The 7th Asian Leadership Network
Hosted at Tsinghua University, Beijing by Global Asia Leadership Forum and Students’ Association for Global Affairs from January 18th to 22nd, 2016. Under the theme of the Future of East Asian cooperation, 21 participants talked about:
- Security: North Korea’s nuclear issue and the perspectives of surrounding countries
- Culture: Commonalities and differences in Confucianism of the three countries
- Economics: China-Korea FTA and lessons for the China-Korea-Japan FTA
- Politics: Rise of nationalism and its solutions
We invited Professor Liu Jiangyong from Tsinghua University, who gave us an insightful lecture about “How to maintain a sustainable security future in Northeast Asia”. The participants also had fun at the Forbidden City, Houhai, and Sam li tun.
About Students’ Association for Global Affairs
Students’ Association for Global Affairs is a Chinese student organization spanning 200 members concentrated within Tsinghua University.
We flew from Gimpo airport at 12pm and arrived at Beijing Capital International Airport at 2pm. Luting and Wenyuan, two members of SAGA, welcomed us and took us to the hostel. All the participants met and ate at a Korean diner where we had fun translating and describing all the Korean food and alcohol to the Chinese participants. SAGA’s president, Cui li, also had an interesting idea where everyone would introduce themselves in every language they could speak in. It took awhile:)
We ate breakfast at the conference room and waited for Professor Liu Jiangyong of Tsinghua University to arrive. He gave us an insightful lecture about the current security dilemmas of Northeast Asia, and how each country could try to solve them. It being a complex issue, there were many questions from the participants. Armond, an American student studying in China, had many questions in particular. Junghyun, a member of GALF, asked more specific questions pertaining to our generation’s role in achieving regional cooperation.
We had lunch at U-center in Wudaokou. The maratang was very nice, but it was quite spicy so some people ate ice cream and Taiwanese drinks.
The politics session started from 2pm and finished at 5pm. “Rise of nationalism and its solutions” was the topic. After everyone discussed relevant questions in the booklet for two hours, Sookyung, Li, Junghyun, and Zhang made a short presentation about the meaning of nationalism and its development in each East Asian country.
We had the culture session this morning regarding “Commonalities and differences in Confucianism of the three countries”. It was a very engaging session as the discussion naturally developed towards modern gender issues and the underlying social structure. Then it moved to our generation’s preparation for owning a house and starting a family in each country. We were still talking while eating lunch. Why is it that nobody seems to be confident in buying a house within the next 2o years? Then again, the writer of this blog isn’t so sure either.
After having take out for lunch (which was very delicious), we took the subway to go to the Forbidden City. Fortunately it was neither extremely cold nor particularly smoggy that day. We also took a bus to go to specific hutong, old streets in Beijing, that sold Chinese snacks and souvenirs.
The dinner, which we had at Houhai, was fantastic.
We had the last two sessions on this day. After the usual two hour-long discussion, the economics team presented about “China-Korea FTA and lessons for the China-Korea-Japan FTA”. Inadvertently the issue of RCEP and TPP came up, and the participants had a fun time discussing all the merits and demerits of joining particular regional free trade agreements. The economics session was quite hard to discuss about compared to other sessions because we had to continue re-referencing our study materials for specific information. Interestingly, the topic of discussion diverted during the Q&A and turned into a debate about the relationship between media and public opinion.
The topic of the security session was “North Korea’s nuclear issue and the perspectives of surrounding countries”. Here we were able to reference quite a lot of materials, including the lecture Professor Liu gave us two days ago. Another matter of interest was speculating the re-unification of the Korean peninsula. What kind of re-unification is most feasible at this stage? Would the Kim regime persist for at least 50 years? If the Kim regime collapses, who would take control of the North Korean territory? If South Korea takes control of North Korea, would China be satisfied with sharing a border with South Korea? What would be the response of America? How would Japan play into this scenario? Asking and answering all these questions at each other took us for quite an interesting ride.
After the two sessions, we went to a Japanese diner and had sushi, okonomiyaki, and udon. A reporter from Xinla came to interview us about the East Asian student cooperation program. At 10pm some participants went to KTV, and some participants went for a massage. Some of the people who went to the KTV wanted to go to a bar after. Unfortunately a lot of the bars weren’t open after 4am.
Some Korean participants went to have nail treatment in the morning and came back with quite the shining examples. After having beijing duck for lunch, the participants exchanged gifts with each other. Considering that was not in the program, it was a good surprise. We took some photos with each other and bade farewell in front of Tsinghua University.
Participant feedback of the 7th ALN
Kim Gawon, Waseda University
I had high hopes for my third ALN conference, and it did not disappoint. Having serious discussion on international issues with Chinese and Japanese students is always an interesting experience, because our region, East Asia, is an extremely dynamic part of the world that sees important changes every day. As a member of the security team, I discussed the North Korean nuclear problem with my teammates. My Chinese and Japanese counterparts showed great interest in my perspective as a South Korea on this issue. One of the most notable differences in opinion was of the role of the United States in the Korean peninsula; Chinese students were significantly more cautious of American influence. However, such differences seemed reasonably possible to accommodate with substantial discussion among countries. Another interesting point of discussion was on the possible scenarios of a unified Korea. We explored various possible outcomes that are both feasible and acceptable for all of our countires. Overall, the 7th ALN was a great success, and I am happy to have been a part of it.
