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Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Exploring South Korea's Path to Peace: A Kroc School Faculty Development Journey

Written by Kroc School

Just days after conferring the degrees upon the graduating class of 2023 at the commencement celebration, a group of  Kroc School faculty departed to South Korea for a learning and development trip. Led by Dean Patricia Márquez, their destination was Seoul, nearby  Icheon, and the renowned Jeju Island, often referred to as the "Peace Island," where they had the opportunity to attend the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity alongside colleagues from the Carter School’s Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CAR) program and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

The Jeju Peace Forum, held annually, serves as a significant platform for policy discourse centered around seeking peace and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia. The event attracts diverse participants, including scholars, practitioners, politicians, ambassadors, UN officials, and representatives from the European Union, among others. The 2023 Jeju Forum agenda included topics related to peacebuilding in the Indo-Pacific region and climate related challenges.  Former Secretary of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon served as the keynote speaker for the opening ceremony and the faculty got to listen to his important messages regarding peace in the region and the world.

Dr. Roland Wilson, GMU Korea Professor, Peace and Conflict Studies Center Asia (PACSC Asia) Director and international mediator, shared his perspective,  “It was quite remarkable to see two different peace and conflict resolution schools and faculty members come together to share their diverse experiences and collectively learn about Korea and the greater region. This success is a true testimony to their professionalism, leadership and the shared vision for a more peaceful society.  As we say in Korean 시작이반이다, which means when we start something, we are already halfway there. In this case, I believe it means that our relationship, cooperation and collaboration will continue to grow into greatness.”

Throughout the entire visit, Kroc School Faculty engaged in ongoing conversations about key issues in the ever-changing geopolitics, including the tensions between North and South Korea. While in Seoul, they learn about Certified Benefit Corporations (B-Corps) from B Lab Korea, social impact investment firm Merry Year Social Company (MSYC) and Tree Planet. These organizations offered insights into the growth of social entrepreneurship and innovation in South Korea. Located in an economic cluster known as “social valley” where B Corps thrive in doing business for good, helping to transform today’s capitalistic system into a new global economic system that values people and the planet alongside profit. Our faculty also discussed South Korea’s investment in public diplomacy with the Korea Foundation at the Korea Foundation Global Center. An unexpected surprise was a visit to the Korean Foundation XR (extended reality) Gallery, with an immersive digital exhibit titled “Pale Blue Dot” fostering learning by playing. 

Faculty members meeting with B Lab Korea 

Dean Márquez commented on the lasting benefits of the faculty development trip, “It is this type of creative learning opportunity that makes the Kroc School an institution on the rise. In the span of a week, we engaged with scholars, practitioners, and thought leaders on a scale that wouldn’t be quite possible staying at home. The transformation happened also as we walked on the streets of Seoul, visited museums, ate in popular markets or traveled in the subway. We learned so much from every experience. Our horizons were expanded. There is no doubt in my mind that this incredible learning trip strengthened our sense of belonging to a School with vision and a bright future. Now, everyone is thrilled to bring the lessons learned to our students and programs.”

Dean Márquez speaking at the Jeju Peace Institute

In addition to attending the International Peace and Prosperity Forum on Jeju Island, the faculty members and Dean Márquez had the opportunity to visit the demilitarized zone between North & South Korea for an experience that they surely won’t forget. This experience served as a physical reminder of the ongoing conflict and division between North & South Korea.

Associate Professor Dr. Sarah Federman reflected on her experience with her fellow Faculty members and the impact it had on her, "Our South Korea trip helped me understand how North Korea became such an isolated and dangerous country. I had no idea, for example, that the United States dropped more bombs on North Korea during the Korean War than it did on either Japan or Germany in World War II. In many ways, the trip shifted how I see the contemporary conflict between the North and South and our approaches to it. There's no replacement to visiting a place and meeting the people who live out the decisions made long ago by people they never knew."

Faculty members & Dean Márquez at the DMZ 

The Kroc School faculty took part in the exciting opportunity to engage in a culturally enriching experience during a guided tour of Incheon. This tour aimed to provide the group with a comprehensive orientation and overview of Incheon's vibrant history while offering insights into Korean culture, traditions, and customs. 

With the memories of their time in South Korea firmly etched in their minds and hearts, the faculty members and Dean Márquez return to their roles at the Kroc School with a renewed sense of cultural appreciation and a strengthened commitment to fostering peace and understanding in an increasingly interconnected world, something we aim to embody through our teachings and curriculum here at the Kroc School. They look forward to utilizing the knowledge gained and building upon the relationships established to continue their efforts in promoting peace, understanding, and positive change in the world.

Kroc School

About the Author

Kroc School

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' mission is to equip and empower innovative changemakers to shape more peaceful and just societies.