Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung
Korea Office

Rm. 1101,
88 Yulgok-ro,
Jongno-gu,
Seoul 03131
South Korea

Phone: +82 (0) 2 745 2648
Fax: +82 (0) 2 745 6684

E-mail: info@fes-korea.org
www.fes-korea.org

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East Asian Forum on UN Peace Operation – “Lessons Learned from UNMISS and Ways Ahead” (April 22-23, 2016)

As part of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung endeavour to contribute to peace and security around the Korean Peninsula the office in Seoul has established a co-operation with the Korea Academic Council on the United Nations System organised jointly a series of international conferences aiming at a more effective implementation of UN Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) based on regional co-operation between North East Asian states. In the context of this collaboration, in 2015 the decision was taken to co-organise a regular East Asian Forum on UN Peace operations. The first of these fora was held in Seoul from 22nd to 23rd April 2016. It brought together experts from China, Japan, Mongolia and Korea to share lessons learned from their countries’ contribution to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Participants also had the opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) Report. The Forum provided a meaningful opportunity to consider common problems and possible solutions for them. Among the participants there was a general agreement not only on the necessity for more cooperation through such a forum but also on the goal to enhance the effectiveness of PKO. Several recommendations were made and the participants agreed that next year’s Forum would address issues of the protection of civilians in peace operations.


Conference by FES regional experts on “Autocracy and Democratization in Asia” (March 5 – 9, 2016)

For several decades, Asian countries have achieved rapid economic growth and pursued the establishment of various types of market economy. However, democratization is not proceeding at the same pace. Moreover, in several the level of political democracy has regressed, particularly in the last few years. In order to analyze these phenomena and asses the role of the FES in relation to such processes a conference on “Autocracy and Democratization in Asia” was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 5th to 9th March, 2016. Participants of the conference were FES representatives from Asian Offices of the Foundation as well as from its Berlin Head Office. The discussion also benefited from the contribution of senior members of the German Parliament. In addition, Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon gave a key note luncheon speech in which he addressed challenges democracy in a mega city such as Seoul.

During the four days of the participants discussed about specific conditions of democratization in each country as well as common features throughout Asia. It appeared that whilst national circumstances might differ from country to country similarities about the disjuncture between developmental objectives and political progress towards broader people’s participation held some similarities throughout the continent. It also appeared that further reaching comparative analysis was hampered by the lack of a commonly acceptable theoretical framework to capture the principle factors promoting or hindering the development of democracy.


“Asian Political and International Studies Association – New Authoritarianism in Asia” co-organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the EHWA Women’s University (March 3-5, 2016)

As widely known, the progress of democracy in Asia has been much slower than the continent’s economic development. Moreover, various problems and challenges are emerging in the political processes with in some instances the rise of new authoritarianism. In order to consider these phenomena and find out which programs and policies are suitable to address them, Asia Political Studies Association (APISA) and FES-Korea invited more than twenty international scholars and all FES representatives from Asian Offices as well as from the Asia-Pacific department of the Head Office from Berlin Office to Seoul from 3rd to 5th March 2016 to attend a conference themed “New Authoritarianism in Asia”.

The conference was made-up of four sessions. On the first day scholars presented their aspects on the themes of “the rise of neo-Monarchism”, “democratic roll-back” and “state vs. people”. The main contents of the presentations were the level of democracy in Asia, inherited power and authority, concentrated authority of central political powers as well as problems of authoritarian powers. On the second day, there was a session on “Problems with the People: Political Culture and Societal Challenges”. At the same time, presentations concerning “Youths and Politics in Asia” were held by PhD students part of the APISA Young Scholars Network.

Based on these impressive presentations, the discussion concluded that despite some significant improvements in democratic governance in a number of cases there appears currently to be a stagnation in many cases and even set-backs in a number of other cases. In particular the interaction between civil society and the state is problematic in most cases in Asia.

 


“2015 International Conference on Humanitarian and Development Assistance to the DPRK – Aid to North Korea and Peace on the Korean Peninsula”, hosted by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office, Gyeonggi Province, Jeju Special Self-governing Province, Korean Sharing Movement, and the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea (Seoul, November 3-5, 2015)

After 20 years of aid to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), these aid programmes continue to be an issue of great interest and significance in the Republic of Korea and beyond. The goal of the international conference “Aid to North Korea and Peace on the Korean Peninsula” was to review the achievements and limitations of humanitarian and development assistance to the DPRK during the past two decades, to encourage the improvement of the different aid programmes, to deepen the solidarity between the various stakeholders involved as well as to raise public awareness about the effects of these programmes and their positive impact on inter-Korean relations.

