The Implications of Civic Diplomacy for ROK Foreign Policy
by Kiho Yi and Peter Hayes
5 September 2015
This chapter focuses on the Republic of Korea and the implications for its foreign policy of the actual and potential role of civil society in solving complex global problems in Northeast Asia. It looks at the impact on ROK foreign policy of the emergence of independent civic diplomacy originating from civil society rather than the state.
This Special Report is an extract (Chapter 6) to the book Complexity, Security and Civil Society in East Asia, edited by Peter Hayes and Yi Kiho, published by Open Book Publishers in June 2015 (http://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/326/).
To read the entire book or download the free PDF version, click here.
Peter Hayes is Professor, Centre for International Security Studies, Sydney University, Australia; and Director, Nautilus Institute, Berkeley, California.
Kiho Yi is Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Public Integrity at Hanshin University and Professor of King Jeongjo college of Liberal Arts at Hanshin University. Yi is Executive Director of the Asia Regional Initiative (ARI), a think-net in cooperation with the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.
II. Special Report by Peter Hayes and Yi Kiho
The Implications of Civic Diplomacy for ROK Foreign Policy
This chapter focuses on the Republic of Korea and the implications for its foreign policy of the actual and potential role of civil society in solving complex global problems in Northeast Asia. It looks at the impact on ROK foreign policy of the emergence of independent civic diplomacy originating from civil society rather than the state. We commence this chapter by examining the characteristics of international affairs and inter-state relations in Northeast Asia since the end of the Cold War — basically, the shift from twentieth-century, backwards-looking foreign policy focused on military power and nation-state building to a twenty-first century, forwards-looking foreign policy aimed at building a regional community. This transition left many “traditional” security issues outstanding, such as the living history of past colonial and imperial adventures in some states, the multigenerational imprint of wars, and territorial disputes. New, often cross-border issues have arisen, however, many of which originate in the region but are global in nature: they are urgent and beyond the ability of any single nation-state to address.
Concurrently, new types of actors, including powerful individuals, civil society organizations, and local governments, have emerged in potent ways that both constrain and enable the foreign policy of each country in the region to address these traditional and new issues — sometimes in synchrony with diplomacy and other standard instruments of state-based foreign policy, but sometimes marching to their own tune. In the second section, therefore, we review the rise of the ROK’s “complex diplomacy,” which aims at exploiting its “middle power” status and location in the international system, while also addressing this increasingly complex foreign policy terrain.
In the next section, we examine the emergence of civil society networks operating across borders. The characteristics of these types of civilian actors vary from country to country, and their capacities are also uneven when compared across China, the ROK, and Japan. Nonetheless, at a regional level, networks of these non-governmental, non-profit actors have formed and tackled a number of global problems as effectively or more so than states, at least at particular moments and circumstances. After outlining the roles that such organizations may play in functional and structural (networking) terms, we examine six case studies to derive lessons learned from these civil society networks for ROK foreign policy.
In the fifth section, we examine the role of local governments in initiating cross-border cooperation, either by sharing solutions to common problems or managing a cross-border region. We note the potential for common cause between these “trans-border” local initiatives and issue-based civil society networks to add a new layer of social capacity to solving problems that afflict states.
We conclude the chapter by proposing the adoption of “civic diplomacy” as a separate category to the official “complex” diplomacy pursued by the ROK state to implement its foreign policy, arguably since 2000, but explicitly so since 2008. We note the further implication that the “civic state” — that is, a state that aims to provide expertise, remove obstacles, and act as an arbiter, regulator, and orchestrator while enabling civil society, regulating the market, and nesting in rather than dominating networked, autonomous communities — might find civil society and local governments to be more effective in addressing pressing problems of foreign policy than the relatively blunt, brittle, and distant tools of traditional diplomacy — military power — and the efficient but often amoral instrument of market power.
New Global Challenges for the 21st Century
The 21st century began with two major shocks that forced people to rethink the traditional concept of security. These were the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attack on the World Trade Center and the March 11, 2011 (3/11) earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima catastrophe in Japan. The former redefined the foreign policy of all states and forced them to elevate non-state actors to the same or even a higher level of threat than other states. The 9/11 attacks challenged the very basis of the claim by some in the United States that the global state power system was unipolar, creating a new layer of complexity in international security.
The 3/11 catastrophe challenged the underlying legitimacy of the state and of market institutions due to their failure to anticipate, let alone overcome the impact of the natural disasters and the collapse of the engineered safety systems of the four reactors at Fukushima. Like home-grown terrorism, this incident underscored the fact that the greatest source of risk may be domestic rather than foreign, non-state instead of state-based, and linked to other problems such as energy insecurity or climate change rather than existing in isolation. The further implication — that even problems that arise domestically within the territory of one nation-state cannot be solved or managed by only one state, and that even in coalitions, states alone cannot solve such complex, interrelated, and global problems — is also profoundly disruptive of the standard practice of foreign policy, which relies almost completely on state apparatuses. Many of these problems pose new ethical issues, are focused on human rather than state-based security, and require new forms of trust and cooperation to emerge as the basis for transnational coordination and international cooperation, placing a new morality at the core of foreign policy rather than military power.
Complexity and Northeast Asian Diplomacy
In Northeast Asia, 21st-century complex security issues are superimposed on 20th-century traditional security issues. These old issues include history books in Japan, Japanese politicians visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, sexual slavery during World War II, and territorial disputes such as the conflict surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu, Dokdo/Takeshima, and Kuril islands. Territorial disputes in particular have shown that they could lead to small-scale military conflict between the parties involved. They have become a tool for politicians in Japan, both Koreas, Russia, and China to gain popular support and strengthen virulent nationalism.
The Korean Peninsula is one of the last vestiges of the Cold War. It is integral to the post-Cold War international system, which places the United States at the “unipolar” center of an international hierarchy of states based on the size of their economy (the G2, G7, G20 system, for example), their military (NATO), or their regional affiliations (the EU, ASEAN, MERCOSUR, etc.). In such a system, North Korea’s land-based trilateral alliance stood against South Korea’s maritime-based trilateral alliance, reproducing the bifurcation of Northeast Asia in the 21st century that arose from Cold War global bipolarity. In this context, the DPRK issue is partly global in that it presents unconventional challenges (such as the risk of non-state nuclear terrorism), partly regional (in that it reinforces and at the same time disrupts the post-Cold War state system), and partly local (in that it continues the ideological and physical division of Korea with the attendant social, economic, and ecological cost to the Korean people).
Additionally, Northeast Asia is characterized by asymmetry between the power capacities and interests of each state that makes it difficult to create regional institutions based on power sharing and collaboration. The issues of hegemony and neo-imperialism further strain relations among states. In economic terms, Japan was the dominant economic power until 2010, when China overtook the nation in terms of GDP. China has an overwhelming geopolitical advantage in terms of population, sheer physical size, and geography — but the presence of the United States holds this advantage in check. The United States is still the world’s largest economy (roughly double that of China) and its relative military power is overwhelming.
The most important security issue framed in these terms is the transition by which the United States and its allies adjust to the rise of China to economic and military co-equal status over the coming generation and to the many related issues posed by this transformation — such as the huge increase in acid rain from China falling on Korea and Japan. In a similar vein, the leaders of each country are greatly concerned about China’s desire to be a state with revisionist aspirations to reconstruct the status quo of inter-state relations and possibly become the new regional hegemon. The June 2013 Obama-Xi presidential summit did little to allay concerns that the two great powers had not figured out how to create the new “great power relationship” sought by China.
In addition to these 20th-century issues, Northeast Asia has uniquely 21st-century challenges in terms of development and democratization. Openness and transparency of decision-making by states are generally assumed to be integral to democracy in the West, but are not necessarily part of the definition of democracy in Northeast Asia, let alone of foreign policy. Indeed, the latter is typically viewed as a domain of secrecy and quiet conversations outside of public view. The deepening of democracy in the ROK and Japan, the challenges facing democracy in the Russian Far East, the possibility that China will democratize in the future, and the prospect of post-totalitarian, “pluralist” authoritarian government in the DPRK all obstruct the evolution of a common vision for the future at any level, let alone the emergence of a regional community and common Northeast Asian identity.
For all these reasons — the historical legacies, a divided Korea, US-China economic interdependence and competition for trade with regional states, and the impact of globalization, democratization, and the information revolution in each country, the Cold War balance of power co-exists with a new, as yet-nascent regional system. This new system-in-formation does not create clearly defined blocs or spheres of influence as existed during the Cold War. Nevertheless, it does pose a far more complicated set of foreign policy options for small and middle powers to shape policy options, not least because China and the United States have to compete with these states and new non-state actors to maintain their status and power.
Modern ROK Foreign Policy Phases and the Rising Complexity of Foreign Policy
The ROK’s foreign policy emerged during the hot war of Korea as subordinate to a great power and as a partner in the Cold War that ensued, ensuring the continued division of Korea and the implication of the ROK in the regional dimension of the evolving US-Soviet rivalry. Although the ROK under military rule was never the compliant junior partner often portrayed by pundits at the time, it was not until military rule ended with civilian uprising in 1987 that South Korea began to develop a truly independent foreign policy, with military policy lagging behind due to the integration of the US-ROK military in the Combined Forces Command.
At the end of the Cold War that ensued shortly after the eviction of the military from the Blue House, the ROK developed an independent nordpolitik that quickly established a set of fundamental principles for inter-Korean relations. The ROK also took advantage of the brief breakthrough in relations with the DPRK in 1991-92 to negotiate a series of inter-Korean agreements, especially the Basic Agreement and the 1992 Denuclearization Declaration, which became the cornerstone of the ROK’s foreign policy in the next two decades.
By this time, it was clear the ROK’s competition to match the DPRK’s diplomatic presence around the world was no longer of significance and that, in almost all respects, the ROK had won the game for recognition and reputation everywhere that mattered — including in China and Russia, the DPRK’s erstwhile allies. Gaining cross-recognition from both in 1991, the ROK was free to pursue much broader foreign policy goals.
Once the ROK “graduated” from the UN list of “developing countries,” abandoned diplomatic competition with the DPRK around the world, and became a UN member state in 1991, it joined the OECD and became a full-fledged diplomatic player on the global stage. The acme of this achievement was the selection in 2007 of former foreign minister Ban Ki Moon to be Secretary General of the United Nations, followed in 2010 with hosting the G20 annual meeting.
Promotion of trade, investment, and financing relations remained an important driver of ROK foreign policy. The ROK began to view itself as an important contributor to peace, security, and prosperity by virtue of its funding and supply of experts who became international civil servants in UN functional and specialized agencies, its own aid program which included an active role in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (2009), its role in fielding peacekeeping forces, and even its “soft power” cultural exports.
For much of the 1990s, however, South Korean diplomacy remained consumed by the cycles of cooperation and confrontation with the DPRK over its nuclear weapons proliferation threats and actions and the need to align closely with the United States while maintaining Korean interests in any prospective settlement engineered by its patron ally. The ROK’s nuclear diplomacy in response to the DPRK’s nuclear proliferation activity attempted primarily to ensure its interests were not subordinated in negotiations between the United States and the DPRK over the latter’s nuclear weapons program. An unenviable position for a small state to find itself in, one that led to vacillating hot-cold stances, often in opposition to the policies of its patron state. Relatedly, the ROK sought to enhance its reputation as a non-nuclear state by polishing a squeaky-clean non-proliferation record, but found itself embarrassed by enrichment experiments during the 1990s that transgressed its commitments with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Only when Kim Dae-Jung was elected in 1998 did the ROK shift its foreign policy in a strategic manner — most importantly, by steering enormous investment by South Korean firms into China’s economy. This move ensured that the ROK would always be heard in Beijing on how to respond to the DPRK’s latest challenge to the legitimacy and policies of the South, while also offsetting the ROK’s economic dependency on Japan. Kim Dae-Jung also negotiated the establishment of the Kaesong Industrial Park with the DPRK — the most important arms control measure in Korean history that opened up a cross-DMZ conduit for trade and investment in the DPRK, while breaking the DPRK army’s monopoly control of the DMZ itself. The June 2000 summit between Kim Dae-Jung and then-DPRK leader Kim Jong-il set in motion a decade of attempts to engage the DPRK on ROK terms.
At this time, security and foreign policy intellectuals — many of them professors who spent time as ministers in successive administrations — began to examine the ROK’s options to move out from under actual or perceived subservience to the United States’ interests. The Roh Moo-hyun administration declared that the ROK would position itself to be the “hub” (later bridge) of Northeast Asia serving to connect the powers of the region. The hub concept referred to the notion that the ROK could hasten the integration of Northeast Asia by facilitating exchange and cooperation across borders, and drawing on its economic and cultural power to promote such processes. Faced with American resistance to his pro-engagement posture towards the DPRK, Roh shifted to promotion of ROK free trade agreements and global investment.
Roh’s successor, Lee Myung-bak, began to promote an explicit “middle power” diplomacy after 2008 and positioned the ROK to host a series of global events including the G20 and Seoul Nuclear Security Summitmeetings. Such convening on global issues was the main achievement of “complex diplomacy” under the Lee administration. The Lee Administration also developed core strategies aligned with global policy agendas in the areas of climate change and sustainability (“green growth”) and peacekeeping, while maintaining a hard line against engaging the DPRK. To the extent that this posture employed a strategic logic against ideological drivers aimed at isolating and squeezing the DPRK, it aimed to keep the ROK from becoming embroiled in regional conflicts that could put strain on its relations between the United States and China. It also reflected the increasing complexity of regional and global problems that exceeded the ability of great powers to manage and demanded new and unconventional policies to deal with cross-border and often highly uncertain prospects for solving these problems.
To assert its good citizen credentials on these global issues, ROK diplomacy deployed various “soft power” tools to promote the ROK’s interests, including the creation of networks, hosting of regional meetings, and “public diplomacy” which aimed to promote the ROK “brand” with overseas audiences. At the same time, the ROK reinforced its alliance with the United States, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 clashes with the DPRK military arising from the sinking of the ROK warship Cheonan in March and the exchange of artillery fire in November.
The rise of China, the stalling of Japan’s recovery after Fukushima, and the US “rebalancing” of its military forces back to the Asia-Pacific region after the Iran and Afghanistan wars all reaffirmed the value of the ROK to the United States, especially in taking a hard line against the DPRK’s nuclear and missile armament and testing. This alignment tightened in 2013 after President Park Guen-Hye’s inauguration after her election the previous December. In response to the DPRK’s rocket and nuclear tests, the United States conducted simulated nuclear strike bombings in March, and the DPRK issued a series of threats to use nuclear weapons against Seoul and American cities should war break out.
