▲ Jeju Peace Institute President Han Tae Kyu hopes to find ways to best utilize foreign aid at the “Aid or Development” workshop held 0ct.18-20. Photo by Darryl Coote
Han Tae Kyu, president of the Jeju Peace Institute (JPI), insists that he is retired.
“Yes, I am,” he said in an interview with The Jeju Weekly a day before he was to host “Aid or Development? Lessons Learned and Challenges for Korea,” a special workshop about the distribution of foreign aid, in conjunction with the Friedrich Namann Foundation for Freedom. “I am very active,” he conceded. “That’s true. Maybe in two years time I will retire completely.”
For a man who was at one time or another throughout his career Chancellor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director of National Security at the Blue House and the diplomat responsible for the Korea-US alliance, which dealt with all American forces issues, having a position that allowed him to stay put may seem like a form of retirement.
“When I am here there is no stress. There are no traffic jams,” he said with a laugh.
Han was a Foreign Service Officer for nearly 40 years. It was two years ago when he officially retired, but was then offered the presidency of the JPI by the Foreign Ministry, which founded the institute in 2006 in conjunction with the Jeju government. Though his title may have changed, as well as his locale, Han said that much of his responsibilities now are very similar to those he has had throughout his career.
“The Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security is a think tank organization,” Han said. “It is a think tank and training institute. So I think we were a bigger form of [the JPI], so I’m used to it.”
The purpose of the JPI is to foster peace and prosperity within Asia through the establishment of multilateral communication and cooperation.
“Multilateral [communication] has not been developed in this part of the world, so we want to promote multilateral communication in Asia. To start with, we must [engage in] dialogue [with] each other, to make it a habit to have a dialogue rather than frictions or conflict. So we want to promote dialogue in our part of the world,” he said.
Han explained that the reasons why multilateral communication has not yet been established in Asia is a complicated matter.
“One of the difficulties in Asia is the rivalry between China and Japan; that is a big obstacle,” he said, elaborating that they are the two big economic players in the region and do not see eye-to-eye on many issues, particularly human rights. Another obstacle is “many people refer to the cultural differences in Asian countries,” as well as “the past history of Japanese occupation,” and other “historical hangovers,” he said.
These issues may seem daunting, but Han is optimistic.
“Many people are skeptical of community building in Asia, but as you know, many Asians travel with each other and we are very interdependent on each other. So I think we have a very good ground for multilateral communication and community building now.”
Concerning historical hangovers from prior conflicts, occupations and disagreements, Han looks to Europe as evidence that it is possible for countries that have inflicted great pain on one another to forgive and work towards a solidified and peaceful future. “They had historical hangovers [which they] have wisely overcome,” he said.
This was the main issue of the last biannual Jeju Peace Forum held in April.
Recently, it was announced by the central government that the Jeju Peace Forum will become an annual event starting this year because “when you hold [it] bi-annually, naturally the forum is held and after two years nothing happens for a certain time and then we prepare another forum. So there was no continuity between the forums,” Han said. This will allow the JPI to have more control and consistency with administration, budget and topics discussed, creating a better opportunity to foster agreeable relationships in Asia.
The special workshop called “Aid or Development?” was held this past Oct. 18 - 20 at the JPI with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Experts from all over the world in the field of administering foreign aid came together to draw up a proposal for the Korean government, suggesting how the country should dispense foreign aid.
It was only a few decades ago when Korea was itself a recipient of foreign aid but since then the country has seen rapid growth and prosperity. Last November Korea became a member of both the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which has validated and solidified the country’s transformation from a recipient of foreign aid to a donor. The DAC is “something like a donors club” and the OECD is a “club of rich countries” that endeavors to give to those less fortunate, Han said.
“This is a remarkable development by Koreans so maybe we are in a better situation to understand how to better use foreign aid and how to develop from a less developed situation to more developed situation,” he said.
Currently there is discussion about the creation of a venue for these Asian multi-lateral talks, and Han believes Korea is potentially the ideal country for Asia’s version of the Geneva Convention. Neither China nor Japan would be ideal, Han elaborated, due to their rivalry which would only be fueled if the center for community development in Asia was under the supervision of either country.
“The ideal place is maybe Korea,” partially because of its rapid growth and its strong economic ties with both countries, Han said.
These multilateral communications that Han and the JPI are trying to establish could help to bring about the reunification of Korea as well as the creation of a single currency in Asia, which are some of the overall objectives of the organization.
For Han, “the purpose of foreign service or a diplomat is to promote international cooperation with the purpose of achieving peace and prosperity. That’s the whole thing and I’m doing exactly that here at the peace institute. So I am very happy.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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