Engaging North Korea with Soft Power: Knowledge Sharing with Pyongyang


Thursday, November 21, 2013, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs

Kyung-Ae Park, Korea Foundation Chair, Institute of Asian Research; Director, Centre for Korean Research, The University of British Columbia

Professor Kyung-Ae Park holds the Korea Foundation Chair at the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia. She serves as the Director of the Center for Korean Research and also as the Director of the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program (KPP) at UBC. She is a former president of the Association of Korean Political Studies in North America. She is the author, coauthor, and editor of many scholarly publications on issues ranging from North and South Korean politics and foreign relations to gender and development. Notable publications include Non-Traditional Security Issues in North Korea, North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economics, and Society, New Challenges of North Korean Foreign Policy, Korean Security Dynamics in Transition, and China and North Korea: Politics of Integration and Modernization. She has also authored articles in a number of journals, including Comparative Politics, Journal of Asian StudiesPacific Affairs, Asian Survey, and Pacific Review. Since the mid-1990s, she has made several trips to Pyongyang and hosted North Korean delegation visits to Canada, playing a key role in promoting track-two exchanges and diplomacy between Canada and North Korea. She recently set up the Canada-DPRK Knowledge Partnership Program at the University of British Columbia, which has been hosting North Korean professors as part of a long-term knowledge exchange and thus represents an unprecedented, ground-breaking program in North America.

Chaired by Sun Joo Kim, Harvard-Yenching Professor of Korean History; Director, Korea Institute, Harvard University


As it is becoming increasingly apparent that North Korea is unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons, the international community must focus on alternative forms of engagement that operate independently of the political process. As an alternative form of engagement, this talk will focus on soft power engagement, especially on knowledge sharing as a ‘high-culture’ form of soft power. Based on on-going knowledge sharing program with North Korea the speaker has set up, the talk seeks to explore high-culture soft power engagement with North Korea. As articulated by Joseph Nye, soft power is the ability to achieve goals through attraction rather than by threat or coercion. Although frequently associated with the state and its foreign policy, non-state actors can also develop and possess soft power independent of the state. In particular, educational institutions have long held significant amounts of soft power in the form of university soft power that transcends national boundaries. Through knowledge sharing, these non-state actors can leverage soft power to influence a society by educating its social and political elite, alongside its future leaders. Knowledge sharing that focuses on human resource development is one of the most successful areas of cooperation between North Korea and the international community. Knowledge sharing activities provide North Korean participants much-needed access to desired knowledge and ideas, and this access carries potential for further socialization effects – the spreading of ideas, customs and values. By analyzing the utility of knowledge sharing as a tool for engagement, the talk proposes that Pyongyang can be a ‘willing interpreter and receiver’ of soft power.

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.

* Video available for view at: https://vimeo.com/channels/koreainstitute