The ROK’s room to use middle power brokerage was constrained by the increasing bifurcation of the region around American and Chinese spheres of influence, in spite of clear tensions between China and the DPRK. Thus, the ROK struck a “Strategic Cooperative Partnership” with China at the May 2008 Korea-China summit, a partnership reconfirmed and expanded at the June 2013 Park-Xi summit in Beijing. After 2008, the ROK’s attempts to create regional and global networks either convened by the ROK, or including the ROK as a key node, were critical to its ability to “stay in the great power game” as a creative middle power, while steering clear of direct embroilment in regional security issues swirling around the Korean Peninsula, especially as Sino-Japanese relations began to decline rapidly in 2010. The ROK offer to host the Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat in Seoul (which opened in September 2011) is indicative of its aspirations to play a regional middle power role — but little has come of this initiative in terms of modifying the postures of the two “heavyweight” wrestlers in the Japan-Korea-China triangle.
This focus on how to maximize the exercise of “middle power” has preoccupied many Korean diplomacy and foreign policy intellectuals since 2009. Their work has concentrated on how the networking theory concepts of positional power and filling structural holes in the network of states and their respective agencies apply to the ROK.
The critical roles that arise due to these networking, rather than power capacity, attributes of the ROK as a middle power include what mediating “broker” roles the ROK could play. Scholars seek to determine whether the structure of regional relationships contain actors largely isolated in “structural holes”; do “weak links” exist with them that can be activated to connect interested third parties who otherwise would remain disconnected from the structural-hole agents? By establishing this connectivity, Songbae Kim notes that the ROK can simply facilitate the mutual flow of information. That is, the ROK can establish communication between the third party and the agent located in a structural hole, or it can add information value — meaning that it can provide a form of translation services that enable the two parties to be “interoperable.” That is, the ROK can establish sufficient common codification of meaning for them to coordinate with respect to each other, or, at a higher level of relationship, to facilitate collaboration or the production of a joint value by virtue of recognition and exploitation of compatibility between the two parties. Thus, Kim suggests that, in theory, a networking state can either broker information as a connector (enable information to flow) or as a transformer (provide compatibility needed to exchange information). Conversely, he suggests, it can broker meaning as a messenger (add meaning needed for information to flow) or as a translator (provide meaning needed for compatibility to be recognized).
Arguably, diplomats use such techniques constantly in the search for common knowledge with adversaries inhabiting a different political culture and isolated from direct reach by virtue of their structural geopolitical location or conflicts. What is new is that small and middle powers may find ways around congealed institutional and geopolitical barriers to facilitate contact with officials of adversary states and to lay the groundwork for trust-building based on formal and informal networks of communication. The inter-penetration of cultural industries in the region, the high levels of globalization and related technological and economic inter-dependence, and the instantaneous nature of electronic media and networks all devolve capacities to initiate network-wide effects on the image and reputation of a state such as the ROK, and to exert ideational influence on many constituencies simultaneously.
Such “public diplomacy” is a competitive game, but the ROK has been skillful in playing it in Northeast Asia, especially in China, using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube and even inviting Chinese super-bloggers to visit the ROK. Nonetheless, it is easy to overstate the gains from such state-sponsored attempts to improve reputation and create a networked “attraction” for tourism and trade. Chinese bloggers tend to be critical not only of the DPRK, but also of the ROK for what is often viewed to be its one-sided, partisan interference in China’s foreign policy while slavishly supporting the policies and forward-deployment of the United States, the main great power competitor.
Having access to vastly greater resources than civil society organizations, state-based networking initiatives can operate at a far greater scale, bringing together large numbers of influential persons from many different sectors and countries at the same time. The result is the creation of a web of connected persons who form a “resilience” resource at times of stress, one that can crystallize around common positions by virtue of prior contact and shared information and meaning. Such networks must be constructed by a networking middle power through constantly convening meetings and exchanges to weave networks making South Korea increasingly central to how others frame issues critical to the ROK — as occurred in the cases of Jeju Forum and the Asan Institute, outlined below.
Songbae Kim suggests that for a networked state, the network strategy is akin to creating a beehive with many collaboratively constructed cells, rather than a web designed to capture insects for the spider to devour (the great power’s diplomatic strategy). Thus, he states, “middle powers seek to exercise the collective power through cooperative alliances. These alliances are meant for all neighbors to enhance their influence over regional and world politics by collecting and integrating their fragmented capabilities.” Likewise, civil society organizations create networks based on shared, differentiated, and rotating divisions of labor to offset each other’s strengths and weaknesses and to create a regional capacity that is more than the sum of the parts of each national constitutive element of the network.
However, unlike state-based networks, civil society networks are far less susceptible to politically driven closure by the broker and/or by the agent in a black hole at times of increasing tensions, that is, at exactly the time when they are most needed. In short, they are resilient networks from the viewpoint of sustained communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Finally, rather than promoting a unified or singular state-originated view, transnational civil society networks create new, shared, often hybrid images of the future and common knowledge that transcend the national and generate a truly cosmopolitan identity for participants in the network. Universal values of shared humanity guide these images rather than the national interests of a specific state.
Moreover, the level at which the ROK state deploys networked middle power strategies and the goals it pursues are different to those of civil society networks that either drive urgent specific-issue campaigns to motivate and mobilize constituencies or seek to realize long-term, value-based common futures. Thus, official ROK networked strategies have aimed at positioning the ROK to broker information related to the DPRK as a structural hole, while framing the DPRK issue for third parties at the same time. Songbae Kim suggests the ROK could also attempt to bridge territorial conflicts between China and Japan, or even to help the United States and China moderate their relationship, although he admits that the latter goal may exceed the ROK’s networking capacity. In this aspect of the exercise of networked state power, what matters is the ROK’s ability to promote norms and value-based diplomatic strategies that moderate the raw exercise of power based on military or economic assets. Constructivists in academic political science have long argued that this approach boils down to creating “habits of dialogue.” These habits lead to routinized interactions, patterns of dependable cooperation in low politics spheres (for example, pollution control or coast guard coordination), or collaboration to create value where none existed before (for example, airline routing agreements to reduce fuel costs, or standardized railway and port container technology). These efforts cannot displace big powers, but they can induce them into enduring institutional frameworks that may moderate their unilateral actions and increase the influence of small and middle powers in negotiated outcomes.
Since 2000, ROK civil society has also effectively connected disparate players to address urgent nuclear, social, and ecological security issues in the DPRK. Unlike ROK official attempts to broker or interpret the DPRK as a policy issue for states, autonomous civil society actors were able to circumvent or overcome barriers to communication and cooperation with DPRK counterparts without imposing a particular interpretation of the nature of the adversary (the DPRK). To some extent at least, civil society’s networking strategy succeeded (as is evident in the case studies in the next section). Conversely, to the degree to which civil society organizations insisted on the prior imposition of meaning (for example, imposing political recognition conditionality on such communication with the DPRK by ROK autonomous entities such as UNESCO-ROK, as occurred in the case of proposing dialogue on the DMZ Peace Park), it failed.
Moreover, the networking roles of civil society organizations diverge considerably from the networking goals of official ROK foreign policy agencies. In addition to the specific convening and maintenance roles, regional civil society networks require careful integration of asymmetric civil society agents in each country, as we explain in the next section of this chapter.
States do not attempt to create sustained trans-boundary issues or trans-local networks in this manner. To some extent, however, the ROK has encouraged local governments and cities to construct enduring networked collaborations based on complementary economic capacities — as in the case of the Busan-Fukuoka cross-border cooperation described below.
And, as was suggested in chapter 2, the “multiplexity” of social networks whereby participating agents can draw on more than one type of associational commonality at a time over a given link with another agent endows civil society networks with a vastly superior reach. Civil society networks are inherently and instantly reconstituted, and are far more flexible and responsive than simple networks supporting large organizations such as states that share only a few common interests or attributes. In this regard, civil society networks are like swarming immune systems whereas state-based complex networked strategies are more rigid, skeletal structures.
The Limits of ROK State-Centered, Complex Diplomacy
Even within diplomatic circles, not everyone is convinced the ROK should pursue a “middle power” complex networked strategy and attempt to “box above its weight.” Some diplomats argue that the foreign policies of states should not be defined by the relative hierarchy of power. Instead, it should be based on their ability to solve shared global problems according to their capacity — an approach used in the 1992 climate change treaty negotiations known as “common but differentiated responsibility,” something that may be combined with subsidiarity (the European principle of devolving implementation to the lowest competent level of social organization).
Along the same lines, rather than relying on military alliances, middle powers such as the ROK should join and promote multilateral institutions with global scope, recognizing that the main measure of great power for realists — military force — is largely irrelevant to the solution of most global problems. Finally, rather than conceptualizing and propagating strategies for others to follow, the ROK should figure out the best way for it to contribute to the resolution of global problems, and lead by doing.
However, the difference between official “complex networked middle power diplomacy,” as it has been termed, and the strategy of civic diplomacy is not merely one of relative efficacy of focusing on global versus regional concerns, or of a more or less independent diplomacy. Nor does it rest on whether the ROK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) “complex diplomacy” includes non-state actors and civil society (it does). The core distinction between a state-based networking and a civil society-based networking strategy is more fundamental, and it presents ROK foreign policy with a far greater challenge than is recognized in its current concept of “complex diplomacy.”
At stake is the underlying moral basis or legitimacy of the ROK’s foreign policy. Historically, ROK foreign policy has put national interest (or often a truncated form of national interest in the shape of narrow corporate interests) first rather than the realization of human or ecological security. This approach cannot resolve genuinely interconnected and complex global problems. Such problems demand that states implement shared solutions based on cooperation — which is not easy to achieve when national interests clash. Thus, when it comes to global problems, it is crucial to be guided by core values and to apply moral legitimacy to foreign policy rather seek to benefit short-term, often-narrow interests — as Joseph Nye argued in relation to the attractiveness of soft power versus military and economic power. Often, it is bottom-up non-state actors, especially local governments and civil society, who insist that this moral element guide foreign policy. Combining their impulse with the traditional “hard power” basis of realpolitik and adding the “smart power” of complex diplomacy may constitute and be termed “new public diplomacy.” The different elements of public diplomacy are often in tension with each other, but may be far more potent than traditional diplomacy when aligned (See Table 6.1).
Table 6.1: Traditional, Complex, and Civic Diplomacy
In traditional usage, public diplomacy refers to the management of “external” public perceptions of a nation as orchestrated by a state. In the 21st century, the obvious role of non-state actors of all kinds in influencing perceptions of significant constituencies and social movements that could affect, challenge, or even overthrow states implies the need by states to mobilize such non-state actors in an integrated national “public diplomacy” strategy. This led to the establishment, for example, of the US State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in 1999. This office defines its mission as “informing and influencing foreign publics by expanding and strengthening the relationship between the people and Government of the United States and citizens of the rest of the world.” This “new public diplomacy” relies heavily on non-state actors, but it retains state and national security as the primary goal of public diplomacy.
The diplomatic strategies and foreign affairs concerns of non-state actors may overlap, but may also diverge substantially from those of specific states. By definition, transnational civil society organizations cannot be subordinate to the public diplomacy foreign affairs strategies of a single state and do not participate in “public diplomacy” (although constituent national nodes might). It is therefore necessary to select a term that encompasses the independent foreign policy orientations and diplomatic activities of non-state actors working across borders, whether they engage states, market entities, or other civil society organizations. We chose “civic diplomacy” to reflect the civilian status of non-state actors; their commitment to “civility,” or universal norms and values in the UN Charter and international law (to distinguish them from un-civil non-state actors such as transnational organized crime or transnational terrorist networks); and the implied commitment to a locale, city, or community that is the ethical call of citizenship.
The ROK government’s complex public diplomacy attempts to mobilize (and sometimes reign in) domestic non-state actors, but mostly these non-state actors are organizations linked to the state such as the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). They also include large corporations intimately tied to the national government by a web of personal and commercial transactions. They seldom include city governments or local governments in their list of non-state actors. In short, complex diplomacy is a truncated version of the full potential of networked civic diplomacy that exploits the full capacities for cross-border activities of civil society and local governments in the ROK. Indeed, civic diplomacy puts city and local governments at the forefront of foreign policy along with civil society organizations, including transnational religious organizations, in place of governments and corporations.
The rest of this chapter examines the structure and roles whereby networked civil society organizations contribute to the solution of complex, interrelated global problems, and the challenges that this approach presents to ROK foreign policy. The history of regional civil society organizations stretches back to at least the 1970s in Japan, the ROK, and China. It accelerated in the 1990s due to the emergence of ROK civil society after the end of the military dictatorship in 1987 and the end of the Cold War, which opened many possibilities for trans-border communication and cooperation in the region. These early efforts by ROK civil society organizations contributed to regional human rights networks, to the removal of nuclear weapons on forward-deployed American warships and bases in the ROK and Japan, and to various anti-colonial and anti-pollution struggles in the region, especially in the island states of the Pacific.
Moreover, we will argue that ROK civil society systematically developed regional and global networking strategies in the late 1990s, partly in response to the DPRK nuclear challenge and partly due to the rise of the ROK economy to global status. At the same time, as global and regional problems accelerated and became far more challenging at the end of the Cold War, so the same globalization processes that fractured and displaced local communities and sometimes whole nations demanded networked responses that only civil society organizations could supply — not states or corporations. Thus, it is noteworthy that the long-lasting networks we will examine below were not initiated by the ROK state as part of its foreign policy. Instead, the networks had roots outside of the state, often well before the rise of official complex diplomacy, and, because of this disparate origin, they frequently have the stamina to operate across borders for decades whereas diplomatic strategies may fade after a few years.
Regional and Local Civil Society Networks and Complexity
Just as the ability of states to undertake middle-power “networked” strategies is rooted in regional history and context, so are the strategies arising from civil society in Northeast Asia. In Japan, civil society is most advanced in its key characteristics of autonomy, social capacity, and ability to supply critical services either uniquely or more efficiently than the state or the market sector. On foreign policy and security issues, the institutions of the central state are largely insulated from direct participation by most Japanese civil society organizations, although a set of elite private institutions serve as think tanks, sounding boards, holding shelves, and gatekeepers to the external world. In many respects, the most critical aids offered by Japanese civil society to collaborative problem-solving by regional civil society networks are financial and technical resources to sustain long-term efforts in partnership with sister organizations in China, Japan, the ROK, Russia, Mongolia, and even the DPRK.
In the ROK, civil society organizations are still nascent and recovering from decades of military dictatorship. Consequently, their membership is weak, endowing them with relatively small resources compared to their Japanese counterparts. They also tend to revert to large-scale, mass mobilization based on oppositional stances rather than undertake routine, policy-oriented work in alignment with state agencies or corporations. The structural bipolarity arising from South Korea’s electoral system (winner takes all), the strong presidential office, and the lack of checks and balances in the state and judicial systems make it difficult for civil society to develop strong representational and policy roles. As the leadership of civil society organizations and of governments both often originate from universities, individual intellectuals often keep lines of communication open between the state and civil society organizations through school and military graduation cohort networks which bypass formal institutional hierarchies.
In China, civil society organizations are either mass-based or local associations sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party, central state ministries, or proto-nongovernmental associations with limited autonomy from the central authoritarian state.
