expressed disappointment that North Korea “failed to respond” to the organising committee's “courteous invitation” to be part of WCSJ 2015.
In an interview with SciDev.Net after the opening ceremony, Shim reiterated that this year’s venue reflects Asia's rising role as a central player in the scientific world.
“No one can draw a big picture of the world now without speaking about Asia,” he tells SciDev.Net.
In his address, federation president Chul-Joong Kim said that the WCSJ serves as a “platform for in-depth discussion about the future of science journalism in an ever-changing media environment”.
South Korea's president Park Geun-hye sent a video message that was played at the opening ceremony, in which she said science has always been a “driving force of human history and civilisation”.
She also highlighted the growing importance of the role of science journalists, which involves “delivering technical and complex scientific knowledge in an accessible manner, and connecting science and society, as well as scientists and the general public”.
Duksung Women's University president Won-Bok Rhie gave the keynote address — an unusual choice at a science conference as he is best known as a cartoonist.
“I believe that cartoonists and journalists have a lot in common. Our audience is the general public, and both cartoonists and journalists need to disseminate accurate information in an accessible manner,” Rhie said.
The conference comes to an end today
This article was originally produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.