In the context of the conference’s opening ceremony, Yongpyo Hong, the Minister of Unification, underlined the necessity of cooperation between private and government institutions as well as with civil society organisations in order to enhance the positive influence of aid programmes. The subsequent plenaries concentrated on the analysis of the effectiveness of the past aid programmes from different perspectives and included presentations of various high-ranking scholars. Following the special speech by Ui-hwa Chung, the Speaker of the National Assembly, in which he emphasised the relation between his hope of a future unification of the Korean Peninsula and the importance of humanitarian assistance to the DPRK, the final plenary of the day involved a round-table discussion, inviting Korean and international experts to elaborate on the aid programmes to the DPRK.

On the second day of the conference, distinguished scholars were invited to participate in in-depth discussions and workshops, representing, amongst others, different bilateral development agencies, NGOs, UN agencies, and international foundations. During these plenaries, the different aid activities in the DPRK and the role of the South Korean local governments in the development cooperation with the DPRK were examined. The subsequent parallel sessions offered the unique opportunity to scrutinise a wide range of topics in a smaller setting, e.g. to analyse the coordination among the different aid agencies, the past changes in the DPRK as well as the possibility of a consolidated approach to promote a comprehensive peace.

The conference was concluded on the third day by a press conference during which the representatives of the co-hosting organisations and the invited experts presented their results to major news companies, underlining the importance of ongoing efforts towards humanitarian and development assistance to the DPRK, but also the necessity to improve and expand the aid programmes (www.fes-korea.org/media/Joint%20Statement.pdf). The impressive presence during the conference and the active participation of the attendees illustrates the great importance the government, the different organisations, and the civil society attaches to the issue of aid to the DPRK.


Roundtable discussion organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office on “The Historikerstreit (historians’ dispute) and the process of facing the past in Germany” (Seoul, October 30, 2015)

The roundtable discussion on “The Historikerstreit (historians’ dispute) and the process of facing the past in Germany” was preceded by a speech from and subsequently led by Sven Schwersensky, the Resident Representative of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office, and took place in Seoul on the 30th of October 2015.

The Historikerstreit (historians’ dispute) was a controversy in 1986/87 about the integration of the National Socialist Holocaust into the German historiography and its meaning for the conception of history in Germany which is of crucial importance for the national identity. The issues of this publicly held debate were the different historical interpretations of the Nazi regime and especially the dispute whether the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews should be regarded as historically unique or if there were historical points of reference for the Holocaust. This Singularitätsdebatte (singularity debate), i.e. the discussion whether the Holocaust was characterised by specific features which were non-existent during other genocides in the past, was not only conducted by historians, but also by various publicists and social scientists.

If you are interested in more information and would like to read a short paper about the background, the development and the implication of the Historikerstreit, please follow this link: Historikerstreit 1986-87.pdf (in German).


“Seminar on International Comparisons of Trade Union Organising Strategies”, organised by the FKTU Research Center in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, October 25 to 28, 2015)

The establishment and improvement of organising strategies has been increasingly noted to be a necessary, yet a rather complex task for Korean trade unions. Against this background, the Research Center of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office co-hosted the “Seminar on International Comparisons of Trade Union Organising Strategies” in Seoul from the 25th until the 28th of October 2015. In order to provide some in-depth background information about the labour market situation and trade union organisations in Korea, a comprehensive framework programme was organised, including a guided visit at Shinhanil Electric Co. Ltd. in Bucheon with a subsequent discussion on the current situation of the company union as well as informative meetings with Mr. Lee Won Bo, chairperson of the Korea Labor & Society Institute, and high-ranking representatives of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

Following a presentation about the current organisation strategies and future of trade unions in Korea by Mr. Noh Jin Kwi, Standing Advisor of the FKTU Research Center, trade union organising strategies were analysed from different international perspectives by the three experts who were invited by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office. By underlining the importance of cross-country comparisons, Mr. Roland Schneider, Senior Policy Advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), referred to the ‘employment miracle’ in Germany where employment did not decrease as much as the decrease in GDP would have predicted and explained that this was a result of effective collective bargaining efforts. In stressing that trade unions require stable organisation strategies to be successful, Mr. Schneider gave the advice that unions need to provide services for the traditional constituency, but that they should also meet the preferences of a more representative cross-section of the workforce, e.g. address the issues of non-regular workers. Mr. Haruhisa Yamaneki, Executive Director of the Department of Organizational Affairs of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO), spoke about the reasons for the decreased trade union density in Japan, i.e. the changing landscape of the industrial structure, the increase in non-regular work, the diversification of management forms, and the decreased number of experienced union members. Furthermore, he elaborated on the future tasks for RENGO in order to reach their goal to increase their number of members to 10 million by 2020. As the Organizing and Campaigns Director of IndustriALL Global Union, Mr. Adam Lee underlined that the recruitment of new members, the maintenance of existing ones, and the increased participation of members are key to effective organisation. He further described how IndustriALL offers different ways of supporting organising efforts, e.g. through project work, sector work, campaigns, global framework agreements, and relationships with brands. The keen interest of the seminar’s participants was illustrated by the many diverse questions asked, but also by the subsequent vibrant discussion in the working groups in which they analysed the current trends within the unions and different strategies to improve their organisation.