From these asymmetric, uneven capabilities in each country, civil society organizations in Northeast Asia have cobbled together many issue-based networks. Rizal Sukma and James Gannon have documented how civil society organizations in the region have responded to five urgent regional security threats: piracy, disaster relief, human trafficking, health, and climate change. These mature networks stand in contrast to the weak early capacities of emerging civil society in the region at the end of the Cold War. Each participating organization has strengths it can lend to offset the weaknesses of others in the course of creating vibrant transnational networks, as shown in Table 6.2.
Table 6.2: Civil Society Strengths and Weaknesses in Northeast Asia
In chapter 2, we argued that civil society networks offer distinct networking capacities that overlap but are not the same as those available to states such as the ROK. Civil society-based organizations use networks for many reasons, including to:
- Create sustained relationships with counterparts trapped or hidden inside structural holes, who are otherwise incommunicado due to isolation or partisan alignments, and build bridges between those living in a structural hole and third parties with whom no other connectivity exists (for example, between the United States and the DPRK).
- Activate “weak links” in times of crisis to reduce tension or to communicate key information or common knowledge that enables decision-makers to avoid inadvertent escalation or to find ways to resolve the crisis. This ability rests on relationships with counterparts in structural holes; but these relationships must be based on trust to work and, in turn, require time and investment to establish, nurture, deepen, and activate them when needed. That is, although weak or even inactive for long periods, these links are long-term and are not available in crisis if they are not already well established.
- Exploit the “small world’s effect” whereby information is communicated instantly and precisely due to direct connectivity instead of passing via many nodes or layers of culture and organization, degrading the information and slowing its transmission.
- Supply “missing link” information that is otherwise unknown to enable decision-makers to correctly interpret the situation prevailing in a “structural hole” in a timely manner on a critical and urgent issue related to crisis avoidance or management, or to enable dialogue to occur at times of crisis or high tension.
- Inspire distributed participants across borders with a common vision, understanding, or shared image of the future, which serves as a guide to concerted but distributed action. The networks thereby create an epistemic community based on common understanding and shared discourse, including cross-generational and cross-cultural lessons and norms to guide future orientations on key issues dividing nations and peoples.
- Mobilize large numbers of individuals and propagate an interpretation of current events by social media, mass media, and direct communication using virtual means with key players in many organizations by simultaneously swarming in very large numbers either on the ground or virtually (for example, social media events in China).
- Identify multiple pathways or solution strategies that can be implemented separately or jointly to ensure that fallbacks exist when tension increases or failure occurs in one strategy — that is, to realize complex, multiple solutions at the same time, as opposed to the operation of singular, sequential, problem-solving strategies.
- Convene key players to address specific problems without a central command authority, to implement joint strategies relying on distributed coordination capacities, and to deliver solutions in the absence of states — especially in disaster relief and humanitarian crises.
- Anticipate possible discontinuities and radical failures of institutions or state agencies and develop adaptive strategies that increase resilience in the face of uncertainty, especially by creating multiple pathways to solve the problems that are in play simultaneously.
Although they are often referred to as the “third” sector — defined in part by what they are not, non-governmental and not-for-profit, as much as by what they are, individual and community associations based on universal values of peace, security, and sustainability — genuinely autonomous civil society organizations do not exist in isolation but are intimately interwoven and commingled with state state-based agencies and with market-sector entities, primarily corporations. In addition to exhibiting the network attributes outlined above, civil society organizations fulfill societal roles in which they have proven to be efficient and often far more equitable in their delivery of services than states or corporations. Viewed functionally, networked civil society organizations can realize the following:
- Address simultaneously many peace, security, and sustainability issues in detail and on a highly disaggregated basis, thereby creating a new diversity of social responses that supplements and sometimes supplants the relatively limited repertoire of big state and market-based organizations, adding resilience to the societal response to complexity.
- Provide early warning of local developments — disasters, conflicts, and less challenging surprises such as cross-border crimes, epidemic breakouts, etc., where the first signals of a cascading or avalanching event are obscured by the noise of routine events.
- Hold governments and corporations accountable for routine and crisis performance by demanding transparency, by monitoring and reporting implementation, and by “flaming and shaming” rule-breakers by swarming on the Internet (or mobilizing supporters at the street level).
- Mobilize resources contributed by private citizens on a massive scale, sometimes exceeding that of governments in response to disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
- Develop and advocate for constructive policies to be adopted by governments, state agencies (such as climate change policies or policing policies related to human trafficking) and for corporations (such as codes of conduct and certification schemes).
- Deepen public understanding and support for value-based policies via publicity, outreach, and education programs.
- Facilitate mutual learning and rapid diffusion of innovation across borders and sectors, in part by encouraging “open source” non-profit and self-organizing replication of solutions and methods by partner civil society organizations.
- Provide technical assistance and expertise to implement direct (for example, humanitarian assistance to refugees or survivors of wars or natural disasters) or contracted (government food assistance) aid programs, or to build local capacity by training and providing funds and equipment (for local development or environmental projects).
- Participate directly in governmental delegations to international conferences and meetings, or advise corporations directly in the revision of their strategy and standards.
- Innovate in terms of lifestyles, technology, and hybrid identities that enliven communities and build bridges across borders of all kinds.
In the next section, we describe this combination of networked structures and functions in six ROK-initiated cross-border networks.
ROK Transnational Civil Society Networks
The explosive growth in global and local civil societies, and the emergence of a new global consciousness since the end of the Cold War, precipitated the creation of transnational networks and nascent cosmopolitan communities centered on civil society. The antecedents of this conjunction stretch back to the early 20th century, as documented by the Union of International Associations. Although states have continued to accrete power and influence, they have also become dependent upon civil-society and non-government-driven network strategies to succeed in solving cross-border problems, especially complex global problems.
Although a “latecomer” to civil society in Northeast Asia and the Pacific due to rentier-landlord and then military-dominated governments that from 1953-87 were antithetical to endogenous civil society, and before that, to war and colonial rule, the ROK has demonstrated it can originate leading regional transnational civil society networks that are oriented towards addressing global problems. Here, based on interviews and recently published studies, we present six case studies on South Korean civil society’s latest efforts to confront global issues through transnational networks. We conclude by reviewing the implications that civil society-oriented network initiatives have for the official “complex diplomacy” state-centric network strategy described earlier in this chapter.
New Discourse, New Policies: South Korea in the Era of Globalization
Few Asian-Pacific countries have leaders who are more supportive of a “global” agenda than the ROK. South Koreans in all sectors welcome the prospect of further globalization. In spite — or perhaps partly because of — the regressive nature of the DPRK, as well as the desire to position itself as a convening state high in the ranks of developed countries, the ROK has been exceptionally willing to bear the financial burden of hosting events of transnational importance like the Summer and Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, and the G20 Summit. Furthermore, South Korea’s burgeoning civil society and non-governmental sector have begun to play an increasingly vital role in constructing transnational networks and utilizing them for solving global problems that manifest in, or originate from, the wider Asia region. However, this development did not happen overnight.
The ROK’s modern history is marked by several critical junctures and transition periods. Among them, the decade following the end of the Cold War is of great importance, especially when it comes to understanding the contemporary political and social landscape. The end of the bipolar world order fundamentally changed the way all countries perceived themselves vis-à-vis others. Because the ROK was on the ideological frontline during the Cold War, the impact of its end was great although the Peninsula remained divided. During the Cold War and South Korea’s developmental period, security concerns dominated public discourse and policy. Talk of global issues advocacy, such as human rights, was seen as seditious and harmful to development, ergo the national interest, and was discouraged by the authoritarian government in Seoul. However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of the military regime in 1987, the democratic transition in the late 1980s, and the rise of progressive administrations in the late 1990s, an enormous shift began as to the dominant focus of ROK public affairs. Although military and geopolitical security remained important, the social and political discourse was largely “de-securitized.” The shift is illustrated in the way perceptions of the DPRK changed during the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations (1998-2008). The DPRK became, for the most part, just another country.
At the same time, the ROK state also began to re-position South Korea’s economy within the new global capitalist system and post-Cold War Northeast Asia. With roots in the liberalization policies of President Kim Young-sam (commonly referred to as saegyehwa), South Korea began to diversify its international trading relationships and to rebrand itself regionally. Following what some have called its middle power strategy,South Korea concluded Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the European Union and the United States and entered into FTA negotiations with other major trading partners such as Australia and China. In addition to its network-based trading strategy, South Korea also initiated the “New Asia Initiative” (NAI) in 2008, a regional policy aimed at more substantive engagement with the countries of Northeast Asia, especially those of ASEAN.
The NAI, announced during a presidential visit to Southeast Asia in early 2009, best reflects the government’s efforts to rebrand and reposition the country. The initiative claims three major objectives: (1) increasing ODA contribution to Asian countries; (2) enhancing regional trade ties through the expansion of Korea’s FTA networks and other means; and (3) fostering stronger inter-regional ties to address global issues more effectively, such as global warming and disaster management. As noted earlier in this chapter, via regional strategies such as the NAI, the ROK attempted to posit itself as the region’s “honest broker,” or “bridge,” between the major and minor powers as well as the developed and developing countries.
This state-centric model of complex diplomacy and middle power strategy was effective in expanding the scope of the public sphere and was prescient in its attempt to set in motion a networking strategy that positioned the ROK to design innovative solutions to regional problems in the first decade of the new millennium. However, this state-based networking model of middle power proved insufficient when it came to implementation. Although the state has been eager to portray itself as concerned with global issues such as climate change, such concerns in the ROK have been primarily a reaction to bottom-up pressure from an emerging civil society. As will be illustrated in the case studies that follow, by working through transnational networks, South Korean civil society has been more effective in stimulating long-term, transformational change at a regional level than through state-based strategies. Whether these networks will endure or be replaced by new ones remains an open question, however. Civil society in the ROK is still young and relatively underdeveloped, and many of its regional and cross-border initiatives continue to rely on the ingenuity and drive of individuals. As we shall see, it remains uncertain whether civil society-led movements can survive the loss of their driving thinkers, their “lone wolves.”
The rest of this section examines six case studies to show how ROK non-governmental organizations(NGOs) and other institutions are both working through and actively creating transnational networks for the purpose of solving global problems. The first case study depicts the networked civil society response, led by South Koreans, to respond to and supplant regressive Japanese history textbooks by producing the 2005 book A History to Open the Future. The second case study looks at how South Korean non-governmental organizationsaddressed deforestation and food scarcity in Northeast Asia, especially in China and North Korea. The third case study examines the critical role played by the “Refugee Aid Network” in the passing of South Korea’s Refugee Act, the first independent national refugee law in Asia. The fourth case study reviews the networking experience of a private initiative, the Jeju Peace Forum, and its evolution from a network focused on a peace initiative to solve the North Korea problem into a multi-issue network of networks. The fifth case study traces the creation and influential intellectual role of the East Asia Institute. The sixth case study explores efforts by the most recent of these civil society initiatives — the Asan Institute for Policy Studies — to build global networks and the implications such efforts have for global community building and cosmopolitanism.
Following this excursion across historical terrain, we conclude with a summary of the key findings from the case studies on Korean civil society networks, the role of inter-city collaboration across national borders, and the implications of civil society-oriented network strategies for the ROK’s state-centric, networked complex diplomacy strategy.
Case Study 1: A History to Open the Future
In the previous section, we noted that civil society organizations are adept at activating otherwise inactive or weak links in social networks. When weak links are activated or strengthened, civil society can go beyond the creation of common knowledge. It can inspire a common vision and understanding of the future based on a shared discourse drawn from mutual learning that spans many generations. By using networks skillfully, civil society is able to mobilize large numbers of people to promote strategies or solutions to urgent problems. No clearer example of this capacity — and its relative advantage compared to slow, ineffective, and politicized state agencies — may be found in Northeast Asia than the work of the Japanese-Chinese-Korean Committee for Common History Teaching Materials of the Three Countries. This Committee produced the landmark history textbook, A History to Open the Future, written in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese and published in May 2005.
The significance of this contribution emanating from civil society can be understood in light of the immense weight of history in Northeast Asia. This legacy includes many centuries of Chinese hegemony, two centuries of Western imperialism, Western and Japanese colonial occupation, and more than a decade of regional and world war, related sexual slavery, and concentration camps. It also includes the immolation of whole cities by fire bombing, the annihilation of cities by nuclear bombing, atrocities committed by the militaries of all states in the region upon their own people as well as subjugated populations, full-scale civil wars, externally imposed national divisions, political and military dictatorships, political assassinations, and the use of terror and surveillance to control populations. Capping this legacy was four decades of Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Much of this history occurred in living memory. The scale, frequency, and international nature of these horrific events increased with the accelerating expansion of the territorial scope and integrative political, economic, and military capacities of imperial and non-imperial nation-states in Northeast Asia. Thus, historical dimensions of national and personal identity are increasingly intertwined with the twin themes of cruelty and irony, the victimization of and by the other (especially the outsider). Today, historical memory contributes to the complexity of international affairs in the region at every level. It is one of the most critical dimensions of regional affairs, affecting as it does subjective and national identity in ways that make Northeast Asia more of an anti-region than a nascent regional security community. Every aspect of this violent history is contested, often from multiple angles. Even the meaning of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 is fractured. For many Japanese, these bombings were such a radical rupture with the past that they represented a new crime against humanity that must never be repeated, whatever prior atrocities led to the attacks. For many Americans, the conventional narrative is that the bombings caused Japan to surrender, thereby ending the Pacific war. For many Koreans — thousands of whom perished in the two explosions due to their impressments into Japan’s war effort — it was a deserved punishment for decades of cruel oppression of Korean independence movements. For millions of Chinese, it was a welcome event that signified the end of Japanese imperialism, but it also portended a new external threat once the country was unified under Communist Party rule in 1949.
Because history shapes national identity and individual attitudes, states invest in official histories and, in many instances, oversee and approve the production of school textbooks through which official narratives and core values are inculcated into each generation of students. This long tradition of official and dynastic history in China, Korea, and Japan has its modern equivalent in European and North American states. However, in many regions of acute conflict, states have managed to produce jointly shared histories, including textbooks that have nurtured political and cultural reconciliation between many former warring states and their peoples. Textbook revision is the subject of considerable intellectual and pedagogical effort in many post-conflict contexts.
In Northeast Asia, official sponsorship of history textbooks has generated hostility and mistrust because they are viewed as a litmus test of the extent to which former aggressor states recognize that past colonial and imperial policies and actions, such as conducting wars, occupying neighboring states, and condoning atrocities, were wrong and must never be repeated. Thus, official and private attempts in Japan to whitewash its military atrocities in Korea, China, and Southeast Asia are monitored closely and evoke powerful responses at the state and societal levels. In turn, these scars on the collective historical memory exacerbate strongly nationalist responses that overwhelm efforts to create a shared basis for aligning states and societies to communicate, cooperate, and collaborate to solve common problems. As Chung-in Moon and Seung-won Suh state, “Simply because most countries in a given region are usually afflicted with the fractured pain of the past, identity and collective memory are crucial variables in forging shared values and common goals vital to the formation of a ‘community of security.’ It is virtually inconceivable for nations to engage in cooperative practices without first healing the pain and then recognizing and respecting the identity of others.”
The Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform produced a revisionist history that denied the sexual slavery of comfort women and the occurrence of the Nanjing Massacre. When the Japanese Ministry of Education approved it for use in Japanese schools in 2001, it triggered a strong reaction from the region. Of the many countervailing efforts, those arising from civil society are particularly significant in that they broke new ground, both intellectually and politically, in the production of shared history in the region.
The origins of this effort stem from a 1992 declaration signed by South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese universities in Yokohama calling for a joint review of history textbooks. This eventually led to the creation of the “Asian Educational History Network” in 2001 that began, in 2002, to collaborate with the “Korean Civilian Movement for Correction of Japanese Textbooks,” in turn leading to the formation of the “Joint Japanese-Korean Organization of Historical Research.” In March 2002, the Asian Network and the Joint Organization in addition four other Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean organizations convened the “Forum for historical awareness and peace in East Asia” in Nanjing and initiated the trilateral textbook project. Japanese participants proposed the joint production of a multinational history and, supported by scholars from South Korea and China, established committees immediately leading to a meeting in Seoul in August 2002. The trilateral history writing committee had 53 members (17 from China, 13 from Japan, and 23 from South Korea — mostly professors or scholars from national research institutes, although teachers participated from South Korea and Japan). All acted in a private capacity, and no official support was received for the eleven meetings that took place to revise the text three times before it was published in 2005 (on May 26 in South Korea, May 27 in Japan, and June 9 in China).
Instead of tracing separated national trajectories, A History to Open the Future was organized around the interactions of the three countries, arguing the “three countries possess profound geographical and historical ties that cannot be severed.” It is written in six chapters, each of which focuses on these interactions, starting with the opening of ports, the arrival of Western intrusion, and the response of each country to this integration into the global system of domination and exploitation. The book covers the entire period of the Japanese occupation of Korea and China, the Pacific War, the Korean War and national division, and the Cold War up to recent diplomatic and treaty recognition of interstate relationships between South Korea, Japan, and China. It not only transcends typical one-sided victor-victim narratives, it also adopts a reflective narrative that suggests structural causes of tragic conflicts. To avoid an over-emphasis on structure, it highlights the suffering of ordinary people in all three countries throughout these historical events. An epilogue outlines seven issues judged critical for building peace and a shared future in the region: compensation to victims of aggression, the comfort women, history textbooks, the Yasukuni Shrine, youth exchange, peace and citizen movements, and reconciliation and peace-building in Northeast Asia.
The preface notes: “While there were numerous occasions during the three-year preparation when our views differed, we were able to reach a common historical understanding through dialogue and discussion, and we succeeded in publishing this book simultaneously in three countries.” The most difficult issues were the number of Chinese killed by the Japanese military in the Nanjing Massacre in 1937-38, sexual violence and comfort women, and Japan’s use of poison gas in China. Thus, rather than suppress divergent views, the writing team attempted to find sufficient common ground based on comparative and jointly authored multinational research of a type pioneered in Europe since World War II. This approach was almost unknown in Northeast Asia, where national and bilateral official history projects mostly reinforced existing views and led to more recrimination rather than mutual learning and reconciliation. Nonetheless, the authors left some contentious issues alone. For instance, who started the Korean War, and what was the role of the Chinese Communist Party in the war against Japanese imperial forces? Much remains unaddressed on trilateral relations among the three countries, not to mention the introduction of North Korean, Southeast Asian, and other views on the history of Northeast Asia.
Of course, such an immense non-governmental scholarly effort over three years did not emerge in isolation. First, starting in the mid-1990s, conservative Japanese scholars attacked the portrayal of “comfort women” in Japanese textbooks as biased and undocumented. The first public declaration by a Korean comfort woman occurred in 1991, and the political campaign for Japan to compensate comfort women from many countries, but especially from China and South Korea, expanded thereafter. In 1996, the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform announced it planned to publish its New History Textbook for junior high schools in 2002, attacking existing textbooks for their portrayal of comfort women and the Nanjing Massacre. The stimulus for this attack was the increasing profile of comfort women following Kim Hak-Soon’s public testimony in 1991. Diverse civil society groups had made sporadic but very active campaigns to demand an apology from the Japanese government and compensation for the victims, starting with the Asian Solidarity Conference on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Issues held in Seoul in 1992. Thus, civil society, rather than states, repositioned the comfort women issue as a question of living history in the present, not one of a closed past, and it demanded accountability for these official crimes.
Second, South Korean and Japanese national leaders recognized only top-level direction could reconstitute the relationship between the two former enemy states, the antagonism of which worked against the grain of ever increasing economic and cultural integration. In May 1995, the then-Prime Minister of Japan, Murayama Tomiichi, apologized personally for the colonization and invasion of Korea. This act became an opportunity for joint historical research between South Korea and Japan with Professor Choi Sang-ryong (Korea University) and Professor Masao Okonogi (Keio University) as the Korean and Japanese representatives, respectively. The co-research on topics of history, politics, economics, culture, and North Korea was carried out between 1996 and 1998 with support from the Japan-Korea Cultural Exchange Fund and the Korea-Japan Cultural Foundation. The findings were published in fifteen volumes between 2001 and 2010 both in Korea and Japan.
This high-level engagement with history continued in 1998 when President Kim Dae-Jung and Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo announced the “New 21st Century Korea-Japan Partnership.” This statement supported and encouraged the necessity of the joint historical research. After Fusosha Publishing released their new conservative Japanese history textbook in 2001, the Korean and Japanese heads of state agreed to support joint research on both countries’ history in October that year. The official Japan-South Korea Joint History Research Project was established in March 2002 and held forty-five subcommittee meetings and six joint meetings in Tokyo and Seoul over three years. However, the outcome of this official process was limited mostly to reaffirming divergent historical perspectives on critical historical issues dividing the two countries.Ultimately, the government-led research could not overcome virulent nationalism to produce a shared history that could serve as a basis for a common approach to the future.
One metric of success is that the denialist New History Textbook almost completely failed to achieve its goal of ten percent usage in Japanese schools. In contrast, although not actually a textbook, A History to Open the Future sold well in all three countries, with over quarter of a million sales by 2006. The book was not only read widely, but it also stimulated a campaign starting in August 2004 in which local civil activists in South Korea and Japan developed sister-city campaigns to put pressure on Japanese education officials to refuse the New History Textbook. This campaign began in 2005 when Japanese civic groups visited South Korean sister cities. They focused on Japanese cities that had close ties to twelve South Korean cities including Seoul, Anyang, Jeonju, Jeongeup, and Daegu. Twenty South Korean civic groups and fourteen Japanese groups participated.According to Yang Mi-Gang, who was one of the leaders of the campaign, in some sister cities such as Seocho-Gu (Seoul, South Korea) and Suginami-Ku (Tokyo, Japan), Anyang and Saitama, Korean Assemblymen or city councilors visited Japan to plead personally against its adoption, and Korean and Japanese civic groups also visited the Board of Education to press against its selection. As a result, the Fusosha textbook’s selection rate only achieved a 0.4 percent uptake by schools in Japan. Thus, civil society mobilization resulted in a successful countervailing and shared history on the one hand and blocked Japan’s most vehement denialist history on the other — a major achievement for transnational civil society networks in Northeast Asia at the time.
Of course, the history battles continue unresolved. But A History to Open the Future established a standard that will endure of an open-ended history, of a multinational historical text that is amenable to reflection and revision based on mutual research and dialogue, and can serve as the foundation for common memory — in turn, the basis for the formation of community. In this regard, the rapidly evolving civil society networks that activated the issue campaigns and produced a shared history served a visionary role that transcended the constrained ability of governments to come to terms with divided memories. Ultimately, visionary leadership and official recognition at the level of states will be needed to overcome the vicious effects of denialist attempts to revise history textbooks — sometimes termed “weapons of mass instruction” — while respecting that fissures and silence run through all knowledge and that histories can never fully capture the past, only its residual meaning in the present.
Case Study 2: Forestry and Agriculture
Trans-boundary environmental issues are among the most pressing problems afflicting Northeast Asia. They are also among the most difficult to address due to their transnational nature. The sovereign state system in Northeast Asia (and elsewhere) is not conducive to resolving complex transnational issues of this sort. At the same time, environmental problems do not recognize state borders. The most powerful nation-state cannot resolve even one of the many global and regional environmental problems afflicting the region, let alone all of them at the same time.
China, Japan, the Korean peninsula, Mongolia, and the Russian Far East form a single ecological “unit.”Within that unit, any activity undertaken by one actor affects the whole region as a matter of course. No single actor can unilaterally make the region ecologically sustainable. Trans-boundary environmental issues are many in number and include:
- The Russian Far East is a zone of high biodiversity that links with habitats in Korea, China, and Mongolia, but it is also the transit point for a vast trade in endangered species, as well as a lumber extractive industry that threatens the biodiversity that sustains the region. Denuded land on the margins of China’s deserts throws vast amounts of sand into the westerly wind each year, swathing the two Koreas and parts of Japan in a thin blanket of noxious dust each spring. This yellow sand has grown in scale since the late 1990s, and scientists agree that it is getting more serious.
- China’s rapidly growing use of fossil-fuelled vehicles and fertilizer is increasing the already high levels of acid rain that cross borders and is deposited on the two Koreas and Japan (as well as on much of Northeast China) with deleterious impacts on forests, ecology, and even urban structures.
- The shared maritime coastal region of the Sea of Japan/East Sea of Korea and the Yellow Sea/West Sea of Korea remain afflicted by climate-induced surface sea temperature rises and a change from more to less valuable species, as well as threatened by oil spills and past radioactive waste dumping.
- In the middle of this region of environmentally deleterious yet compellingly dynamic economic activity is North Korea. The nation-state perpetually threatens to tip itself and the broader region into instability through its failure to guarantee the minimum food security of its population. This lack of food security stems from poor agricultural decisions over decades, acidified soil, moribund machinery, shortages of fertilizer, fuel, and spare parts, and its inability to trade exported goods and services for food imports.
To break these vicious downward spirals, the region badly needs integrated and transnational solutions. Yet doing so necessitates first overcoming political tensions that exist between the states in the region.
Fitting Farming and Forestry into the Bigger Picture
In the words of Tom Morrison, an agronomist with decades of experience dealing with agricultural issues in North Korea, the need for building trust between peoples “is where trees and agriculture fit into the bigger picture.” Farms and forests are “truly transnational” and intrinsically apolitical; moreover, sustainable yields make good economic sense. Those who exploit forests can extract short-term gains, but only by foregoing far greater benefits over time. Key figures in South Korea who have driven environmental conservation activities in Northeast Asia for the last two decades understood this basic tradeoff earlier than many others and had the motivation, ideas, and financing to do something about it.
In 1989, the South Korean democratization process yielded freedom of foreign travel for all South Korean citizens via the yeohaeng jayuhwa jochi (Travel Liberalization Measure). This laid the foundations for nascent South Korean civil society to enter the broader region. However, it was not until financial disaster enveloped the South Korean economy in 1997 that the focus shifted to a second phase of forestry resource management in South Korea (the first being the community reforestation or Saemul movement in South Korea during Park Chung Hee’s military rule). Forestry was chosen during this period of economic contraction, driven by the goal of economic recovery after the financial crisis. The government asked civil society groups to help initiate this movement. Forests for Life (FFL) was launched in March 1998 as part of this job creation strategy. The money was from the state, the action was civilian, and the link between the two was the Korea Forest Service. The objective was to spread out the closely planted trees in South Korea’s ill-managed forests to expand overall forest coverage threefold and raise the value of the resource, thereby combining social, economic, and ecological objectives.
FFL embodied the vision of Moon Kook-hyun, then-CEO of Yuhan-Kimberley. Under his 13-year leadership, Yuhan-Kimberley initiated the “Keep Korea Green” movement in the 1980s, creating one of the first corporate social-environmental responsibility campaigns in the ROK. Moon went on to pursue the creation of domestic, forestry-based civil society networks. He sought out expertise to bring his goals to fruition, teaming up with Professor Lee Don-koo of Seoul National University and Dr. Park Dong Kyun, then employed by a private forestry company. By combining the financial resources of South Korean commerce with civic drive and the administrative resources of state, FFL drove not only the adoption of forestry as an important element in domestic policy, but it also envisioned a transnational network encompassing the entire region.
Inaugurated on November 24, 1998, the Northeast Asian Forest Forum (NEAFF) was one of the earliest fruits of this vision, one that systematically tapped into the potential of the new domestic forestry movement for moving to a transnational format. NEAFF became a vehicle for connecting forestry networks in Mongolia (MOFF) and China (CFF), led by partner entities from the Institute of Geoecology of Mongolia and Beijing Forestry University respectively. International forestry networks in Northeast Asia would not have come into being so rapidly had it not been for this South Korean leadership. Partner organizations flourished, in particular MOFF (Mongolia Forest Forum), directed by Russian-speaking forestry scientist Dr. Jamsram Tsogbaatar. With South Korean civil society leaders serving as network conveners and activating weak links in these nascent networks when needed, a transnational network emerged that coordinated distributed activities and led to new forms of collaboration at a regional level.
South Korean leadership and funding expedited the creation of the network and incentivized its initial growth. According to Dr. Park Dong Kyun, 70 percent of the operating cost of NEAFF came from Yuhan-Kimberley, some from government sources, and much of the remainder from “Korean firms with an interest in forests,” including steel giant POSCO, Korean Air, and Hyundai Motors. Without Mr. Moon and Drs. Lee and Tsogbaatar, not to mention Dr. Park himself, the network would not have been intellectually possible. Equally, without South Korean social and financial capital, the network would not have emerged, at least not as effectively.
Another outgrowth of this passionate transnational community, Forests for Peace (FFP), reflects the same origins and dependency on a South Korean convening node. However, in attempting to facilitate reforestation in the DPRK, FFP confronted the political and military realities of the division of Korea. The DPRK was always leery of dealing with a ROK-based civil society organization such as FFP. The emergence of an actively hostile inter-Korean relationship following the election of President Lee Myung-bak in late 2007 and a number of North Korean acts of violence, at Mt. Geumgang in 2008 and in the West Sea during 2010, made it impossible to continue FFP’s small-scale reforestation projects in the DPRK. This is a tragedy because, as Park and Moon wrote in 2004, the DPRK urgently needs a forestry and agricultural revolution, and thus “it is desirable to establish an international cooperation network for the reforestation of [North Korean] forest. The NGO movement in Korea is still in its infancy and therefore must be nurtured with broader public participation.”
The inability to inspire a revolution in North Korean environmental best practice is just one way that South Korea’s potential as a civil society leader and global honest broker is coming under threat. China is also emerging as the new dominant player in civil society movements in the modern age, a role borne of overwhelming financial strength. According to Dr. Park, “South Korea is interested in Northeast Asia for its environmental impact on Korea, Japan is interested in Southeast Asia for its logging potential, but China is interested in everywhere.”
