▲ Jeju Peace Institute President Han Tae Kyu. Photo courtesy JPI
Editor’s note: Han Tae Kyu was a Foreign Service Officer for nearly 40 years. During his career he was Chancellor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director of National Security at the Blue House, the diplomat responsible for the Korea-US alliance, and a former ambassador to Thailand and Greece. Currently he is the president of the Jeju Peace Institute (JPI). This article was translated and edited for clarity.
“Island of World Peace” is one of Jeju’s many beautiful names.
This moniker was first used at the Korea-Russia summit between President Roh Tae-woo and President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991. Since then about 20 heads of state have visited the island, and the idea of developing Jeju as a center of the peace movement has caught on. When North Korean high officials visited South Korea in a series of meetings in the early 2000s, the mood for peace and cooperation between South and North Korea matured. Finally, it was suggested that a separate peace institute be founded on the island, and President Roh Moo-hyun officially designated Jeju as an “Island of World Peace” in 2005.
This peace research institution outside the capital area is the first of its kind. The Jeju Peace Institute is moving ahead, changing its name from the Jeju Peace Forum to the Jeju Forum. It was also announced by the central government that the Jeju Forum will become an annual event starting this year.
Han Tae Kyu, the president of the JPI, said the forum will increase its economic sessions, expanding from previously covering only diplomacy and security areas and revealed his ambition of developing the forum as “Asia’s Davos Forum” by attracting leading Asian entrepreneurs including those from China.
What made you build the Jeju Peace Institute in the Jungmun area?
Special legislation to establish Jeju Island as a free international city in 2002 included the program of developing Jeju Island as an international center for mul-tilateral communication and cooperation. Naturally, the idea of nurturing Jungmun district as a center for international conventions and summit conferences was developed.
How is the institute operated?
The Jeju Peace Institute aims to be a think tank organization based on networking activities. Jeju is physically isolated from the capital, Seoul, making it hard to acquire the human resources needed. However, we found that the research through “outsourcing” is highly effective. For this reason, JPI plans to employ a small staff made up of experts in their fields. Our main research areas are keeping the peace of the Korean peninsula and multilateral cooperation in Asian countries. When a new specific issue for research comes out, we find a related expert who is willing to do the work.
What are the difficulties facing the physical isolation of Jeju Island?
There are pros and cons. It is challenging that manpower resources are hard to find here, and networking with Seoul is not easy. However, the development of the Internet compensates for the geographical limitations. Being a remote vacation spot sometimes helps with networking because meeting, researching, and resting can be done in one place. We are proud that this is the only re- search center outside of Seoul in Korea.
It is said that the Jeju Peace Forum is changing.
The Jeju Peace Forum has been held regularly on a biennial basis since 2001. This is a big event operated at great expense with participation from influential organizations including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade but it has failed to draw much attention. It is even pointed out that the forum is wasting resources. Hence, it was decided that the forum become an annual event starting this year to create continuity between the forums. The discussion coverage has also expanded to the themes of economics, sociology, and environment, which receives more public attention. The host period is fixed to late May because Jeju is most beautiful at this time of year.
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