Korea Office

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Seoul 03131
South Korea

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» Events » 2016

Events 2016


Photo Exhibition "Instants of Peace" organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Goethe Institute in Seoul und Civil Peace Forum, (November 28 - December 20, 2016)

KDGW-FES-KIEP International Conference on "Change and Innovation in the Economy: Experiences and Perspectives from Germany and Korea" (Seoul, 24 to 26 November, 2016)

The global society and economy is going through common and substantial challenges such as digitalization, climate change, rising inequality and population aging.

In order to approach these challenges that arise from change and innovation through the perspective of global mega trends, the Koreanisch-Deutsche Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftswissenschaften (KDGW) co-hosted with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Korea office and the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP) the International Conference on "Change and Innovation in the Economy: Experiences and Perspectives from Germany and Korea" which was held in Seoul on 25th November, 2016.

The FES Korea office has invited two international experts on global mega trends: Prof. Daniel Buhr (Department of Policy Analysis and Political Economy, University of Tübingen) and Prof. Andrew DeWit (School of Economic Policy Studies, Rikkyo University). Prof. DeWit has delivered a keynote speech by pointing out the global mega trends at work and the governmental efforts for "Industrie 4.0" in Germany and "Creative Economy" in Korea. Prof. Buhr and Mr. Sven Schwersensky (Resident Representative, FES Korea) have contributed to the discussion to understand how these issues operate in both economies and which policy respronses are being envisaged. Especially the German Ambassador Mr. Stephan Auer has addressed the potential and importance for cooperation between the two countries with respect to the new era of innovation.

KLSI-FES Symposium on "EU-Korea FTA's Labour Standards Provisions and their Implementation Status" (Seoul, 23 November, 2016)

This year the European Commission has ordered an independant evaluation of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement on the occassion of its first five years of implementation. A special feature of the EU-Kore FTA is the sustainable development clause and in particular its reference to core labour standards. This is the reseason why the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been discussing the implementation of this chapter with its Korean and European trade union partners. As a result of this discussion a study was commissioned and conducted by the Korea Labor & Society Institute (KLSI).

In order to present and discuss the findings of the study the FES Korea office in cooperation with the KLSI has hosted a joint symposium which broad together Koran trade unionists and labour experts as wel as representatives from EU member states diplomatic missions in Korea on November 23, 2016.

The co-authors of the study have emphasized that the Korean government should make an additional effort to implement the international core labour standards. The participants also agreed that such a dialogue is meaningful both for Korean and European side.

FES Economy of Tomorrow Regional Conference and Vocational Training (Seoul, 10 to 15 October, 2016)

The Fourth industrial revolution is underway and traditional notions of job security are challenged. We need a social and democratic perspective which can shape the political economy of the future. We need a new economic model which is more inclusive, can create meaningful jobs and put welfare of workers at the centre. A change coalitions or discourse alliances are ways to adress the emerging trends.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India office, in collaboration with the Korea office have invited experts from ten Asian countires to look into these aspect at the FES Economy of Tomorrow Regional Conference in Seoul. The project coordinators of the regional offices reformulated the focus for the next phase of the project, with identification of the three concrete work lines, namely urban transformation, digital transformation and energy transformation.

The democratic spaces are shrinking, at the same time, societies are becoming more culturally diverse and pluralistic in nature. There is an inertia in terms of policy dialogues and the communication channels seem to be saturated. To this effect, the team got introduced to Political Discourse Framing and Transformative Change Making methods during the conference.

Study Visit Programme on "Trade and Sustainable Development and the EU-Korea FTA for a Delegation of Representatives from Vietnamese Government, Trade Unions and Civil Society, co-organized by FES Hanoi and FES Seoul office (Seoul, Sejong, 18 to 24 September, 2016)

Last year Vietnam becam the second Southeast Asian country, after Singapore, to seal a trade agreement with the EU. The EU-Vietnam FTA contains a Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter to protect and promote labour rights and lays out comprehensive rules for climate and enviromental protection.

In cooperation with the Vietnam Office of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Korea office organized a study visit programme on "Trade and Sustainable Development and the EU-Korea FTA" for a Delegation of Representatives from the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA), Vietnamese General Confederation of Labor (VGCL) and Civil Society such as People's Aid Coordinating Committee and Centre for Development and Integration.

The overarching objective of the visit was to convey the five year's experiences gained in the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA, particulary in the field of sustainable development with a focus on labour issues and civil society participation in the implementation of the  Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter to the Vietnamese delegation.

The guests from Vietnam held talks and discussed with the Korean members of Domestic Advisory Group of the EU-Korea FTA, civil society activists, trade unionists and academics. At the end of their visit, the Vietnamese guests confirmed they had learned a lot which they could use of the ongoing discussion in Vietnam, helping to continue the dialogue on sustainable development aspects of trade relations between EU and Vietnam.