The story of this network is not yet complete. The DPRK’s reforestation officials have been aware of the deficits of its reforestation efforts since the early 1990s, facing as it does a shortage of raw materials, fertilizer, seed stock, and intense acid rain from China, which especially in winter afflicts seedlings planted on shaded slopes. In 1999, the DPRK embarked on a participatory agro-forestry pilot project, sending expert study tours to Thailand (2003), China (annually from 2004-2010), and Nepal (2010). The pilot project was funded by Swiss aid agencies and involved a partnership of the Academy of Forestry Sciences, State Academy of Science, Land Use Planning Institute, Central Forestry Designing and Technical Institute, Wonsan University of Agriculture, and Kim Il Sung University. The Kungmin Institute of Botany and the Chinese Academy of Science also sponsored the training of DPRK forestry scientists in the project from 2009-11. Other players include the World Agroforestry Centre in Bogor, Indonesia and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
To what extent FFP (and other small-scale reforestation projects in the DPRK) helped to prepare the DPRK Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection to explore the potential for agro-forestry — and vice versa — is unknown. The pilot project involving eighty-seven plots in north Hwanghae province began in 2004 and was first evaluated only in 2011. However, the chances are that these two cross-border bridges reaching at the same time into the “structural hole” of North Korean reforestation institutions jointly facilitated the flow of information, funds and materials that assisted local authorities to test new approaches to the reforestation of the DPRK’s denuded mountain slopes. This case, however, illustrates a general point about the role of civil society networks. Creating multiple channels that enable solutions to complex problems in a structural hole such as the DPRK may create a synergistic effect inside the hole, and also provide resilience in case one channel becomes blocked.
Case Study 3: Refugees
More than half of all international refugees worldwide originate in just five countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Sudan. As a result, the burden of supporting a high percentage of them falls predominantly on countries that are geographically adjacent to these sources. Most Afghan refugees are in neighboring Pakistan or Iran, for example, while most Somali refugees are in Kenya to the south or Ethiopia to the west. However, refugees fleeing a handful of particularly vicious or protracted conflict situations are only part of the story.
In a 2012 report on global trends, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pointed to no fewer than 7.6 million people newly displaced by conflict or persecution in just one year and the creation of more than a million new refugees. Many acknowledge the year 2012 as exceptional in the context of new refugees and internally displaced persons, but the high figures only add fresh urgency to the issue of 45 million refugees or displaced persons worldwide. Moreover, UNHCR data reveals the existence of more than 35 million people deemed worthy of concern, implying immense potential for global instability due to refugees and IDP flows. South Korea does not appear to be an important actor in this particular arena. The country is currently home to a statistically insignificant proportion of the existing refugee total (487 according to the UNHCR report cited above) and has just 1,548 outstanding asylum-seeker cases (in stark contrast, Germany has more than 85,000, and France almost 50,000).
Nevertheless, the government in Seoul is acutely aware of the latent potential for instability that is inherent in this global issue. UNHCR statistics understate South Korean involvement in refugee issues because they do not take into account the constant trickle of refugees fleeing from North Korea. UNHCR treats North Korean refugees as non-statistics because they automatically receive South Korean citizenship — whether or not they reach the ROK (due to Chinese policies, statistics on these flows of people from China do not distinguish between economic migrants and refugees from the DPRK). Refugees arriving from the DPRK are also eligible for substantive resettlement funding and other state assistance such as housing. Thus, North Koreans arriving in South Korea are privileged compared with refugees elsewhere.
Moreover, North Korean citizens who wish to resettle in South Korea have to transit through at least one, and usually three, countries en route, turning the problem into a much larger one that crosses several national borders. Most North Koreans attempt to reach Thailand, which has both a positive relationship with the ROK government and a well-established system for processing incoming North Korean refugees and sending them onward to Seoul. Other countries in the region are relatively more ambivalent toward the new arrivals, as evidenced by the 2013 case of a group of nine young North Koreans deported back to the DPRK through China by the government of the Laos People’s Democratic Republic. In these transitions, refugees from the DPRK live in a twilight zone of uncertainty. All these issues present the outward-looking ROK state with a major foreign policy challenge in coping with these refugee flows. At the same time, South Korean civil society is also actively crossing borders to address the severe human rights problems experienced by refugees from the DPRK.
Bottom-up Change: South Korean Civil Society and the Refugee Act
In its last plenary session of 2011, South Korea’s National Assembly passed the “Law on the Status and Treatment of Refugees” (Refugee Act hereafter). It was the first national refugee and asylum seeker law passed in Northeast Asia. As such, it indicates the extent to which South Korea has positioned itself to deal with refugee flows in the region. The passage of the Refugee Act was the cumulative effect of several interacting forces: the pressure towards convergence from international institutions and norms; the South Korean government’s commitment to a “global” agenda; and, most significantly, bottom-up pressure from Korean civil society working in tandem with domestic legal organizations and international institutions through domestic and regional networks. The law does not relate to DPRK defectors or their UNHCR status (North Koreans are covered under the entirely separate Act on the Protection and Settlement Support of Residents Escaping from North Korea).
In the latter half of the 20th century, as South Korea’s export-oriented industrialization and favorable trading relations began paying huge dividends, South Korea found itself quickly approaching the threshold that divides newly industrialized countries from fully developed countries. As a country more concerned with its global image than others, international norms and the roles associated with developed countries have, arguably, a greater impact on South Korea’s domestic and foreign policies than in other countries. In September 1991, Korea became a United Nations member state and shortly thereafter joined the 1951 UNHCR Refugee Convention, which defines refugees and their rights. In 1996, South Korea ascended the ranks of the world’s most developed countries when it joined the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. In its quest for international recognition as an “advanced” country, South Korea began to portray itself as a country concerned with humanitarian assistance to refugees. In 2000, South Korea became a member of the UNHCR Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme, an international body comprised of member states with an “interest in, and devotion to, the solution of the refugee problem.”
South Korea’s economic ascent and its successful efforts to improve its position within international and regional networks represent the backdrop against which the Refugee Law was passed. A state-centric, top-down perspective shows a global Korea whose elites are concerned with addressing this important transnational issue. Such a view, however, would be misleading and obscures the instrumental role played by civil society organizations and other non-governmental institutions in bringing about this policy shift. Although government and political elites may be sensitive to the ROK’s reputation, they are not nearly as concerned with ground-level implementation as civil society organizations. Indeed, politicians and officials are often constrained by broader political and strategic concerns. In their research on Korea’s progress as a host country for refugees, Hanns Schattle and Jennifer McCann find that change occurred bottom-up. “The main thrust of national-level policy change,” they wrote, “has come from South Korea’s vibrant civil society.” Indeed, after signing of the Refugee Convention, “the government did nothing to advance its position on refugees at home.”
South Korea’s rhetoric-policy disconnect is similar to Japan’s contribution-policy divide, known alternatively as “checkbook diplomacy.” In 2011, Japan contributed more than $200 million to the UNHCR, yet its refugee policies were (and remain) woefully regressive by international standards. In South Korea, the small number of asylum seekers that are granted refugee status highlights the divide between real implementation and official policy. Since granting the first refugee status in 2001 to an Eritrean, the process of application for refugee status has been prohibitively cumbersome, slow, and inefficient. Thus, rather than the ROK government’s commitment, it was, according to Schattle and McCann, the “mounting pressure by lawyers and activists who have taken an interest in advocating for refugees as well as other segments of the country’s growing migrant population by drawing on international human rights law” that pushed the ROK to accept refugees. It is precisely where the ROK’s realpolitik conception of national interest meets with international laws and norms and bottom-up pressure from South Korean civil organizations that the potential lies for South Korea to emerge as a leading actor in a complex transnational network.
Two South Korean networks address the issue of refugees: one mainly domestic and oriented towards national-level priorities, and the other regional in scope. The “Refugee Aid Network,” a loose association of refugee support and public interest legal advisory groups, represents the domestic network. This network was responsible for writing and submitting the original Refugee Act legislation to the National Assembly. Sometimes referred to as the “Refugee NGO Network,” this association of non-governmental activists and human rights lawyers began meeting informally once a month in 2006. Built on the early efforts of Lee Ho-taeg, founder of Refugee pNan, and his close associates Choi Won-geun, one of the founders of the refugee advocacy group NANCEN, and Kim Hee-jin, former director of Amnesty International (Seoul office), most of the civil and legal organizations involved early on were associated with refugee advocacy through personal contacts. The group would eventually come to include Hwang Pill-kyu, a public interest lawyer in Gong-gam who was largely responsible for writing the refugee bill, and Kim Jong-chul, another public interest lawyer who founded Advocates for Public Interest Law (APIL).
In the formation of an “informal networked community,” personal relationships and associations outside institutional frameworks are often more important in South Korea than in other countries. However, by the end of 2007, the loose association of activists and lawyers had become a recognized, semi-formal network that eventually included both conservative and progressive civil society groups, in addition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, the Ministry of Justice, and Assemblyman Hwang Woo-yeo (the Refugee Act’s sponsor in the National Assembly). In other words, a civil-society network strategy had succeed in institutionalizing the Refugee Aid Network — a notable feat for a civil society better known for its militant street-mentality and highly contentious relationship with the government. Although most of the network is constituted by domestic organizations, the various civil and legal organizations in the Refugee Aid Network work closely with Amnesty International, UNHCR, and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. In fact, when the drafting of the new law began in 2009, the UNHCR, at the request of civil and legal groups inSouth Korea, provided advice and detailed comments on ways the bill could be improved.
The second network is the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), headquartered in Bangkok. Founded in 2008 at the first Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR) in Kuala Lumpur, the APRRN is a regional forum through which 116 civil society groups from 21 different Asian Pacific countries (including the UK and the US) meet to exchange ideas and information and partake in mutual capacity building and joint advocacy efforts. In addition to conferences and meetings, APRRN members are given the opportunity to receive specific legal and medical training and apply for logistical and travel support. Korea has eight member organizations in APRRN, six of which are currently, or were at some point in the past, also members of the Refugee Aid Network. Through the APRRN network, civil organizations can network with other regional member organizations — or with civil society groups from the same country. In fact, the APRRN network helped strengthen the Korea-centered Refugee Aid Network.
According to Lee Ho-Taeg, regional and thematic working groups within the APRRN were central to its organizational networking. He credits the East Asia Working Group — a regional working group comprised of civil society organizations from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Hong Kong — with “giving Korea a sense of responsibility.” Although the East Asia regional working group did not directly support the Refugee Aid Network’s drafting and submission of the Refugee Act, they indirectly aided their efforts by “setting expectations for the Korea network and thus holding us [the Refugee Aid Network] to account.” Before the passage of the Refugee Act, one such regional working group meeting took place in September 2010 on the campus of Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. With support from the Toyota Foundation, members of the East Asia Working Group, the director of legal studies at Yonsei University, the Representative of UNHCR Korea, and other core members of the Refugee Aid Network met to report on the status of refugee protection in East Asia and the role played by civil society in promoting the rights of refugees. Further efforts at network building have occurred since then. In August of 2012, the APRRN hosted the “Fourth Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights.” With a scope going behind the regional working group level, this conference brought together specialists from all over Asia.
According to Lee, it was these sorts of meetings that strengthened the Refugee Aid Network’s resolve and made it clear to the South Korean members that, given their structural and network position, they would be the ones taking the lead within the regional network. Outside of South Korea, the exact composition and layout of the refugee network is far less clear. What is evident is that through the APRRN network, particularly the regional working group, bridges are being built and, through working group meetings, structural holes in the legal fabric of global refugee support are being overcome. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the location and time when weak ties between two networks help facilitate the connection between hitherto-unconnected members, it is certain that key contacts in the South Korea network regularly share information and coordinate strategies with their counterparts in Japan, Hong Kong, and other regional countries.
The functions of the APRRN and the Refugee Aid Network provide some measure of the extent to which South Korean civil society has aided the creation of and actively engaged in transnational networking to address the issue of refugee flows in South Korea and the broader region. Whereas these networks remain focused on a specific topic and are comprised of a number of small non-governmental organizations and legal groups within South Korea, other civil society organizations deliberately employed networks to build a broad regional and global community across a range of connected problems and solutions. These include the Jeju (formerly Peace) Forum, founded in 2001; the East Asia Institute, created in 2002; and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a uniquely positioned and well-funded think tank in the ROK, founded in 2008.
Case Study 4: Jeju (Peace) Forum
The Jeju Peace Forum is a good example of a multi-sectoral network initiated by private actors (scholars, universities) in partnerships with local government attracting support from the central government. It is also a good example of a ROK-led ideational network that promulgated a regional vision and process of change aimed at supplanting the prevailing security policies that dominated the Cold War.
The intellectual entrepreneurs behind the forum exploited opportunities for creative diplomacy in Northeast Asia at the end of the Cold War. In 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev visited Jeju, eschewing a visit to Seoul, and established diplomatic relations between the ROK and former Soviet Union. In the same year, Korean political scientist Moon Chung-in floated the idea in Jemin Ilbo, a local Jeju newspaper, that the Island should become a “hub of peace” similar to Geneva in the modern era. This idea took root the following year whenJemin Ilbo and a group of Jeju-based scholars (including Professors Choong-seok Koh, Koh Sung-joon, Yang Yeong-cheol, Kim Bu-chan, and Yang Gil-hyun of Jeju National University) began to advocate that Jeju should become an “island of peace” — an idea adopted in 1993 by the Jeju Provincial Assembly. In the nineties, a number of high-level visitors came to Jeju — China’s president Jiang Zemin in 1995, for example, followed by US President Bill Clinton a year later for a US-Korea summit with ROK president Kim Young-sam. However, little systematic process ensued in Jeju itself to support this role other than providing a conducive meeting place.
The historic June 2000 summit in Pyongyang between the two Korean leaders, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Jong-il, raised hopes that inter-Korean relations could move forward towards ever-greater rapprochement and integration, and through a process of constructive dialogue and actual integration lead to transformational but peaceful change in the DPRK. Many cooperation agreements on sports, culture, public health, economic cooperation, and separated families, for example, were set in motion at the summit, and a series of implementation meetings were held in both Koreas. A number of the most important ministerial talks were held on Jeju Island in September 2000, including the special envoys meeting, the defense ministers meeting, and the third ministerial talks.
Jeju was chosen in part for its beauty, but also for its long history as a crossroads and independent province willing to negotiate peaceful outcomes rather than fight wars. This reputation is deeply engrained in Jeju’s population. Without any direction from the central government, Jeju farmers donated thousands of tonnes of tangerines and carrots to the DPRK from 1998-2002.
