The Policy and Research Department of the Korea Foundation launched a new seminar program, entitled KF Expert Seminar Series, on July 29. For its inaugural session, the guest speaker was Professor Zhu Feng, of Peking University, China, who addressed the subject of Sino-North Korean relations, in the aftermath of North Korea’s second nuclear test.
Since 2008, the Korea Foundation has presented several sessions of its KF Forum program. The guest speakers of this lecture series have included world leaders and distinguished figures, such as former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Harvard University Professor Joseph Nye, University of Oxford’s Vice Chancellor John Hood, UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Die Zeit’s Editor-at-Large Theo Sommer. The KF Forum strives to broaden awareness and understanding of key international issues among Korean audiences through lecture presentations by influential global figures.
In contrast to this public-oriented lecture program, the newly launched KF Expert Seminar Series is focused on in-depth discussion and exchange of opinions on current issues among a small group of relevant experts and specialists along with the promotion of network-building relations among these individuals. Accordingly, the KF Expert
Seminar Series emphasizes a free and open sharing of personal views by a selected group, of about 15 specialists with expertise in particular issues or regions without imposing any formal procedures.Cost-effective Program
Along with facilitating the exchange of opinions and thoughts of experts on various matters of concern, the series seeks to attain this goal in a cost-effective and practical manner. Nowadays, specialists from abroad visit and pass through Korea at all times of the year. To take advantage of the availability of these expert resources, the Foundation intends to arrange in-depth discussion sessions and promote network-building among relevant specialists, at home and abroad, without incurring the full burden of travel expenses. The Foundation will also minimize the cost of seminar sessions by utilizing its own conference facilities, thereby eliminating the need to rent a private venue.
Of course, for this program to work smoothly, it is necessary to establish a close-knit network with the local universities, academic associations, and research institutions that invite foreign experts to visit Korea, so that needed preparations can be undertaken in advance. In this way, the Foundation was able to arrange for Peking University Professor Zhu Feng to be the guest speaker at the first KF Expert Seminar, thanks to the cooperative efforts of the Sejong Institute’s Center for China Studies headed by Dr. Lee Tae-hwan. As such, the initial program seminar was co-organized and successfully implemented by the Center and the Foundation.
Some 35 relevant specialists and journalists at tended the seminar, wel l exceeding the anticipated number of participants. This keen interest was due to the importance of the topic – Sino-North Korean relations after the North’s second nuclear test – and the fact that Professor Zhu Feng, although a rather young scholar, is recognized as a Chinese authority on the Korean Peninsula. Especially, the news media showed much interest in the seminar, which included the dispatch of an MBC camera crew and a detailed report of the proceedings on its evening news program that same day.Insight of Specialists
As for Professor Zhu Feng’s presentation, he emphasized three key points: First, it is quite unlikely that the current North Korean regime will collapse shortly, judging from the experience of the post-Mao Zedong regime of China. Therefore, South Korea and other neighboring countries should draw up mid- and long-term measures, based on an assumption that the current North Korean regime will remain in place for another five to ten years.
Second, South Korea should adopt policy measures that seek to induce gradual internal change in the North, by using its economic leverage. As for the North Korean nuclear issue, the South should institutionalize an international enforcement process to compel the North to abide by the agreement reached through the six-party talks. As such, South Korea’s engagement policy should be implemented along with an institutionalization of specified international responses, based on agreement, according to Professor Zhu.
Third, although neighboring countries, including South Korea, would like China to apply more practical pressure on North Korea, through strict economic measures, “access” to the North will be lost if China dramatically shifts its policy toward Pyeongyang and assumes a hard-line position. To prevent the occurrence of a worst-case scenario, China is thus forced to maintain a “risk-averse approach.”
The relevance of this topic was evident in thethought-provoking questions and comments during the discussion session. Of particular note, Professor Zhu agreed with an opinion that the provision of continued support to North Korea would impose an increasing political burden on China, and ultimately place Beijing in a difficult dilemma. He admitted that the North Korean situation had become a somewhat lower priority of the Chinese government due to the emergence of domestic problems, like the recent ethnic uprising in Xinjiang, even while North Korea continues to weigh heavily on the Chinese leadership. In addition, he said bilateral talks between North Korea and the United States might contribute to a resumption of dialogue, but that the solution of more fundamental issues would still have to be reached within the framework of the six-party talks.Access to Expertise
The first KF Expert Seminar thus satisfied the program’s objective of providing a venue for the exchange of frank opinions among a small group of relevant experts. A second seminar will be held at the office of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, on August 14, with Simon Anholt, an international authority on nation branding, as the guest speaker. The KF Expert Seminar Series, which strives to access the expertise of distinguished figures in various areas, through a cost-effective program, welcomes the active participation and input of Korea’s circle of experts and specialists.