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[Editorial] Academic cooperation

[Editorial] Academic cooperation

Scholars can help ease East Asian conflict

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Published : 2013-12-10 19:44
Updated : 2013-12-10 19:44

Heads of major universities in Korea, China, Japan and Vietnam agreed to set up a common curriculum to teach classics of the four East Asian countries during their meeting in Seoul last week. If carried forward further, this move would pave the way for a joint history textbook, which could serve as the foundation for mutual understanding and friendly cooperation among peoples in the region.

The annual forum that brings together presidents of the four countries’ top national universities in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Hanoi was launched in 1999 to discuss ways to promote cooperation and exchanges among their schools. The focus of this year’s discussion, however, was on possible roles the prestigious academic institutions could and should assume in helping ease tensions in the region and enhance the work toward friendly partnership and co-prosperity. It was a timely and valuable theme that should lead to concrete follow-up measures and draw attention from a broader range of academic circles in the countries.

Last week’s conference of the four universities, which are collectively called Besetoha, came at a time of mounting rivalry and tensions among China, Japan and Korea over historical and territorial issues.

President Park Geun-hye and visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met on the same day the university heads exchanged views, discussing the regional security situation, which had been further strained in the wake of Beijing’s unilateral declaration last month of its air defense zone over the East China Sea.

Northeast Asia is emerging as the world’s most dynamic region in terms of global growth. But historical problems and territorial disputes have deterred the region from realizing its potential to become the world’s largest economic bloc.

Calling this phenomenon the Asia Paradox, Park has pushed for her Northeast Asia peace and cooperation initiative, a process that calls for regional countries to build trust step-by-step, beginning with softer, nonpolitical issues. In these areas, universities and other academic institutions may work together better than government policymakers and corporate executives, who have conflicting interests with their counterparts in other nations.

Over the long term, academic exchanges and cooperation can be effective in bridging divides and creating common understanding among regional countries, thus opening the era of Asia Consensus.

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