ITUC-FES Workshop on "Organising Young Workers in Korea", organised by the ITUC in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, 11 to 12 July, 2016)

Together with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office co-hosted a workshop on "Organising Young Workers in Korea" in Seoul from the 11th until the 12th of July 2016.

For the two workshop days 10 young trade unionists each from the both national union centers Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) have joined the discussion. After the introduction of ITUC's youth programme "Get organised!" the main topics were the current socio-economic situation of young workers in Korea and the role of Korean trade unions in supporting them.

At the end of the day both national centers have agreed to develop plans for the next years focusing on organising and mobilising more young workers.

ZeDES-FES Seminar on "The experiences of political education for young people in Germany", organised by the ZeDES in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, 9 to 16 July, 2016)

These days, many civil society organisations and education groups are increasingly interested in political participation and education for young people. In order to discuss the relevance of the German experiences for the current situation in Korea, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office has invited a prominent expert on political education, Dr. Stefanie Hanke, Head od Forum Youth and Politics, FES Bonn, and a well-known young German politician, Ms. Johanna Uekermann, Chairwoman of Jusos Germany, youth organisation of German social-deomocratic party.

In this context, a series of meetings to exchange views and information with various interst groups such as Hope Institute, JimGeomDaRi Education Community for Democracic Citizenship, Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, young Korean politicians, education superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan City and Seoul Youth Hub took place. Furthermore, at forum Dr. Hanke spoke on "The content and meaning of the Beutelsnach consensus in Germany". In addition, Johanna Uekermann gave a special lecture on "The campaign of the Jusos - Our future is more valueable". Finally both spoke at the Chung Ang University's Center for German and European Studies (ZeDES) seminar on "The experiences of political education for young people in Germany" on 14th July in collaboration. Many Korean scholars, representatives of civil society groups and politicians, as well as politically interested young people attend these events.

Both similarities and differences between the German and Korean young people's interest and engagement in politics became apparent. In Germany, there is a well-established tradition of political education for young people and a diversity on public and private institutions providing such education. However, in Korea despite the growing interest for this type of education to be offered to young people the strong focus of career-oriented learning only leaves little space fore such educational programmes.

Download Papers (Korean and German)

Special unification expert program for government officials “Experience on German division and unification” (July 4 -8, 2016)

South Korea's Ministry of Unification has for many years received the support of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in its training program for civil servants studying various aspects of German unification. In this context the FES invited Prof. Dr. Werner Jann of Potsdam University and Prof. Dr. Jochaim Ragnitz, Managing Director Ifo Dresden, to Seoul between July 4th and 8th to take part in a seminar at the training center of the Ministry.

The seminar addressed issues of German division, the deterioration of relations between the FRG and the GDR in the cold war period, the process of normalization of relations and the establishment of inter-German relations through the “Ostpolitik”, the gradual changes in the GDR and the peaceful revolution of autumn 1989. The experts also dealt with the 2+4 negotiations and the political decisions taken by the East German government which was elected in March 1990 to become part of the Federal Republic of Germany. Finally they gave presentations on long process of economic and social unification in Germany.

It became clear to the participants that German unification was not the intended result of a political masterplan that had been devised in West Germany but a fortuitous happenstance caused by the strong desire for freedom and democracy of the people in East Germany. The West German policy had rather been a recognition of the reality of division and a policy to improve the relations between both Germanys. The experts remarked also difficulties after the unification. The people had to pay considerable unification expense, which they couldn´t not have expect at the moment of deciding for unification. And even today, twenty five years after the unification, the integration is still on-going. The participants engaged actively with the experts from Germany and asked many questions relevant to the current situation on the Korean peninsula.

In addition to this seminar with government officials the German experts also had several meetings with Korean scholars and leaders of civic groups to discuss the current situation on the Korean peninsula and share views on perspectives for a peaceful and stable development. In those conversations the need to seek a path to normalize inter-Korean relations was expressed. Also the German experts questioned whether the sanction strategy alone would lead to more peace and security or whether it would simply perpetuate the vicious circle. They suggested that any approach which is based on rapid change ignores one of the key lessons of the German experience. Only a policy of small steps and of fostering exchanges at all levels of society could bring about the change that led to German unification.

Dialog-Forum on "Ending the Stagnation in Inter-Korean Relation: A Perspective form Civil Society" (June 22, 2016)


Inter-Korean relations have reached what appears to be an unprecendetend low point since the end of the cold war. Even worse, it seems that both sides are reviving cold war reflexes as the stalemate in inter-Korean relations seems to be complete. The official government position is well publicised and pits almost exclusive emphasis on sanctions and termination of the nuclear weapons programme.