Lee Jiwon, Seoul National University
The 7th ALN was an impressive opportunity that I could interact profoundly not only in an academic way but also in personal and cultural aspects. As it was my first time networking with Chinese and Japanese university students, it was interesting to find out that we share common culture and ideas, but at the same time maintain different perspectives on certain issues. When discussing about Confucianism and gender roles in our society, we shared similar understanding of women’s desire to take an active role in the society and the related barriers in an actual situation. Meanwhile, in security and politics section, there was an enthusiastic debate about each country’s own interest and relationship between the nations. The professor’s lecture was a great help on gaining background knowledge about current situation of East Asia. In a personal aspect, as a member of the economics team, it was a worthwhile chance to study and have a presentation about Korea-China FTA and related economic cooperation like TPP and RCEP. In sum, 5 days in Beijing was a meaningful experience of building global friendship, exchanging culture, and broadening academic scope. Thank you for the all the efforts!
Park Kanghee, Hankuk University of Foreign Languages
Actually I didn’t have any expectations before going to ALN this time. Because it was my first time to participate in ALN, and I thought it would just be an academic activity like things which we often did in Korea. But now I think it was a really good experience and I got much from it. The most impressive thing is the lecture by Prof. Liu who is a professor of Tsinghua University. He said that the security issue is the most urgent thing in Northeast Asia. Like western area, we have to build a cooperative security system which includes South Korea, North Korea, China, Japan and etc. I’ve heard about this cooperative system before and since then I’ve been interested in that system. So his lecture attracted my interest. And also it was a good time to understand other countries through the debate on politics, culture, economics and security issue of Northeast Asia. As the student majoring in Chinese Politics, I was wondering that how Chinese think about social issues and international issues of China and through this time I got understand how they think. So it was a very meaningful time for me.
Lee Yoojung, Sungshin Women’s University
Participating in ALN was a good opportunity to know the Chinese and Japanese student way of thinking. We can hear the personal idea and thinking about recent issues related to three counties. Our team was talking about the impact on the modern society of Confucianism. Confucianism samely came from china, but the influence and the way of development in three countries are different. At first, I was surprised the opinion was much different than what I’ve thought before. By discussing about the topic, I realized that I tend to have a narrow perspective but this activity helped me broaden our horizons and made me think about the way I think. And then we can acknowledge the difference between three countries and understand each other.
Cho Hongrae, Sogang University
I looked forward to going to China since 7th ALN was the first trip to abroad in my life. I thought of how much different Chinese people are from Korean. Before discussing the topics especially regarding the security issues, I had a theory that Chinese people are aggressive and trying to take over Korean peninsula. However, it turned out that I was wrong. They said that they never imagined themselves taking over North Korea. Their wish is bringing peace back into the peninsula and Asia by unifying South and North Korea. It really impressed me.
Cho Sookyung, Korea University
As the president of GALF, planning the ALN with foreign student organizations was an eye-opening experience in many ways. While there were some initial frustrations with one another, arriving at China and managing the forum together did wonders for mutual understanding and cooperation. The sessions were very engaging as we had fun bridging the gap between even the most basic of our assumptions regarding several topics. I especially enjoyed the speculations about Korean reunification and actions of surrounding countries, the role of media in influencing public opinion on foreign countries, and gender roles in changing Asian societies. Social activities such as tours in the Forbidden City and houhai, having lunch and dinner together, and playing games also played a big role by making it easier for the participants to be friends. Although this is my 3rd time in participating in an ALN, the 7th ALN was the most memorable forum of all. It was the kind of ALN that I wanted to have as my last experience in GALF.
Cho Junghyun, Seoul National University
The biggest lesson I learned from ALN was the importance of communication. Before moving on to fervent discussion of each session, the first thing we had to do in our group was explaining the exact definition of the topic. Even though three countries are based on the same civilization, the meanings of terminologies were slightly different or have changed from the initial meaning due to different historical or social backgrounds. We frequently had to correct or explain several other vocabularies to convey our real intensions. During the politics session, our group members came up with a conclusion that we really need to devote more time and effort communicating and understanding each other. Just by reading the literature of Chinese or Japanese, it was hard to grasp what their real intensions are and how they really think about certain issues. This was something I could have not experienced in Korea. For example, when we were talking about ‘nationalism’ attitude towards the concepts was very different among nations. So we had to spend additional time explaining why and how it is different. Through ALN, I had a chance to widen my perspective and build friendship. I learned the importance of networking and communication among students of three countries and hope other students can also take this opportunity to strengthen the cooperation of East Asia.