The big question after the Kims’ Summit was how to capture this momentum and translate it into enduring habits of dialogue and cooperation between the two Koreas. An additional challenge for the ROK government was how to engage and even embrace the DPRK while managing American opposition to any dealings with the DPRK. The election of George W. Bush in December 2000, who viewed the DPRK as a rogue state and Kim Jong-il as a “pygmy,” heralded the United States’ adoption of a policy of “strategic neglect” towards the DPRK. The American posture collided head-on with Kim Dae-Jung’s strategy, as well as that of his successor elected in 2003, Roh Moo-hyun. Indeed, due to the Bush Administration’s opposition to engagement of the DPRK, inter-Korean relations froze.
One of Jeju’s exports to the mainland was the security intellectual Moon Chung-in. Born and raised in Jeju, Moon graduated from the elite Yonsei University and after studying for advanced degrees at the University of Maryland, spent a decade teaching international relations and political economy at American universities. Distressed by the inability of the United States to resolve the DPRK issue during the ClintonAdministrations, he returned to South Korea and rapidly rose in the academic hierarchy to become Dean of the Yonsei Graduate School of International Studies. As an advisor to Kim Dae-Jung, he attended the 2000 summit — one of only two scholars to do so (the other was Lee Jong-seok, who became Unification Minister during the Roh Moo-hyun government).
He was uniquely placed to connect his policy advisory role with Jeju Province, supported by his Yonsei and international networks. In 2000, Moon proposed to then-Jeju Governor Woo Geun-min that the provincial government convene the Jeju Peace Forum. Woo asked Yonsei to organize the forum along with the Jeju Development Institute. Woo was eager to establish Jeju as an international actor in its own right, thereby attracting visitors and business to Jeju by virtue of its peaceful reputation as well as its sheer beauty.
The first Jeju Peace Forum held on June 15-17, 2001 was, according to Moon, “convened partly to commemorate the first anniversary of the North-South summit and partly to enhance the status of the Jeju Island as an island of peace.” Moon conceived the Forum as a multi-layered, transnational process to conceptualize and implement a unique peace process to end the Korean conflict, and with it the DPRK’s nuclear breakout. The Jeju Peace Forum was to answer the strategic question posed by the June 2000 summit: how could the two Koreas, so antagonistic in political culture, core economic structure, and military posture, resolve the Korean conflict? And, in this process, what role should third parties play, and, if they played it, how would resolving the Korean conflict set in motion a broader peace-building process in the region?
Moon drew on his scholarly and policy networks in South Korea and internationally, especially via the Pacific Century Institute in Los Angeles (the vehicle of Korean-American Spencer Kim, a pro-engagement businessman). He brought in the former US Defense Secretary, William Perry, and the former US Ambassador to the ROK, Don Gregg. Domestically, Lim Dong-won, then special assistant to President Kim, supported the forum and participated. President Kim Dae-Jung’s attendance at the first forum drew national and international attention.
The initial Jeju Peace Forum adopted the first of three Jeju forum declarations. The “Jeju Peace Declaration” linked explicitly the ideas generated at the meeting and the contribution of Jeju Island, stating that: “We will institutionalize the convocation of the Jeju Peace Forum in order to promote common peace and common prosperity in Northeast Asia by inheriting the spirit of national reconciliation as enshrined in the June 2000 South-North Summit Meeting.”
Although the first forum decided to repeat the event every two years, the combination of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the deteriorating Korean situation led to a “semi forum” in 2001, instigated in part by Bill Perry. This meeting laid the groundwork for the second Jeju Peace Forum in November 2003. Until then, the Jeju Provincial Government had been the host, and the entire forum was co-organized by the Jeju Development Institute and the Yonsei Graduate School of International Studies. With Roh’s inauguration in 2003, Moon became a cabinet-level appointee responsible for the Blue House’s Presidential Committee on Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative in 2004, but he had already played a key role in arranging President Roh’s attendance at the third Jeju Forum in November 2003. The range of supporting institutions expanded rapidly to include the foreign affairs ministry.
The Forum’s goal at this time was to generate support for a peace initiative in Northeast Asia focused on Korea. As Moon articulated the strategy at the third Jeju Peace Forum, in addition to making Northeast Asia an open, participatory, and integrated region, the ROK aimed to realize a “Network Northeast Asia.” That is, a community that is interconnected with multiple layers of networks that overcomes all types of barriers by “building dense networks of people, goods and services, capital, infrastructure, and ideas and information.” In this respect, Moon’s vision prefigured the complex networked strategy for the ROK state advanced during the Lee Myung-bak Administration. And Jeju was to play a leading role in orchestrating this networking strategy.
The third Jeju Peace Forum was held in June 2005. Co-organizers included the Jeju Provincial Government, Yonsei University, Jeju National University, and the East Asia Foundation. Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan attended. Meanwhile, the forum grew in size and Moon persuaded President Roh to formally declare on January 27, 2005 that Jeju is “an island of world peace.” Anticipating the drastic increase in its scope and scale in later years, the forum adopted the “Jeju Declaration on Northeast Asian Community,” which stated, “Northeast Asian community-building cannot be left to the initiative of governments alone. Mutual understanding and cooperation among citizens through a shared regional identity, transcending parochial nationalism, are the most important determinants of community-building in the region. In this regard, the cultivation and expansion of intra-regional human networks should actively be sought.”
To lend weight to this networking and convening strategy, Moon set out to establish a research institute that would provide the intellectual impetus for this project as well as serve as the secretariat for the Jeju Peace Forum. Initially this entity was to be called the North-South Peace Institute, in line with the mission of the Jeju Peace Forum and its focus on solving the Korean conflict in a regional context. Funding this project entailed establishing a funding mechanism. Moon organized the International Peace Foundation in the ROK, co-funded by the foreign affairs ministry and the Jeju Provincial Government, to endow the Jeju Peace Institute. The Foundation was initiated by the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative (then directed by Moon), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Jeju provincial government. In March 2006, the Jeju Peace Institute was established as a non-governmental organization, though it was fully supported by the Ministry and the Jeju provincial government.
The fourth Jeju Peace Forum was held during on June 26-28, 2007, and President Roh Moo-hyun again attended. The forum’s agenda drew a parallel between the Jeju and Helsinki Processes. The “Jeju Declaration” from this forum declared that in similarity to the role played by Finland, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia in instigating the Helsinki Process, the ROK was well positioned to exercise catalytic power in “establishing the foundations for an effective security and political community in Northeast Asia.” Therefore, the forum stated, “we advocate a new Jeju Process modeled on and drawing on the valuable lessons of the Helsinki Process.”
In 2008, Lee Myung-bak became ROK president, and the ROK’s nordpolitik shifted to a hard-line stance that disavowed most of the cooperative agreements flowing from the 2000 summit. By then, the Jeju Peace Forum had become a major international conference. The foreign affairs ministry took little time to assert control of its core budget and organizational apparatus, installing a former ambassador as president of the Jeju Peace Institute, removing “peace” from the Forum’s name as of 2009, and importing big name speakers on themes unrelated to the “peace process.” From 2008 onwards, the foreign affairs ministry also began to recruit foreign government officials to attend the forum.
For his part, Governor Woo, who was re-elected in 2010 after an electoral defeat in 2006, pushed to widen the scope of issues considered to emphasize economic and business affairs, especially with China, and to promote Jeju as an investment site.
This approach expanded the role of Jeju Forum as part of the “complex diplomacy” convening role played by the ROK on global and regional affairs, but also diverted it from its original purpose — to initiate a peace process with the DPRK. Consequently, the bulk of the Jeju Peace Institute’s work is to organize the now enormous Jeju Forum involving thousands of participants, which became an annual event in 2011 at the instigation of the Jeju governor. Its research program is minimal (albeit impressive for its tiny staff) and largely unrelated to its original purpose.
Unsurprisingly, while remaining supportive of Jeju Forum, Moon’s core network moved sideways to work through a new mechanism established in 2005, the East Asia Foundation. Although the Foundation was responsible for planning the entire Jeju Forum event and co-sponsored it financially alongside the provincial and national government agencies, it undertook a new but parallel project, the launching in 2006 of a leading journal of international affairs, Global Asia, which aimed to provide an open and creative forum for the exchange of ideas on regional cooperation and integration. Since then, the Foundation has been able to maintain a high profile for Jeju Forum participants in relation to peace and security issues, and the Foundation serves as a co-sponsor of the Forum.
In this manner, Moon and his colleagues inside and outside government, academia, think tanks, mass media, and, to a limited extent, civil society organizations, created a sustainable space for a Northeast Asian peace process via networked brainstorming and ideational innovation. Ultimately, this web of public diplomacy was curtailed and co-opted by the central state’s complex diplomacy strategy. Nonetheless, it is the most successful Korean example of a partnership between the private sector (university plus foundation) and the public sector (local government, then central government) to address critical peace and security issues.
Although the emphasis and agenda have varied and shifted over the seven forums to date, the founding network lives on in the Jeju Forum, although many of the original participants have retired or died. The original inspiration and aspiration still invigorate many of its participants — not least Moon and his coterie, who remain as active as ever. As a network of networks, the Jeju Forum enables many weak links to become active and comprehensive approaches to multiple, interrelated problems to be explored — as at the 2013 panel on the impact of climate change on coastal and ocean fisheries in the Yellow Sea — a nexus of security, sustainability, and economic factors demanding simultaneous solutions.
The Jeju Forum is a unique hybrid of scholarly, civil society, market, and local government initiatives. Due to its momentum and resulting unpredictable impacts in far reaching corners of these constellated networks, this Forum does not represent a strategy that Seoul can control from the center. Indeed, attempting to do so would be self-defeating and counter-productive now that the network has begun to form its own networks and ideas. Thus, Moon’s original vision may have far more staying power than might have appeared after it was eclipsed in 2008 by conservative South Korean foreign policies. Indeed, the intellectual framework appears to have re-emerged in Park Geun-hye’s own Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation initiative announced in 2013. In this sense, this network achieved its goal of diffusing a vision of the need for change and a concept for how to achieve it, irrespective of the eventual fate of the network itself.
Case Study 5: East Asia Institute’s 21st-Century Knowledge Net
Think tanks come in many shapes and sizes, depending upon function, political culture, leadership, and orientation. Their impact on foreign policy in a given country, therefore, is highly context-specific. In the United States, there is a long history of think tanks playing an important role in the formulation of foreign and security policy, both as insiders and as an integral part of the national security state, and as outsiders banging on the door of the state to get their ideas incorporated into policy. Traditional think tanks such as the RANDCorporation and the Brookings Institution in Washington DC address the age-old problem of how to organize and deliver knowledge in ways that support the pursuit and exercise of political power.
McGann and Weaver define think tanks functionally as a part of civil society that mediates between governments and “the public”; that identifies, articulates and evaluates emerging issues; that participates in policy debates; and that provides a forum for exchange between key stakeholders in policy formulation. What do traditional think tanks do? Their activity boils down to undertaking research and analysis, advocating for policies based on what they uncover, evaluating government programs, delivering knowledge to policymakers, and interpreting policy issues to the mass media. We observe four types: academic, contract-research, advocacy, and party-affiliated think tanks. Each undertakes these activities to various degrees, depending on the fragmentation, porosity, and openness of different political cultures to their contribution.
In the aftermath of the 1987 overthrow of the South Korean military dictatorship and the creation of a formally democratic political system, and concurrently with the collapse of the rigid Cold War international system in 1991, the ROK had only weak intellectual traditions and institutions in the fields of foreign policy and security, especially outside of academia or government-affiliated organizations such as the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis (Ministry of National Defense), Korea Institute of National Unification (Ministry of Unification), or Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (now the Korea National Diplomatic Academy). Many of the ROK’s research institutes were created to house and support retiring presidents (for example, the Ilhae Institute, a corrupt charitable foundation established to support General Chun Doo Whan, overthrown in the 1987 democratic uprising, which later became the prestigious Sejong Institute) or ministers (for instance, the Ilmin International Relations Institute, Korea University, founded by former Foreign Minister Han Sung Joo in April 1995). Still others were essentially switchboards in which senior ROK diplomats, officials, and security intellectuals — often professors at a leading ROK university — could exchange views with overseas counterparts, especially Americans. The Seoul Forum for International Affairs, established in 1986 to promote “international understanding of Korea in the global community,” is a good example of this kind of think tank.
On this uneven and shifting terrain emerged the vision of Professor Kim Byung-kook. Kim had studied at Harvard, served as a presidential advisor in various capacities in the Kim Young-sam Administration and, by 2001, had become a major intellectual force in Korean political science from his home base at Korea University as the editor of the Journal of East Asian Studies and co-editor of the Korean Political Science Review. Positioned as he was at the nexus of knowledge, influence, and political power, he saw the opportunity to create the East Asia Institute (hereafter EAI), a think-tank conceived along the lines of the Brookings Institution.
In the spring of 2002, Kim began working with former ROK Prime Minister Lee Hong Koo and with Seok-Hyun Hong, then Chairman of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, and convened a Founding Committee of fifteen sectoral representatives to support the EAI, which consisted of Kim and one staffer. From the outset, Kim understood the networked nature of the post-Cold War era, the need for powerful ideas that responded to the multi-dimensional, interconnected nature of domestic and international problems, and the need to reform the extraordinarily centralized presidential office inherited from the pre-democratic era in South Korea. This led to the production of a major retrospective research study on the nature of Park Chung Hee’s regime and a two-volume proposal for restructuring the presidential office and powers — which influenced directly its reform in the Roh administration.
The EAI was particularly influential in its conceptualization of how ROK diplomacy, its alliance with the United States, and its response to China and the DPRK should incorporate the challenges posed by post-Cold War complexity in a new, grand, national strategy. In 2004, this work began at the EAI with serious research led by Ha Young Sun (who chaired the EAI board of trustees and led many of its research taskforces) and with educational outreach to policymakers, leading to the full-fledged articulation in 2006 of “complex diplomacy” as outlined earlier in this chapter, which was embraced in 2011 by then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Sung-hwan Kim as the new paradigm for ROK diplomacy. Kim Byung-kook moved from the EAI to senior positions in ROK foreign policy in the Blue House, where he eventually served as Senior Secretary on Foreign Affairs and National Security to President Lee Myung-bak in 2008, and then as President of the Korea Foundation from 2010-2012.
The EAI also undertook to create a global and regional network of advisors, fellows, and interns by convening conferences, hosting international fellows, and supporting bilateral and multilateral research projects, especially the Network of the Northeast Asian Security Challenge Cluster that brought together counterpart think tanks from China (Tsinghua University, Jiao Tong University, and the Center for RimPac Strategic and International Studies, Shanghai), Taiwan (National Chengchi University), South Korea (Korea University and Seoul National University), and the United States (the Peterson Institute for International Economics). The EAI also convened bilateral dialogues with scholars and officials from China, Australia, and the United States. It further convened a social network of hundreds of former interns in its Exchange Panel for Interdisciplinary Knowledge (EPIK) Spiders in the belief that the next generation of leaders must be nurtured and shaped by new and creative ideas that break with the past. (The name Spiders draws on a metaphor used by EAI’s intellectual leader, Ha Young Sun, comparing regional networking strategy to a wolf spider web). The EAI’s board of ROK and international advisors took on a publishing role in a stream of briefs, reports, and books, as well as the Journal of East Asian Studies (transferred from Seoul National University to EAI in 2002), making the EAI a highly competitive force in the marketplace for ideas on ROK foreign policy. No other ROK independent research institute has established such an intellectually potent presence in the think tank world, let alone proved as influential in shaping public and foreign policy in the ROK.
