A South Korean business school with ties to Georgia hopes to play a role in fostering further economic and political cooperation among the long-fragmented nations of Northeast Asia.
SolBridge International School of Business was launched in 2007 as a new part of Woosong University in Daejeon, South Korea. Woosong became linked to Georgia when it hired John Endicott as its president that same year.
Before taking up that post, the U.S. Air Force veteran spent 18 years heading up the Georgia Institute of Technology‘s Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy. This March, nearly two years after arriving at Woosong, Dr. Endicott signed a cooperative agreement linking the university with Georgia Tech’s College of Management.
Dr. Endicott’s contributions to South Korea’s educational system also allow him to pursue a lifelong goal: bringing stability and security to Northeast Asia through nuclear disarmament. His work toward that end netted him Nobel Peace Prize nominations in 2005 and this year.
But the ideal of security won’t be achieved, especially on the Korean Peninsula, until nations and their peoples learn to get along, Dr. Endicott told GlobalAtlanta in an interview in Daejeon.
With members of its student body that hail from all over the region, SolBridge has become a microcosm for the challenges confronting the regional integration of Asia, where countries have long histories of conflict and cultural confrontation.
SolBridge aims to churn out leaders who change that dynamic.
“When I talk about regionalization and our role, we’re actually building new ambassadors throughout the region. They are building personal networks that will turn, hopefully, into corporate networks, and maybe government networks, in the future,” he said.
The school has students from every country in Northeast Asia except North Korea. About 60 percent of SolBridge’s 400 students are from China. The rest come from South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere to study subjects like finance, marketing, management and entrepreneurship in classes taught almost exclusively in English.
Checking their native languages at the door to the classroom can help even the playing field among the students, but they often still have conflicting views of the world.
Dr. Endicott cited a lesson he taught on three ancient Korean kingdoms. Chinese students insisted that one of the northern kingdoms was traditionally Chinese, a viewpoint that Dr. Endicott sees as both revisionist and dangerous because it could provide tenuous historical precedent for the Beijing government to assert authority in North Korea should that nation be plunged into chaos.
“This is something that we have to be very cautious about,” Dr. Endicott said. “The idea is to teach – as much as we can – a history of the region that is impartial and is as close to the facts as we can get away with.”
North Korea is the linchpin in the region’s stability, which will depend on building its economy and bringing the rogue country into normal diplomatic spheres as a “viable, productive player,” he added.
Positive signs have emerged recently, with the release of two American journalists from North Korean custody and indications that the country could eventually come back to six-party talks on denuclearization. Events like these have quickly changed the “atmospherics” in regional relations. As recently as June, North Korea’s leadership was “pounding the drums for war” and threatening the U.S. with missile launches.
At that time, some of SolBridge’s Russian and Vietnamese students were called home from South Korea by their parents, Dr. Endicott said.
“There are a lot of people who are taking the media representations of what’s going in North Korea as fact. In South Korea, it’s not really taken to be that serious,” he said. “We live with it every day.”
For more information about SolBridge, visit www.solbridge.ac.kr.