On 21 April 2021, the Peace and Conflict Studies Center (PACSC Asia) at George Mason University Korea collaborated with Hanns Seidel Foundation Korea to hold the Problem-Solving Workshop (PSW), “A Conflict Analysis and Resolution Approach to Inter-Korean Cooperation: From Lessons Learned to Dynamic and Hybrid Cooperative Efforts.” Based on the lessons from a PSW that was held in the 2020 Fall titled, “A Conflict Analysis and Resolution to International Cooperation and Sustainable Development: A Path to Soft-landing Korean Unification,” this year’s focus was on key dynamic and hybrid efforts to create a more peaceful and sustainable environment. To get a better picture of the PSW, Goeun Baek (Conflict Analysis & Resolution, ‘23), MC of the workshop and project lead, elaborated on the preparation process and purpose of the event.
She said that the purpose of the Problem- Solving Workshop was to create a direct communication channel between the grassroots communities and the decision-makers through the Track II approach. This approach is aimed at providing a platform for grassroots organizations at the third level, to directly communicate with other policymakers in the first level. This process is crucial because it allows people like NGO leaders and government officials to be aware of the mindset of grassroots members. Furthermore, regular citizens can take advantage of this opportunity since it helps them express their arguments about certain issues in a comfortable way.
At the actual workshop, there were about 50 participants made up of citizens, students, scholars, and international organizations in Korea and abroad who gathered to discuss ways to implement sustainable development for peacemaking. The Problem-Solving Workshop began with the opening remarks by Dr. Roland B. Wilson, director of PACSC Asia and Felix Glenk, the project manager of Hanns Seidel Foundation - Korea Office, who analyzed the results and objectives of the PSW in 2020. According to Dr. Wilson, the key concept of last year was highlighting the ongoing projects and promoting peace, sustainability, and goals of democratization for the Korean Peninsula. Continuing with the goals from last year, this year’s aim is to help people cooperate and build trust to solve conflict situations.
The highlight of the Problem-Solving Workshop started in the afternoon during the second half of the workshop. People were divided into breakout sessions and casually brainstormed projects that they want to do to support inter-Korean cooperation. This group dialogue was unique as it consisted of various people with different perspectives and interests. These people all put their heads together and brought up new innovative ideas. In one discussion, for example, participants talked about implementing the SDGs and teaching them in North Korean schools. Afterward, they presented their project ideas to the audience and exchanged questions back and forth.
In conclusion, the first PSW of 2021 was an enriching time for all participants because participants had the opportunity to learn and discuss ways to resolve conflicts on the Korean Peninsula. This workshop was especially important because it provided the opportunity for grassroots communities to interact with non-governmental organizations.
April 22, 2021