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Jeju Forum Alumni Newsletter
Titles [Jeju Forum Alumni Newsletter] (No.6 | November 2017) Impact on norms and networks in East Asia
Writer JPI  (admin)
2017-11-08 오후 1:12:10

The Remarkable Platform and Spirit of the Jeju Forum: Impact on norms and networks in East Asia


 


Yves Tiberghien

Director Emeritus of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Executive Director of the UBC China Council, Associate Professor of Political Science at UBC 

 

 

After decades of increased economic integration and institution-building, the Asia-Pacific region has entered a much more competitive and tense period over the last three years. While the short-term horizon is dominated by extremely high risks around North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and the rippling effects of populism in the US and Europe on free trade and globalization, long-term trends point toward a series of profound issues: the rise of China and India, intense geopolitical competition, territorial disputes, increased migration, cyber threats, competition around the 4th industrial revolution, and zero sum behavior linked to a common climate threat all require novel thinking and new institutional efforts. Venues and incentives for such creative efforts are few and far between.

 

 

Fortunately, the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity has emerged since 2001 as one of the most innovative and stimulating platforms to reduce misperceptions, stimulate new ideas, weave new networks, and test new initiatives in a safe and relaxed environment. In contrast to other high level summits and track-2 meetings in the Asia-Pacific, there is comparatively less grand-standing and more genuine in-depth brainstorming among policy leaders of all key countries at Jeju.

 

 

It is a delicate formula crafted by a coalition of Korean actors(central government, Jeju government, academic institutions, think tanks, regional leaders, business, and NGOs) over 16 years. The forum brings together Korean political leaders(including President Moon Jae-In through an inspiring video speech) and Senior Adviser Moon Chung-in, high profile former world leaders(such as former US President Al Gore, former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and former Portuguese Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva), along with policy leaders, business leaders, civil society leaders, indigenous leaders, and think tank / academic leaders. The inspiring setting and great human atmosphere on the slightly remote Southern shore of Jeju Island tend to a special quality bubble that brings the best of people and a focus on common public goods.

 

 

For sure, some panels on security issues or global economic institutions led to predictable nationally-determined positions without great common ground among the various sides. However, I have also witnessed remarkable exchanges among high-ranking policy advisers from adversaries, who were able to converge to a common understanding of facts and even elements of compromise and consensus on issues such as THAAD and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Such “epiphanies” are rare in international politics and prove the incredible value of the Jeju forum. Once openings of that sort appear, they can be pursued further through dinner conversations or even a joint walk in Jeju’s “healing forest”(another remarkable treasures of Jeju).

 

 

The Jeju forum is also striking for the quality exploration of deep long-term trends with well-managed and diverse panels. This year, panels on the future of the Liberal International Order, climate change politics(following Al Gore’s wonderful speech) and the 4th Industrial Revolution and its impact on both innovation and equality, were particularly noteworthy. It is rare to witness the quality of discussions and long-term insights found at Jeju.

 

 

Compared to other quality panels that occasionally take place in the best national think tanks, the Jeju forum brings strong, innovative, and diverse Asian voices that are likely to play a central role in shaping our global future.  

 

 

Also remarkable is the role played by Jeju Special Self Governing Province, under the leadership of the extremely dedicated Governor Won Heeryong, whom I had the pleasure to meet. Following a painful post-war history and a legacy of poverty, Jeju has now emerged as a visionary green pioneer, an eco-tourism hub, and a high-tech hub. Jeju’s own transformation deserves to be studied and known more widely.

 

 

Given the strengths and momentum of the Jeju Forum, I have a few suggestions on how to further increase its impact. The most important task is to find more avenues to document some of the intellectual and human breakthroughs that take place at Jeju and to build on them. It may be possible to form small, well-selected, and mediated groups of policy leaders from key countries to reach consensus on difficult issues and to write down joint policy recommendations or even joint aspirational declarations. Or, it could be conceivable to ensure that a panel where an “epiphany” took place can meet again the following year and follow up with a lunch or dinner to deepen the potential “epiphany.” Additionally, it may be possible to have a small team of academic/think tank mediators(cutting across nationalities) put together a series of informal joint ideas that emerged from discussions and that could be circulated among governments as blueprints for consensus, while protecting the identity of leaders involved? 

 

 

Getting key Asian and world leaders(including former, current, and rising leaders) together with civil society, indigenous groups, business and academic leaders in a relatively remote but beautiful location is a great achievement. There may be further creative steps that could be conceived in order to take advantage of this constructed common serendipity to generate new ideas and institutional embryos. The Jeju Forum represents a huge asset and the outcome of both vision and cooperation by the entire Korean society. It deserves to play an even bigger role in catalyzing positive change for Asia and the world.

 

 

Yves Tiberghien(Ph.D. Stanford University, 2002) is the Director Emeritus of the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Executive Director of the UBC China Council, Associate Professor of Political Science at UBC, and a Senior Fellow at the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.