This result has been achieved on a remarkably small budget, roughly $1-$2 million US dollars per year. The EAI relies on the convening power of its senior leadership to induce professors and intellectuals to contribute to its many task forces on key issues and thereby benefit from off-budget salaries paid for by other research and educational institutions. In short, the EAI has created a global “knowledge-net” that sets the benchmark for competing institutions — such as the Asan Institute, the subject of the next section of this chapter — but still falls far short of a bottom-up transnational thinknet of the type driven by civil society organizations responding to critical issues on the ground, across borders, a type treated in later sections of this chapter.
Case Study 6: The Asan Institute for Policy Studies
Another cosmopolitan community formed in response to South Korea’s civil society is the Asan Institute. In many ways, the Asan Institute is the antithesis of the Jeju Peace Forum. Founded in 2008, Asan framed itself not as a network to activate a peace-building process, convened by ROK civil society actors from universities and local government, but as a freestanding, long-term, and independent “think tank” undertaking policy-relevant research to “foster domestic, regional, and international environments that are conducive to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and Korean reunification.”
The Asan Institute grew quickly from a small think tank to the fifth most influential think tank in East Asia in 2012, according to John McGann’s annual ranking. Asan was structured on the American think tank model. Its mandate was to become a central meeting place for networks in the region and — some trenchant observers suggest — to be the vehicle that creates an intellectual framework for the eventual presidential campaign of long-serving conservative National Assembly member Chung Mong Joon, who inherited immense wealth from his father, the founder of the Hyundai Corporation.
The Asan Institute can engage in broad-based international civic diplomacy and networking because of its staff and strong funding. In this respect, it is unique among South Korean freestanding institutes. With over a dozen topic-specific research centers and more than 80 full-time staff (including interns), the Institute has an unmatched research and convening capacity in ROK civil society. Notably, many senior staff are bi/tri-lingual and have degrees from the world’s most prestigious universities outside of South Korea, whether they are Korean or foreign nationals. Based on language ability and educational background, the Asan Institute is a cosmopolitan entity.
Asan’s rapid ascendency began in 2010 when Hahm Chaibong became its president. Hahm is to the Asan Institute what Moon Kook-hyun was to Yuhan-Kimberley, Lee Ho-taeg to the early formation of the Refugee Aid Network, and Moon Chung-in to the Jeju Peace Forum — a true “insider-outsider.” Using his connections in both South Korea and the United States and making good use of his academic pedigree, Hahm envisioned connecting scholars in Korea and abroad within a transnational network anchored in Seoul. Hahm is fluent in both Korean and English. He holds degrees from Carleton College and Johns Hopkins University. He also has professional experience as a researcher at the RAND Corporation and has taught at the University of Southern California. “I often see myself as a proto-typical rootless cosmopolitan,” Hahm told the authors during an interview. “During my college and graduate years, I studied political theory and epistemology. I wanted to know why Eastern and Western cultures were so different — a difference that I felt was reflected in my own identity.”
Hahm sees himself and the Asan Institute as playing the role of conduit between East and West and as a vessel to transmit information about Korea to the outside world. “Translating from one language or one culture to another is the role of a cosmopolitan and the role I want the Institute to play.”
The Asan Institute engages with and connects domestic and international audiences via informal meetings, networking lunches, special lecture series, forums, and, above all, at “Asan Plenums,” huge multi-day events hosted at 5-star hotels where world-leading establishment figures, government officials, journalists, and other public intellectuals gather to discuss global problems and how to solve them. There have been three Plenums thus far. At the 2011 Asan Plenum, entitled “Our Nuclear Future,” nuclear scientists, engineers, policy experts, and other specialists from around the world gathered in Seoul to discuss nonproliferation, disarmament, peaceful use of nuclear power, nuclear security, and deterrence. The 2012 Asan Plenum centered on the theme of “Leadership” at a time when leadership transitions in China, South Korea, Japan, and the United States were taking place. The latest plenum, hosted in May of 2013, addressed the issue of the “New World Disorder,” focusing on topics ranging from East Asian economic regionalism to the civil conflict in Syria.
Since English is the medium of communication, the plenums are biased towards native and fluent English-speaking specialists from American and European-based institutions; even so, the composition of each plenum — in its participants and discussion topics — reflects the Asan Institute’s efforts to foster discussion on regional issues that have global implications.
Asan Plenums bring together high-ranking officials. These include former assistant secretaries of state and vice ministers and leaders from leading global institutions and think tanks such as the US Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (Istanbul). They are convened at a single event in Seoul — a city not yet known as a global hub — enabling disparate contacts to network with each other at side events. Eileen Block, who plays a central role as a networking coordinator for the plenums, says the Asan Institute’s goal of using them to build on its international network and to position South Korea within this network has proved successful thus far. “In the past, inviting individuals to the plenums was a task that required much effort on our part and reliance on colleagues. Now, with the contacts we’ve made and maintained through the plenums, people in Korea and abroad request an invitation to participate in the plenum or an opportunity to host a smaller event.”
From a broader theoretical perspective, the new domestic and transnational networks created through the plenums are opening opportunities for the institute’s staff to establish their own networks outside of the ROK. Karl Friedhoff, Asan’s program officer for the Public Opinions Studies Center, is the main contact point in English for Asan’s monthly reports on public opinion polling data. As such, Friedhoff has become a key contact on public opinion for foreign media outlets based in Seoul (Reuters, AP, The Wall Street Journal). Furthermore, he relies on what he calls “persistence through networks” to establish himself as a bridge between the Asan Institute and policymakers from the White House, the State Department, and other DC-based institutions.
Despite its meteoric rise in convening events and activating networks, many are skeptical of what they see as its partisan, highly politicized domestic agenda. Asan’s founder and funder, Moon Mong-jung, for example, has argued for both the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea by the United States and the indigenous development of nuclear weapons. The former argument came at the March 2013 Nuclear Forum in February hosted by the Asan Institute and the latter at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington DC the next month. This stance has led some to question whether Asan is in fact a non-partisan, independent think tank dedicated to research and solving global problems. However, Moon’s role at Asan is actually minimal (apart from providing ongoing funding). Nor is Asan a monolith. Shin Chang-hoon, director of the Asan Nuclear Policy and Technology Center (ANPTC) and host of the 2013 Nuclear Forum, is an ardent anti-proliferation advocate. What is more, Choi Kang, vice president of research, is on record as saying that such positions are “[argued] for by the minority” in South Korea, and that the reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons “would be a disaster.” A diversity of views and opinions are expressed at Asan.
As these six case studies show, ROK civil society is still developing. Its capacities relative to those of the ROK state and of the chaebols are still weak. However, it has established a powerful ability to convene and sustain networks that enable social entrepreneurs to place themselves and their partners in key positions. From these locations, they are able to propagate ideas and strategies, and to connect with otherwise isolated stakeholders whose views must be heard or whose interests must recognized for a cooperative solution to be visualized and implemented. ROK civil society has been effective in drawing together Northeast Asian networks, partly because Japanese counterparts chose to focus on less politicized, more distant issues and networks than those raised by the engagement of Chinese and South Korean civil society organizations, but also because South Korean groups work well with partners or proto-non-governmental organizations in China for cultural reasons. In almost all cases, a driving individual able to mobilize resources was a crucial enabling condition, albeit one insufficient to create networks that could visualize and implement solutions, and then scale them up to be used across borders.
Implementing strategies and sustaining them requires more resources than most ROK civil society organizations have been able to muster. One solution that may lend stamina to their efforts, by increasing reliable resourcing as well as demanding greater accountability from elected officials without being overwhelmed by the central state, is prefigured by the Jeju Peace Forum, which linked a civil network strategy to realize regional and inter-Korean peace with the leadership and commitment of a local government. The next section provides case studies that reveal the potential for such public-private partnerships to emerge in the region, including examples drawn from the ROK, Japan, and China.
Networked Inter-City Cooperation
In Reinventing Japan, From Merchant Nation to Civic Nation, Yasuo Takao argues persuasively that independently elected and de facto autonomous local governments enable many local officials to act independently of the central state, to coordinate horizontally with civil society organizations, and thus to structure and facilitate the association and networking of independent civil society organizations. For this reason, it is important to examine the role of local governments and cities in civic diplomacy and their cross-border activities in many dimensions of culture, economy, and ecology.
Above, we presented the leading role of the Jeju Provincial governor in establishing the Jeju Peace Forum— now one of the ROK’s most important annual foreign policy events. In chapters 2 and 4, we examined how cities in Asia compete with each other for primacy within and between national urban hierarchies, for gateway dominance, and for survival and prosperity in the inevitable cycles of business up- and down-turns and the politically driven factors that determine the allocation of national resources to infrastructure. We found that without central planning or guidance, new patterns of mega and even giga-city corridor formation can be observed. Some of these corridors are likely to cross borders or drive cooperation transnationally in the search for mutuality, either in solving common problems or sharing common solutions — even if they are located far away from each other. Thus, bilateral and trilateral city-based networks have emerged involving the ROK and Japan, Japan and China, and China and the ROK. In the case of the Dalian-Kitakyushu relationship, we noted that the city officials not only coordinated to induce their central governments to fund their collaborative projects, they also created vibrant partnerships with local business and grassroots groups from civil society.
In South Korea, the Busan-Fukuoka inter-city network was an early example of Korean-Japanese networked strategy to create an economic, cultural, and social cross-border space managed collaboratively. As Lim Jung-Duk explains, this bilateral network did not emerge overnight:
Major cities and regions of the KJSEZ (Korea-Japan Strait Economic Zone) form multi-layered interurban networks. First, the East Asia City Conference, which started with the Yellow Sea Rim Six-City Conference in 1991 and expanded in 2000 to include 10 port cities (Dalian, Qingdao, Tianjin, Yantai, Incheon, Busan, Ulsan, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, and Shimonoseki), grew into the level of a “city alliance” by establishing the Organization for East Asian Economic Development [which] aimed at forming the Yellow Sea Rim Economic Bloc. Second, the Local Government Meeting for the Korea-Japan Strait Zone, established in 1992 between four prefectures of Northern Kyushu (Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, and Yamaguchi) and one metropolitan city and three provinces [on South] Korea’s southern coast (Busan, South Gyeongsang Province, South Jeolla Province, and Jeju Island), boasts of a competitive proximity. Third, the Northeast Asia Regional Government Association, with the participation of six Northeast Asian countries (Korea, North Korea, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Japan) [and] forty cities and provinces, is a city club established on transverse logic rather than proximity.
This bilateral city network did not form only to facilitate the work of increasing trade and investment, as suggested by the first meeting of the Economic Cooperation Council of the Busan-Fukuoka Region in 2008, which aimed to nurture tourism and other forms of join economic gains. As Lim notes, it also led to the creation of a consortium of twenty-four universities from the two cities to foster scholarly exchange; to the Civic Group Council, consisting of forty-two civic groups; and to the Nippon Korea Citizen Exchange Network Fukuoka, formed by twenty-nine civic groups in Kyushu who signed the Busan-Fukuoka (Kyushu) NGO Agreement in 2008. These civil society networks aim to support student exchange and home stays, sports competitions, and systematic cultural exchange. The goal, according to Lim, is to “spread a sense of identity of cross-border cooperation among citizens,” arguably a precursor to a cosmopolitan citizen identity in this region.
Lim notes that such cross-border initiatives remain “light” until they obtain financial and institutional autonomy from a central government, especially in regions dominated by geopolitical concerns. “The issue of forming a CBR [cross border region],” he concludes, “is a re-territorializing process involving the creation of a cooperative space for cross-border forces (market and society) based on networks, and this requires a process of unprecedented political discussion among actors whose countries give priority to territorial uniformity.”Moreover, after examining a number of such inter-city cooperative relationships, Yasuo Takao concluded that civil society organizations must make common cause with local governments at the provincial or city level in order to achieve long-term sustainability for their efforts.
Conclusion: Civic Diplomacy and ROK Foreign Policy
By now, it should be evident to the reader that civil society organizations in the ROK and in Northeast Asia provide capacities that state and market-based agencies cannot, capacities that are critically important to the resolution of global problems and various types of insecurity that originate or are manifest in the region. In comparison with “complex” state-based diplomacy, civic networked diplomacy is often more agile, better able to cross borders and circumvent communication barriers, and more capable of envisioning and propagating shared solutions with more credibility and at greater speed. Civil society organizations are also able to undertake tasks to which states are inherently ill suited due to their constitution — such as the formation of a cosmopolitan cultural identity, especially among youth leaders and civil society organizations, like that envisioned by the ROK’s Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative in 2004. Such a hybrid cosmopolitan identity is already emerging bottom-up as younger generations of South Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, and Russians learn each other’s languages, share popular culture, and travel widely within the region. Nonetheless, until systematic, cross-generational learning takes place involving young leaders from at least China, Japan, and the ROK to create a common discourse with defining moments and shared narratives, such an identity will remain limited at best by virulent nationalisms and provincialisms. When it does emerge, as William Callahan argues, it won’t be a singular “Northeast Asian” identity. Rather, it will be a kaleidoscopic, dizzying array of hybrid, post-modern identities incorporating local ethos and nativism, corporate loyalties, fashion, fads, Confucianism, religious orientations. It will commingle and contend with gendered, ethnic, diasporic, and virtual identities —in a cultural flux that disorients, dislocates, and redefines what it means to be a “good citizen” and a member of the nation-state.
Because people who create transnational, networked civil society organizations are motivated more by universal values and norms than states, their civic diplomacy inevitably includes wider considerations than complex diplomacy and traditional foreign policy. Indeed, their orientation and demands may even clash with the narrow, introspective, and exclusive values and norms embodied in diplomacy that aims above all to establish and maintain territorial borders that separate self, nation-state, and “outsiders” of all kinds. Civic diplomacy, as may be observed in the many case studies presented in this book, puts greater emphasis on realizing human and ecological security than on accumulating wealth and military power — the traditional goals of state-based foreign policy that drive complex diplomacy. Thus, civic diplomacy is likely to push for more open borders, in part to secure the labor needed to sustain graying economies in the ROK and Japan, but also to enable émigrés from China and the DPRK to obtain work and to make remittances that, via diasporic networks, finance local development in their countries of origin.
Some of these policy shifts driven in part by civic diplomacy may require states to respond with new regulations and controls. Increased cross-border mobility, for example, may result in new border screening and public health measures to respond to the increasing risk of pandemics arising from the cross-border transmission of disease vectors. This same mobility may also push states to innovate, for example, by expanding visa-less travel.