Some Korean and international experts however have voiced doubts on whether this approach will produce results in term of increased security on the Korean peninsula. They rather see that it leads to a vicious circle and exacerbates the rhetoric of animosity.

At the samte time, there are several civil society organisations which have for a long time advocated a set of strategies which are based on the notion of constructive engagement towards a lasting peaceful resolution and an internationally embedded security regime on the peninsula.

In order to discuss such alternative views the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in cooperation with the Civil Peace Forum has hosted the first Joint Civil Society which broad together representatives from various civil society organisations and members of the Seoul based diplomatic corps on June 22, 2016.

The participants agreed that such a dialogue is meaningful both for Korean civil society groups and representatives of diplomatic mission. They encourages the organisers to make this a more regular Forum.

BWI-FES Asia Pacific Regional Conference on "Decent Work and Mega Sports Events 2018 and 2020: Nexus between Sports and Migration", organised by the BWI in collaboration with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, Pyeongchang, 19 to 23 June, 2016)


The Building and Wood Worker's International (BWI) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office together with the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions (KFCITU) co-hosted a BWI Asia Pacific Regional Conference on "Decent Work and Mega Sports Events 2018 and 2020: Nexus between Sports and Migration" in Seoul and Pyeongchang from the 19th until the 23th of June 2016.

The programme included one day travel to the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangwon Province where the international trade unionists had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Cho Moon Soo, Governor of Gangwon Province, as well as the Olympic Committeee in Pyeonchang and participate at the Opening of Employment Center in Chuncheon.

In the context of the BWI's campaign "Sports-Migration Nexus Strategy" the regional conference has focused on organizing and reaching migrant workers as well as developing solidarity between its international affiliates.

Download BWI Material 1 (English)

Download BWI Material 2 (English)

Workshop on "South Korea and the Transformation Trap", organised by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, May 26, 2016)


Many countries in Asia are currently facing transformation difficulties and looking for solutions. In this context, the FES Asia Programme has commissioned a number of country case studies as basis for comparative analysis. South Korea has accomplished the "miracle of the Han" which saw the country rapidly transform from a poor underdeveloped economy to a highly indutrialised one. That is the reason why scholars and officials in many developing countries in Asia facing these transformation problems study South Korea' path to economic prosperity. They wonder whether there are any lessons, they can emulate from South Korea's experience for their own nations. Therefore, the FES also included a country study on South Koreas transformation achievements and challenges titled "South Korea and the Transformation Trap". A first draft of the case study by Prof. Brendan M. Howe, Graduate School of International Studies, Ewha Womans University, was discussed at a workshop with representatives from academia and civil society in order to gather as many views as possible on the subject.

It emerged that whilst rapid economic advances where made the political and social development of the country had been stalled for many years. Moreover, even after political and social changes occurred with the emergence of democracy and social progress the legacy of the dictatorial political economy lingers on. As the economic growth is stalling, challenges arise agatinst the political and social achievements.

The draft will now be reviewed and then presented a regional conference later this year.

International Symposium on "National Minimum Wage Increases: A Solution for Economic Crisis! The Cases of Germany and USA", organised by the KCTU and co-sponsored by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, May 15 to 19, 2016)

As every year Korean worker's representative on the minimum wage bargaining council strive to ensure a result that would gurantee those appoximately 14% of the workforce earning the minimum wage or less to manage to cover their basic need on the salary they receive for their labour. This year the unions were demandng that the minimum wage should be increased from Won 6.030 to Won 10.000. In order to support their argument in favour of a significant increase the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in co-operation with the FES have organised an International Symposium on "National Minimum Wage Increases: A Solution for Economic Crisis! The Case of Germany and USA" on 18th May at the Korean National Assembly. At the symposium Dr. Thorsten Kalina from Institut für Arbeit und Qualifikation, University of Duisburg-Essen, and David Cooper, Senior Economic Analyst, Economic Policy Institute, shared experience and analytical insight on the economic and labour market impact of minimum wages and their increase in Germany and the USA.

The visit programme consisted of a series of meetings with the members of parliament, trade unionists (espcially with the worker councillors of national minimum wage council), labour experts and minimum wage workers, a press interview with liberal media groups and the International Symposium, has provided basic and detailed information about the situation of workers and the labour market in Korea.

The case of Germany provided evidence that the introduction of a minimum wage in 2015 had no negative labour market impact. Actually, it improved overall labour market situation because previously precarious employment conditions were turned into regualr employment. These positive effects widely compensated for elimination effect the minimum wage had on unsustainable employment. The case of the USA with largest set of statistical data on minimum wage increases clearly showed through comparative analysis between federal states that the increase of minmum wages has an over-all positive economic effect.

