US-North Korea Trust Building through Academic Science Cooperation

By Stuart Thorson, Thomas Harblin and Frederick F. Carriere.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Since 2001, Syracuse University (USA) and Kim Chaek University of Technology (Pyongyang, DPRK) have, with involvement of The Korea Society, been engaged in the only sustained US/North Korea academic science collaboration to date. The multidisciplinary research focus has been standards-based information technology. Concrete outcomes of the collaboration include the first digital library in North Korea, a multilateral Regional Scholars and Leaders Seminar program, first ever participation by DPRK undergraduates in the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Collegiate Programming Contest, development of a Junior Faculty Leadership and Development program to bring young DPRK scholars to the US for semester long study, and a national academic conference on scientific cooperation with the DPRK. The paper describes our process of working with DPRK scholars and discusses how we collaboratively created a culturally informed climate of positive interpretation in which empathetic trust enabled sustainable academic partnerships under what might initially appear to be extremely difficult legal and political conditions. Addressing these challenges required careful attention by US and DPRK participants to developing and maintaining trust with a much larger group of key stake-holders including non-participating faculty, university leaders, external funding sources, and government and political officials. This task was greatly aided by active support and validation from The Korea Society and the DPRK UN Mission in New York City. More generally, we discuss lessons learned to date and offer suggestions for how standards-based science diplomacy can be supportive of larger cooperative conflict resolution efforts. In this regard we emphasize the important role US research universities can play in supporting development of highly constructive trusted relations and communications channels even when high level political relations have become severely strained.

Keywords: North Korea, DPRK, Science Diplomacy, Conflict Resolution, Trust, Academic Science Collaboration, Information Technology

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.57-64. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 578.469KB).

Prof. Stuart Thorson

Professor, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA

Stuart Thorson is professor of international relations and political science in The Maxwell School and is a Fellow at Syracuse University’s Systems Assurance Institute. He holds a courtesy appointment in Computer and Information Science at Syracuse University. Thorson created, designed, and oversaw the implementation of the Maxwell School’s Global Collaboratory; a facility that uses advanced communications and computing technologies to support global research collaborations and distributed learning. He has co-authored two books on conflict resolution and over forty articles and book chapters in the areas of foreign policy, decision-making, computer modeling, and democratic theory. His current research interests are in the uses of information technology in support of democratic governance. Thorson presently directs the Syracuse University integrated information technology research collaboration with Kim Chaek University of Technology (DPRK) and is co-director of the Regional Scholars and Leaders Seminar initiative. Thorson has advised domestic and international universities, corporations, and governmental units on uses of information and communications technologies to enhance organizational effectiveness, governance, and distance collaborations.

Dr. Thomas Harblin

Vice President, Global Development, Institutional Advancement, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, USA

Thomas D. Harblin, Ph.D. leads Syracuse University’s program to acquire gifts and resources from alumni, parents, corporations, foundations, and organizations outside the USA to support its mission. His primary focus is Northeast Asia, especially Korea, China, Japan. Among his responsibilities, Dr. Harblin helps arrange funding for SU’s collaborations with the DPRK, including Kim Chaek University of Science and Technology, Pyongyang. He twice visited Pyongyang with SU’s IT Digital Library research team. VP Harblin earned MS and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell (Development Sociology), and has held faculty positions at Colorado State University and Rollins College (FL) and administrative positions at Paul Smith’s College (NY, VP Academic Affairs), Utica College of Syracuse University (Dean of the College), and Syracuse University (Vice President, Giving Programs). He contributes to SU’s DPRK programming by sharing his experience and knowledge of US higher education with visiting faculty and researchers.

Frederick F. Carriere

Vice President and Executive Director, The Korea Society, New York, USA

Frederick F. Carriere is executive director and vice president of The Korea Society. From 1984-1993, he served as executive director of the Korean-American Educational (Fulbright) Commission in Seoul.

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