In other issue areas, expanded civic diplomacy may be highly congruent with complex diplomacy by providing unique or more efficient capacity to implement programs that embody the values and norms adhered to by states and by civil society organizations. Over time, the values and norms of civil society and states may converge both within and between states, because civil society organizations often draw their normative inspiration from shared global and universal sources.
At the most basic level, civil society organizations aim to realize peace, security, and sustainability based on community, whereas states aim to embody wealth and power, especially military power, based on territory. Let us explore the overlap and convergence, as well as the contradiction and divergence, between these overarching goals and their respective civic and complex foreign policies.
Earlier in this chapter, we noted that complex diplomacy aims to create social capital that enables the ROK to orient its allies and partners toward managing and resolving the DPRK threat on ROK terms. This is the foremost priority of its foreign policy. Concurrently, complex diplomacy sets out to position the ROK as a trading power in financial and investment networks, on a global and regional basis, and to use its positional power to convene influential networks on global and regional issues to enhance its reputation and negotiating ability.
In contrast, civic diplomacy aims to envision peaceful, secure, and sustainable futures; to create shared images of desirable futures based on collaboration; and to generate the common knowledge and discourse needed to identify and propagate strategies and solutions to specific problems at local sites, in part to exemplify generalized solutions, but also to construct a peaceful, sustainable future bottom-up, locale by locale. The strategies that support these goals are not based on wealth and military power, but rather on mutual learning and cultural realignment across generations and cultural-territorial borders. In addition to the individual and local-level changes needed to embody the reorientation of localities to sustainable and peaceful futures, civic diplomacy seeks to invoke changes in and hold state and corporate policies accountable to higher standards that reflect these values — even at the cost of immediate or medium-term gains in national wealth and military power. In addition to deepening and widening the autonomy and capacity of civil society in each country, civic diplomacy relies on ad hoc and enduring networks led by civil society rather than on military power or corporate wealth. To implement these strategies, civil society organizations create and maintain, sometimes with incredible tenacity, transnational networks based on divisions of labor that mix and match the strengths and offset the weaknesses of civil society across countries.
Due to its fundamental goals, the domain of complex diplomacy is relatively narrow. Foreign policy focuses on what enables the nation-state to accrue national wealth and power, often to the exclusion or subordination of other issues even where governments have agencies and programs (for example, on trans-boundary environmental problems) to reduce the complexity of the real world of scores and even hundreds of global problems to a small number of issues that can be managed using well-tested, often rigid methods. The cost of this approach is that the tools are often blunt, and policies aim to solve only a few top priorities at a time defined by leaders with short tenures and narrow attention spans. Consequently, rapid policy shifts by incoming administrations may exacerbate or suppress other related problems, only to have them re-emerge or even worsen over time. The ROK’s vacillating nordpolitik is an obvious example.
By comparison, the domain of civic diplomacy is very wide — as wide as the range of concerns that motivate individuals, communities, and local governments to cooperate across borders. Because of the very large number of agile non-state actors involved, civil society often identifies many distinct and viable strategies to manage and even resolve linked problems at the same time. Due to their diversity and different locations in relation to the spatial, temporal, and socio-cultural dimensions of linked problems, they are able to construct peace, security and sustainability from the bottom-up, one person, one community, one region, and one issue at a time, in a mosaic of incremental, linked, partial solutions in each of these issues areas. Of course, civil society and its civic diplomacy are not seamless or perfectly consistent in addressing common problems across borders. The priority concerns of civil society as well as the definitions of urgent problems vary from country to country due to different income levels and cultural orientations. However, due to shared convictions that values and norms are universal in nature, civic diplomats often (but not always) find enough in common with their counterparts across borders to overcome residual divisiveness from the historical memory of past grievances inflicted by one country or sectarian group on another. They are also able to develop common agendas for concerted and even joint action in spite of varying socioeconomic levels and differential risk-perceptions.
In the realm of geopolitical security, complex diplomacy shares a priority concern with civic diplomacy on the need to reduce the risk of war and escalation, especially involving weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons. Only states can mobilize, control, and calibrate the level of risk-taking by large-scale military forces such as those maintained by the ROK. Equally, sometimes only civil society personnel and organizations can communicate with the DPRK during a real crisis and shuttle information backwards and forwards between the protagonists to reduce the risk of war, including inadvertent war. Similarly, only states can maintain large-scale, highly technical functional capacities to sustain critical infrastructure such as air traffic control, watershed management, and sewage disposal, among other things. Equally, only civil society networks can instantly mobilize huge numbers of people to respond to contingencies in a massive, self-organizing fashion, as in China after earthquakes and Japan after cascading earthquake-tsunami catastrophes.
Historically, the ROK state has attempted to project a monolithically unified ROK against DPRK diplomatic overtures or military threats. At times of high tension, the ROK state often attempts to shut down these private channels by arresting ROK citizens engaged in this type of popular diplomacy, in part due to a concern that civil society representatives might be misunderstood as speaking on behalf of the state, and in part to suppress dissenting voices at home. Ironically, the DPRK itself often shuts down all private channels with the external world in order to ensure that only one line is articulated to the ROK and the United States, thereby isolating itself even more than is usually the case. Thus, the slender threads of disavowable, private communication to and from Pyongyang become most valuable at times of highest tension. During these periods, complex diplomacy is bereft of networked strategies to communicate with the DPRK “structural hole.”
Before and after such crises occur, civic diplomats can build these enduring networks based on trust and sustained communication. This strategy overlaps and is reinforced by complex diplomacy wherein the ROK state sets out to establish itself as a “convening power” for regional meetings where minds meet and influential individuals from many sectors and countries connect. At such events, it is more important for habitual antagonists to be present than for people who already have aligned views. Networks of networks like the Jeju Peace Forum or the rapidly emerging Asan Plenums may be examples of disparate social connectivity that establish new layers of resilience for crisis management and conflict resolution.
Ironically, the proclivity of states for keeping most of their complex diplomacy on security issues secret and away from public view (unless revealed by managed leaks or via an uncontrolled revelation such as Wikileaks) is a major handicap for ROK foreign policy. Many civic diplomats, by virtue of networks and/or presence in the field of a specific locale or problem-site, are better-informed and more up-to-date than foreign policy officials. Thus, one of the implications of enhanced civic diplomacy is a higher level of transparency — and related accountability — and a lesser reliance on secrecy, especially when civic and complex diplomacy are conducted in partnership. As the precept of one civil society organization states in relation to working with North Korea, “When there are no secrets, there are no lies.” Of course, the same standards must apply to civic diplomacy and to the operations of civil society organizations — one reason they are often advised to link up closely with local government and city-level partners who will require more stringent accountability than civil society organizations standing alone.
An example of this kind of hybrid civic-complex diplomacy was the March 7-9, 2012 New York Conference on Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia, held shortly after the “Leap Day” Agreement between the DPRK and the United States and prior to the two satellite launches by the DPRK. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation convened this “Track 2” meeting in cooperation with the Korean Peninsula Affairs Center at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, with Hanshin University, with the Pacific Century Institute, and with the National Association of Korean Americans. The Foundation assembled a group of experts from Europe, the ROK, China, the United States, Mongolia, and Germany to consider practical steps that could advance a process of denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. In reality, the prime mover of this event was Hanshin University. At this event, the North and South Korean negotiators spoke frankly in a private capacity over breakfast, dinner, and for long days of candid meetings. As Henry Kissinger explained, the talks leading to the 1971 Mao-Nixon meeting were held no fewer than 136 times. The major achievement of such meetings is to enable the primary antagonists to talk and to understand each other — as the meeting’s organizer put it, growing the buds of trust so that they can later flower and providing a space for peaceful conversation for all parties.
Another role for complex diplomacy that creates potential synergy with civic diplomacy is to enable civil society organizations to connect their visions with policy practitioners from across the region — as occurs at the Seoul Digital Forum each year. In this regard, civil society networks such as the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict-Northeast Asia (GPPAC-NEA), established in 2005; the trilingual EnviroAsia, a web-based project to share information about the environment between groups in South Korea, China, and Japan; and the global Mayors for Peace, which originated in Japan and includes over 1,366 cities in Japan, 10 cities in the ROK, 4 cities in Mongolia, and 5 cities in China who have signed a petition for the abolition of nuclear weapons — all work at an ideational level, propagating complementary visions of peace, security, and sustainability, with local programs to ground this vision in local communities.
GPACC-NEA, for example, adopted its Northeast Asia Regional Action Agenda in the presence of more than fifty activists and specialists at the Northeast Asian Conference on the Role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Violent Conflict in Tokyo on February 1-4, 2005. At the event, the South Korean participants presented the Northeast Asia Activity Report, the result of months of prior case studies. It identified, for example, the need to include gender issues and the perspectives of women, hitherto conspicuously absent in official inter-Korean processes, in future official reconciliation and reunification efforts; it noted past attempts to enable North and South Korean women to meet against enormous obstacles; it called for the establishment of mechanisms for uninhibited exchange between North and South Korean women; and it noted that UN Security Council Resolution 1325 requires states to address the impact of war on women and women’s contributions to conflict resolution and sustained peace.
Similarly, as we noted in chapters 3 and 4, climate change requires that every community in Northeast Asia mitigate their emissions and adapt to new climate-generated stresses. As sociologist Ulrich Beck argues, global problems such as climate change have precipitated the nascent formation of new “imagined communities.” He argues that the rise of global threats unconfined to the territorial borders of states has “transformed ontological awareness and… expanded senses of belonging,” much like the effect of nationalism on feudal communities in 18th-century Europe. Territorially confined communities, he suggests, are giving way to “new transnational constellations of social actors… thereby potentially enabling collective action, cosmopolitical decision-making, and international norm generation.” However, he argues that this shared vision is based in part on an apocalyptic sense of time due to the threat posed by climate change to progressive social and cultural narratives, rather than on a progressive regional version of the jointly constructed, shared future that drove post-World War II integration in Europe and earlier integration in North America.
We conclude this examination of the implications of civic diplomacy for ROK foreign policy and its complex official diplomacy by arguing that the balance between central, civilian, and local actors in formulating and implementing ROK foreign policy is shifting away from massively dominant central government agencies and increasingly moving towards civilian and local jurisdictions affected directly by cross-border issues. This shift in balance implies that civil society has begun to transform the nature of the central state as well as its complex diplomacy. In this transition, the role of complex diplomacy is no longer the direction of civic diplomacy as part of a total, unified national strategy, as suggested by Sanghun Lee from Sejong Institute in 2011. It is rather to enable autonomous civic diplomacy, recognizing that many of the traditional functions of state-based diplomacy are better undertaken by civil society and local governments of provinces and cities than by centralized states relying on military and economic power. In this sense, civil society and its civic diplomacy are helping the traditional nation-state shift from the complex diplomacy and a foreign policy aimed at increasing wealth and power associated with the mercantile state to what Yasuo Takao suggests is the “civic state” (referring to Japan, but with relevance to the ROK) based on a partnership between the state and civil society. As the process takes place slowly and unevenly, but pervasively and inexorably, civil society networks will not only reshape individual and national identities, as argued above, but will also redefine and expand the scope of national interest to include extra-territorial concerns of all kinds, based not on the exclusionary notion of the Other, but on the inclusionary notion of empathy.
In turn, this bottom-up construction of interdependent communities in border regions and in multi-dimensional reciprocal dependence — what Tatsujiro Suzuki has called “mutual assured dependence” — will generate a demand for regional governance that transcends the monopoly on foreign policy decision-making by nation-states. One possible form for such governance is the creation of a Council on Security established under the rubric of a Northeast Asian Treaty on Amity and Cooperation. Another is to initiate a European-style integrative process that leads eventually to a political union — although that is much harder to imagine in Northeast Asia due to the enormous asymmetries in scale, interest, and ideology at this time. Such high-level political and security concert would be matched by low-level functional integration of governance, as is prefigured already by scores of senior official regional meetings on specific issues, and by trans-governmental integration between low-level functional and regulatory agencies in coordinating and harmonizing policies and standards in many domains including policing, infrastructure, and public health.
If this portrayal of the end-state is correct, the process by which it is brought about is unlikely to be neat, linear, and orderly. Rather, the rise of civic states in the region will entail constant renegotiation of the cross-border relationships that are embodied in self and nation-state. The relationship between self, civil society, the residual nation-state, and evolving institutions of regional governance will remain ambivalent and contentious in this vision.
Nonetheless, the rise of civic diplomacy working in concert with complex diplomacy, and the shift to the civic state and nation, provides the extra social capacity whereby the ROK can best respond to the challenges posed by global and regional problems. In this vision, there is no singular, unified civic foreign policy, but as many civic foreign policies as are needed to respond to the exigencies confronting communities and the issues evoking cross-border responses by civil society. The intrinsic multiplicity — some have called it multiplexity— of civic diplomacy makes it impossible for the state to direct it as part of a unified complex diplomatic strategy. Instead of attempting to direct it, the state will become an enabler of “peer-to-peer” communities that, for the most part, sustain themselves largely independently of the central state.
In this supporting rather than lead role, the civic state can do much to nurture the rise of civic diplomacy, even as it continues to rely on complex diplomacy to implement ROK foreign policy. Perhaps most significantly, it can provide support to capacity-building efforts for civil society in China, Mongolia, the Russian Far East, and, when feasible, to the “proto” non-governmental organizations that are already evident in the DPRK, notably in the social service sector in public health, nutrition, and reforestation. The civic state can also reduce the bureaucratic and legal controls on non-governmental organizations, even in the ROK, to make it easier and less expensive to establish such associations and to remove the requirement to report to a government ministry. It can also revise the tax laws to favor the emergency of a vibrant philanthropic sector that will deepen the independent resource base for a truly autonomous civil society.
The ROK can nurture authentically South Korean civic diplomacy in many ways. To some extent, this reform has already occurred in the shaping and implementation of the ROK’s development aid program, used by non-governmental organizations to implement government programs and projects wherever possible. The ROK can give strong political and diplomatic support to local governments to establish strong collaborations with cross-border regional counterparts, whether city, civil society, or corporate, and delegate to these local governments and agencies the mandate to create and manage strong forms of interdependency within cross-border regions. It can increase the transparency of foreign policy deliberations and decision-making and consult closely with leading civil society organizations for input into these foreign policy processes, including them on official delegations as observers or even full members.
On a need-to-know basis, the ROK can make important information available to civil society organizations on urgent, critically important foreign policy issues and declassify the bulk of its foreign policy files — or reduce enormously the needless level of classification in any case. It can help civil society organizations in the foreign policy area to deepen their expertise in areas of conflict and cooperation with other states and to develop networking strategies that connect with their natural partners in other countries. It can increase its reliance on civil society organizations to report quickly from the field and to discern early warning signals of rising instability and tension in relation to core concerns of ROK foreign policy, namely the DPRK.
Finally, the state can promote multilingualism in ROK civil society, the importance of which cannot be over-estimated in the implementation of skillful civic diplomacy and the emergence of a new generation of talented civic diplomats.