Last week new international relations Professor Timo Kivimaki accompanied former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari in Seoul as part of an international effort aimed at building bridges between North and South Korea.
Here he blogs on his experiences in Korea and a distinguished career in peace and conflict resolution in East Asia.
‘As a scholar of conflicts and peace I have identified conflict resolution opportunities and investigated strategies for such processes for several prominent peace-makers.
‘My preparation of a peace process for Indonesia’s vice president, Jusuf Kalla, is reported in my book ‘Can Peace Research Make Peace’; whilst my work in Indonesia's rebellious Papua province, and my academic advisory role in Aceh peace process for Finland’s former president and Nobel laureate Ahtisaari, is reported in my book 'Initiating a Peace Process in Papua'.
‘In May 2014 a member of a committee that South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, set up for Korean peace - the ‘South Korea Committee to Prepare for Reunification with North’ - approached me and asked if I could investigate if there were any chances of involving Finnish President Ahtisaari in efforts to help direct communication between the two Koreas.
‘Having started work on this topic with President Ahtisaari last summer, last week I was invited to accompany him to Seoul for further discussions and a conference by the reunification committee.
‘During talks, President Ahtisaari was publicly asked to speculate on his opportunities to act as a mediator between North and South Korea. The suggestion was presented in a dinner panel in the presence of a large number of ambassadors and officials from several countries.
‘At this stage it is important to be clear this is not an official South Korean initiative and that North Korea has not yet participated in these speculations at all.
Prospects for reconcilliation
‘But it was the first time a member of the presidential committee for the unification of Koreas has publicly speculated about such an idea. My personal opinion is that President Ahtisaari would be able to help parties take several important steps towards peace and unification.
‘Whilst there may be challenges on the way - challenges I discuss in a new piece for The Conversation ‘Kim Jong Un is not the only obstruction to peace in Korea’ - this is an exciting project to be involved in and one I believe expertise from the University could be mobilized even further to support.’
If you are interested in finding out more please email Timo via T.A.Kivimaki@bath.ac.uk.