Happy New Year - 2007
by: Peter Beck, North East Asia Director, International Crisis Group
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Happy New Year! I thought this would be a good opportunity to bring you up to date on developments with the International Crisis Group’s Northeast Asia office and the family as well as plans for the new year. The biggest news (or perhaps I should say newsiness) is that the ICG made the short list for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize! It turns out the Nobel Foundation gives the list of finalists to the Norwegian media so that they can be in place when the announcement is made. It is always difficult to measure the impact of our work, especially when almost all of the conflicts we focus on continue to deteriorate, but it was still a real shot in the arm. Since the announcement was made, in Asia alone we have added Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to our coverage, so who knows?

Here in Seoul, we published four reports during the year, which was the same as 2005, but with a bit more struggle given that we lost our two full-time analysts due to budget cuts. Fortunately, we were able to put together the best research team that pizza can buy. Our hastily written:
"North Korea’s Nuclear Test: The Fallout " (hopefully you can click on the hyperlink) was called “Must Read” by the Council on Foreign Relations and is being published in journals in Chinese and Korean. We spent almost a year researching, traveling, and writing for: Perilous Journeys: The Plight of North Koreans in China and Beyond, which was published in October. The report was featured on the front page of Mainichi Shimbun, the full back page of the South China Morning Post, Page 2 of Dong-a Ilbo, Page 6 of Frankfurter Allgemeine as well as in two articles in the Financial Times and newspapers from Australia to Denmark. Report mentions prior to publication included the New York Times, the Economist, and Time. We also published: China and North Korea: Comrades Forever?, which was carried by the Journal Korea and World Affairs, and: "After North Korea's Missile Launch: Are the Nuclear Talks Dead?".

Thanks to North Korea’s provocative actions, ICG’s Northeast Asia office led the organization in media mentions for the second straight year with over 2,000 in 2006. In the 36 hours after the North’s nuclear test, we somehow managed to do 60 interviews, with one Associated Press quote leading to over 300 reprints (another record). Despite an often crazy travel schedule, we also led ICG in presentations with 61, including the World Economic Forum’s first conference in Tokyo, where Prime Minister Koizumi asked if I played basketball! Unfortunately, I lacked the courage to urge him not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine. So much for advocacy… Meanwhile, I continued to teach at Ewha Woman’s University and serve on the Policy Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Unification. Offering advice to a government hell-bent on engagement often feels like an exercise in futility! I also joined advisory boards for the Korea Foundation and the Seoul City Government. I am attaching two short pieces I just contributed for the
2007 Encyclopedia Britannica. Feedback welcome!
See the two short pieces

The ICG Seoul office has even bigger and better plans for 2007. For starters, we will try to do a better job of living up to our name as the Northeast Asia office. From January we will have a full-time China analyst who will be focusing on the extent to which China’s energy policy is fueling international conflict. A Japanese consultant will examine the prospects for revising Japan’s peace constitution and the impact it would have on the region. Meanwhile, we have already started the second half of our work on North Korean defectors. This time we are focusing on the difficulties of resettlement in the South. We will also conclude our bilateral series by looking at Russia and North Korea relations. We will then turn to a report on collapse scenarios for North Korea. The utter dearth of statesmen in the region gives us plenty of material to work with!

Switching from the office “we” to the family “we,” we continue to live in a small ugly apartment in Seoul. What helps ease our conscience about subjecting Julia to the congestion and pollution of Seoul is that we live right in front of a stream that connects to the massive Olympic Park. I try to take Julia on most mornings to the stream, and on weekends alternate between the park and hopping on the subway to visit the Children’s Grand Park, where Julia is on a first-name basis with most of the animals. You can see from the attached picture that she was fortunate to only receive my height genes. Julia is almost five and continues to thrive at her preschool, where she is the only foreigner. She already corrects my Korean and Haeran’s English. She can’t quite decide if she wants to be a ballerina or an artist. I am attaching the picture she drew which appeared on the front of a section of her Grandma’s newspaper. Haeran is teaching English to children and cooking to housewives. Our apartment turned into a Christmas cookie factory for about two weeks. We feel fortunate to have two of her siblings within walking distance. I took the girls with me on my two best boondoggles of the year, Geneva (with a stop in Germany to visit a sister—pretty ironic that my only German relatives are on Haeran’s side) and a mountain resort in Japan, where the girls could gorge on their favorite food—sashimi (also Julia’s first Japanese word). Sorry for making this letter so long!

All the Best in 2007!!!
Peter Beck

See Beck's Nov. 2005 Article

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