East Asian Forum on UN Peace Operation – “Lessons Learned from UNMISS and Ways Ahead” (April 22-23, 2016)

 As part of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung endeavour to contribute to peace and security around the Korean Peninsula the office in Seoul has established a co-operation with the Korea Academic Council on the United Nations System organised jointly a series of international conferences aiming at a more effective implementation of UN Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) based on regional co-operation between North East Asian states. In the context of this collaboration, in 2015 the decision was taken to co-organise a regular East Asian Forum on UN Peace operations. The first of these fora was held in Seoul from 22nd to 23rd April 2016. It brought together experts from China, Japan, Mongolia and Korea to share lessons learned from their countries’ contribution to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Participants also had the opportunity to discuss the findings and recommendations of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) Report. The Forum provided a meaningful opportunity to consider common problems and possible solutions for them. Among the participants there was a general agreement not only on the necessity for more cooperation through such a forum but also on the goal to enhance the effectiveness of PKO. Several recommendations were made and the participants agreed that next year’s Forum would address issues of the protection of civilians in peace operations.

International Symposium on "Current Labour Issues in Korea and Role of the International Community", organised by the FKTU with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Korea Office (Seoul, March 8 to 11, 2016)

International trade union solidariy has proven to be effective in cases where employers and governments subject workers and their trade unions to repressive policies. Considering the current situation in the Republic of Korea the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Kroea Office used the opportunity of the FKTU 70th anniversary to host in Seoul from 8th to 11th 2016 an International Symposium on "Current Labour Issues and Role of the International Community".

Takao Yasunaga, Assistant General Secretary of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (JTUC-RENGO), Roland Schneider, Special Representative of the President of the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB) and Pierre Habbard, Senior Advisor of the Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were invite to attend this symposium as representatives of the international trade union movement. They use this opportunity to gather information and exchange views on the current trade union and labour situation in Korea with a wide rage of representativs from the Korean trade union movement and civil society organisations. They concluded that since the last International Trade Union Condederation's (ITUC) report on Trade Union and Workers's Rights in Korea has found that there were no guranteed rights for workers an trade unions in Korea the situation had worsened. The ITUC 2016 Global Rights Index confim this unacceptable development.

FES regional experts on “Autocracy and Democratization in Asia” (March 5 – 9, 2016)

For several decades, Asian countries have achieved rapid economic growth and pursued the establishment of various types of market economy. However, democratization is not proceeding at the same pace. Moreover, in several the level of political democracy has regressed, particularly in the last few years. In order to analyze these phenomena and asses the role of the FES in relation to such processes a conference on “Autocracy and Democratization in Asia” was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea from 5th to 9th March, 2016. Participants of the conference were FES representatives from Asian Offices of the Foundation as well as from its Berlin Head Office. The discussion also benefited from the contribution of senior members of the German Parliament. In addition, Mayor of Seoul Park Won-soon gave a key note luncheon speech in which he addressed challenges democracy in a mega city such as Seoul.

During the four days of the participants discussed about specific conditions of democratization in each country as well as common features throughout Asia. It appeared that whilst national circumstances might differ from country to country similarities about the disjuncture between developmental objectives and political progress towards broader people’s participation held some similarities throughout the continent. It also appeared that further reaching comparative analysis was hampered by the lack of a commonly acceptable theoretical framework to capture the principle factors promoting or hindering the development of democracy.

“Asian Political and International Studies Association – New Authoritarianism in Asia” co-organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the EHWA Women’s University (March 3-5, 2016)

As widely known, the progress of democracy in Asia has been much slower than the continent’s economic development. Moreover, various problems and challenges are emerging in the political processes with in some instances the rise of new authoritarianism. In order to consider these phenomena and find out which programs and policies are suitable to address them, Asia Political Studies Association (APISA) and FES-Korea invited more than twenty international scholars and all FES representatives from Asian Offices as well as from the Asia-Pacific department of the Head Office from Berlin Office to Seoul from 3rd to 5th March 2016 to attend a conference themed “New Authoritarianism in Asia”.

The conference was made-up of four sessions. On the first day scholars presented their aspects on the themes of “the rise of neo-Monarchism”, “democratic roll-back” and “state vs. people”. The main contents of the presentations were the level of democracy in Asia, inherited power and authority, concentrated authority of central political powers as well as problems of authoritarian powers. On the second day, there was a session on “Problems with the People: Political Culture and Societal Challenges”. At the same time, presentations concerning “Youths and Politics in Asia” were held by PhD students part of the APISA Young Scholars Network.

Based on these impressive presentations, the discussion concluded that despite some significant improvements in democratic governance in a number of cases there appears currently to be a stagnation in many cases and even set-backs in a number of other cases. In particular the interaction between civil society and the state is problematic in most cases in Asia.