55 Ideal location, vulnerable population Upon introduction, Chung-Ang University students Seung-min Nam and Jin-su Yun look more like business students than ur- ban farmers. In fact, they are both. Together, the two run Bee- CAUS (Beekeeping at Chung-Ang University), a beekeeping initiative that has roots in the Enactus program, a multinational organization that helps business students put their skills to work for worthy causes. Nam, the president of Chung-Ang’s Enac- tus chapter, explains that the purpose of BeeCAUS is to help “people who need healthy food they can trust, and to help the bees that are dying … all over the world. We want to save the environment.” As honey gains a higher profile as a so-called superfood, from Nam and Yun’s perspective, urban honey has the edge: They argue that the plants in the city are grown with fewer pes- ticides and that, due to the relative lack of biodiversity, the final product is “purer” — fewer sources, higher quality, they say. While the quality of urban honey versus rural is still up for debate, the quality of BeeCAUS products is infinitely higher than any corn syrup blend you’ll find at the average grocery store. But if the bees are located in the middle of a concrete jun- gle, where are they getting their nectar? It just so happens that Chung-Ang University is only one subway stop from Seoul Na- tional Cemetery. In addition to being quiet and idyllic, the me- morial site also boasts a considerable amount of greenery, local flora included. Despite this good luck, there have still been setbacks. Even with the closeness of a large green space, a Seoul summer presents some obvious challenges. “There are two things that bees are vulnerable to,” says Nam. “One is noise … any sort of vibrations. The other is humidity.” Attracting fellow students to volunteer has been a challenge as well. They’ve also found themselves up against an even less predict- able opponent than their urban environment — hornets. “One hornet can kill 100 to 300 honey bees,” Seung-min explains. The impact these predators have had on their operation has been considerable. He said that BeeCAUS lost three of its colonies this past winter, which amounts to anywhere between 250 and 750 bees. One year from now, they expect they’ll have moved their entire operation to nearby Nodeul Island, the location held by one of their unofficial partners, Urban Bees Seoul. Urban class, teaching tradition UBS is led by Jin Park, a fellow Chung-Ang student who believes that keeping bees in the city improves the quality of life for all citizens. For him, the purpose is twofold: On one hand, it raises awareness about living well in the city, and on the other hand, caring for bees helps improve the Korean bee population, which is widely understood to be in rapid decline. According to Park, there’s a network of 12 sites throughout Seoul that work together to provide information and counsel on any poten- tial threats to the city’s colonies. Their location on Nodeul Island is connected to a larger agricultural compound that is financed by the city (though Park insists they are not financed by the government). We also visited a second location, the rooftop of the UNESCO office nearly 5 kilometers away in Myeong-dong. The ecosystems couldn’t be more different, and yet the same beekeeping procedures and tech- niques apply. As part of the minority of successful operations in the city, Park pos- sesses valuable skills that have been an asset to other startups located here. “There is almost no place for beginners to learn beekeeping in Korea,” Park explains. “If you already know about beekeeping to some degree, you can go to the local Agricultural Technology Center, but it would be hard for beginners to follow their classes.” Park leads workshops (in Korean) for those interested in learning about how to run their own urban bee project. Groove Korea attend- ed one such class, which offered hands-on experience for how to clean hives and remove mites from a col- ony of bees (hint: it involves icing sugar). For those looking for an opportunity more aligned with an apprenticeship, Park rec- ommends heading for the mountains and finding an older person who can teach you. It’s in the rural parts of the country where Korea’s beekeeping heritage resides. Though exotic species were introduced in the early 1900s — appealing because of their greater honey yield and ability to be transferred from one location to another — native Korean bee colonies have been cultivated on the peninsula for over 2,000 years. According to a 2012 study produced by Mi Sun Park and Youn Yeo-chang at Seoul National University, tra- ditional Korean practices involved hives made of hollowed-out logs and prayers to a mountain god as thanks for a good harvest. These traditions are a bit harder to track down in urban projects, but what remains is a sense of community between new beekeepers and those with skills to share. Anchored by this support, the new generation of urban beekeepers in Seoul can hopefully enjoy a prosperous future, with or without the help of the mountain gods. GrooveCast GrooveCast host Chance Dorland is abuzz about beekeeping. Check out the episode at groovekorea.com. ‘There are two things that bees are vulnerable to. One is noise ... any sort of vibrations. The other is humidity.’ Seung-min Nam ‘There is almost no place for beginners to learn beekeeping in Korea. If you already know about beekeeping to some degree, you can go to the local Agricultural Technology Center, but it would be hard for beginners to follow their classes.’ Jin Park MoRE INFo BeeCAUS BeeCAUS can be found on Facebook at fb.com/beecaus. Urban Bees Seoul UBS operates on a membership system and currently has nine members. Its workshops are offered in Korean only. Further information can be found on their website (urbanbeesseoul.com) and Facebook page (facebook.com/urbanbeesseoul) (Korean only).