During the seminar, it was emphasised that the implementation of effective organising strategies should be a crucial task for trade unions, especially in today’s times of declining union density in Korea. Whilst countries’ and unions’ situations can be very different, unionists can learn from cross-country comparisons and experiences. The invited experts as well as representatives of the FKTU Research Center and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office concluded during the evaluation meeting that the results of the seminar’s discussions should lead to actions as the work of unions within and outside of Korea still needs to be promoted considerably, with the improvement of organising strategies being one of their central challenges.


7th Annual Congress of the Korea International Studies Association on “Econophoria” in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, October 16-17, 2015)

The theory of ‘Econophoria’, the idea that the solution to all domestic and international governance problems are being sought through the pursuit of economic development, trade, and interdependence, is especially relevant for Northeast Asia as it appears especially widespread amongst scholars and policy-makers in this region. Even though aspects of Econophoria seem to permeate many Northeast Asian countries, however, the discussion on its effectiveness and consequences remains rather limited.

Against this background, the Korea International Studies Association organised its 7th annual congress in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office on the topic of “Econophoria”. In his introductory keynote address on the “Experiences from Europe”, EU Ambassador Gerhard Sabathil spoke about the history of economic interdependences and Econophoria in Europe, underlining the differences in the situations of Northeast Asia and the unsuitability of the European example as an exact ‘blueprint’. Referring to Jean Monnet, he pointed out the fact that in the case of Europe it was both economic and political cooperation which was the driving force of integration. The following presentations covered various related topics, beginning with the analysis of the theoretical perspectives. Three experts, Professor Javad Heydarian from the De La Salle University, Philippines, Professor Haruko Satoh from the Osaka University, Japan, and Professor Pang Zongying from the Renmin University, China, discussed during the subsequent panels different country perspectives on Econophoria and the regional dimensions of the phenomenon. While the importance and impact of Econophoria in their respective countries of origin were scrutinized by Professor Satoh and by Professor Pang, Professor Heydarian examined the topic with regard to the Sino-Japanese relations. The congress was further expanded by presentations on international law and international political economy in the region as well as student presentations on different wide-ranging topics, e.g. on the different approaches to development cooperation and the national unification.

History has shown that economic interdependence alone cannot prevent wars and conflict – the First World War was referred to as a prominent example since its outbreak was not prevented by the stark increase in trade during the period before 1914. The importance of political interaction as well as the interplay between political and economic factors were emphasised repeatedly during this congress. However, further research may be required to evaluate the dimensions and consequences of Econophoria in Northeast Asia, especially under conditions of declining growth.


Talk/discussion on the question “How did the German Reunification change Germany?“ by Markus Meckel (Seoul, October 13, 2015)

The process of German Reunification remains a topic of particular interest for many Koreans in their quest for the national unification of the Korean peninsula. Despite the undeniably important differences between the two cases, Koreans may draw important lessons from the German Reunification process. In reflecting on his own personal experiences, Markus Meckel, the penultimate foreign minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and a former member of the German Bundestag, elaborated on these aspects in his talk “How did the German Reunification change Germany?” which was held in the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and which was organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office.

By contrasting the main differences between the German Reunification process and the current Korean situation, Mr. Meckel especially emphasized the greater possibilities of contact between West and East Germans during the division which enabled them to sustain a certain sense of belonging and identification. In addition to the importance of informal contact, Mr. Meckel identified several other conditions which are crucial for a peaceful unification, in particular the establishment of a welcoming culture and the people’s willingness to change. He further argued that the peaceful revolution of the people in the GDR was indispensable for the German Reunification.

In noting that the debate in South Korea often seems to concentrate on the costs of a future unification, Mr. Meckel stressed that freedom is always costly and that the focus should be laid on the question of a common identity. As the current president of the German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) which is responsible for the maintenance of the German war graves as well as the preservation of the memory of the war sacrifices, Mr. Meckel concluded his talk by underlining the importance of dealing with the own country’s war history and war victims. As part of the discussion with the students following his talk, Mr. Meckel underlined that the German case illustrates the importance of a regional security structure and of the necessity to also focus on the mental process in order to achieve peaceful national unification.

 

 

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