Alison Szalwinski
Vice President of Research
[email protected]

2017 NextGen Leaders Trip to Seoul

National Assembly

The delegation at the National Assembly.

The second delegation of the Next Generation Leaders (NextGen) program, comprised of nine up-and-coming leaders of East Asia policy, traveled to Seoul, South Korea from July 10–14, 2017. Led by Mr. David Straub (Sejong Institute) with the assistance of Dan Aum (NBR) and Julia Oh (NBR), the delegation engaged in timely discussions with representatives from the Republic of Korea (ROK), U.S. military and government agencies, and leading academic institutes on topics across the scope of ROK and U.S.-ROK policy issues.

Sye-kyun Chung

Participants listen to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Sye-kyun Chung.

The delegation exchanged perspectives on key ROK policy issues through an array of meetings with representatives from different ROK government agencies, including a roundtable with the Speaker of the National Assembly Sye-kyun Chung, where the delegation discussed domestic and foreign policy priorities, North Korea and denuclearization, President Park’s impeachment, and the future of US-ROK relations. The delegation attended a lunch discussion with representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the ROK Ministry of National Defense, a meeting with officials at the Blue House, and a briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Through these meetings the delegation developed a better understanding of the ROK government’s view of the U.S.-ROK alliance and ROK’s defense and diplomatic strategies towards China and North Korea.

NextGen participants with officers at the Korean Ministry of National Defense.

On the U.S. government side, the delegation met with U.S. military officials and diplomats responsible for strengthening the U.S.-ROK alliance. The United States Forces Korea’s Commander’s Strategic Initiatives Group hosted the delegation for a briefing on bilateral military relations, where they explained USFK’s role in responding to common U.S.-ROK security threats. The delegation also had the opportunity to attend a reception hosted by Charge D’Affairs Mark Knapper at the Ambassador’s residence with a diverse group of Korean think tank scholars and experts. At the reception, participants discussed the progress that has been made on the diplomatic, economic and public relations fronts of U.S.-ROK relations and had a chance to network with local experts in the field.

The NextGen delegation with Charge D’Affairs Mark Knapper and Korean and U.S. think tank experts at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence.

In addition to government officials from the U.S. and ROK, the delegation met with academic and think tank scholars, journalists, representatives of private business, and human rights activists. At one of their first meetings, a roundtable with Sejong Institute scholars, the delegation participated in a dialogue on the full scope of issues facing the U.S.-ROK alliance. Later in the week, participants exchanged views on U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral relations with Dr. Yul Sohn, Dr. John Delury, and graduate students at Yonsei University. Foreign correspondents from organizations including AFP and NK News joined a dinner with the delegation, and the following night domestic journalists from Chosun Ilbo, YTN, Donga Ilbo, Munhwa Ilbo, and Seoul Shinmun shared their thoughts on the media landscape in the ROK. In a briefing with Hanhwa Qcells, the participants discussed trade and energy issues and got a sense of the private sector issues facing the ROK. The delegation also had the chance to listen to National Democratic Institute – Seoul staff, North Korean human rights activists, and North Korean defectors, talk about the current status of human rights in North Korea.

NextGen delegates participating in a roundtable at the Sejong Institute.

As part of the effort to better appreciate the ROK’s vibrant culture and historical legacies, the delegation visited Kyungbok Palace and toured the Blue House and National Assembly buildings. To cap the week off, they traveled to the Joint Security Area (JSA) at the Demilitarized Zone, where they were briefed by United Nations Command (UNC) on the history of the DMZ and current state of the Armistice before standing at the military demarcation line and looking into North Korea.

The delegation with the National Security Advisor in front of the Blue House.

The delegation visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

About the U.S.-ROK Next Generation Leaders Program

NextGen Leaders is an educational program designed for emerging and established policy leaders in the United States to visit the Republic of Korea (ROK), develop a rich understanding of U.S.-Korea policy issues, and form close and continuing ties with each other and the Korean policymaking community. The program aims to deepen U.S.-ROK ties through ongoing dialogue between current and future leaders across the policy field. Learn more.