In the period July 3-13 the 5th Korea Arctic Academy was arranged in Busan, Korea. This summer school has developed into a very important meeting point between students from the 8 Arctic countries and Korean students.

KAA followed up the tradition of inviting high-ranking representatives from the Arctic 8 countries. The ambassadors to Korea, from Norway and Denmark, the Arctic ambassadors from Korea and from Russia, representatives from the Finnish and Canadian embassies, presented their respective countries’ Arctic policies. To the students, this was a very useful introduction to the main issues on the Arctic agenda, as seen from the different capitals. In addition to this, the fact that these presumably very busy persons find it important to be present at the KAA, is a symbolic gesture to the students and also points to the importance attributed to KAA as a gathering of future experts and policy-makers in the Arctic.

One of the main goals of KAA is to present and explain Korea’s interest in the Arctic. One of Korea’s leading policy experts on the Arctic, Dr. Jong Deog Kim from the Korean Maritime Institute (KMI) gave a presentation where he explained this interest within the framework of two important factors. Firstly, that Korea in economic terms is totally dependent on international trade.   

Secondly, that Korea in effect is an island, as long as communication lines trough North Korea is closed. This means that Korea is totally dependent on the seaways for their imports and exports. Transport of goods through the Northern Sea Route (NSR) will reduce the sailing time between Korea and Europe with 30%. Understandably, Korea watches very closely both the climatic, technological and political developments related to this corridor.    

Climate change opens up new economic opportunities, but the focus is not only on the commercial aspects. There is a deep understanding in the Korean scientific community that climate change in the Arctic has implications for global weather patterns, which in turn has severe effects on civil society as well as the general ecological situation globally. This was a recurring theme during KAA. A number of Korean scientists presented the latest data on climate change in the Arctic. Different projects related to climate change, including the basics of climate research and the dynamics of climate formation through the Polar Vortex, melting sea ice, albedo effects and precipitation patterns were explained.

The Arctic has been associated with the concept of “a zone of peace”. One important instrument to discuss Arctic issues in a peaceful manner between the Arctic states and stakeholders in the Arctic Council. In his presentation former director of the Arctic Council Secretariat, Mr Magnus Johannesson outlined some of the future challenges of the Arctic, especially related to the balancing of the needs of the people living in the Arctic, commercial activities, and ecological sustainable development.   

The indigenous peoples of the Arctic are important, as inhabitants of the Arctic region and because they are squeezed between traditional lifestyles and modernity caused by globalization. Dr Andrei Isakov of the Northern forum presented the diversity of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and the challenges they face. Indigenous culture, economic adaptions and lifestyles are under pressure from climate change and from being integrated into a globalized world.

Development of scientific knowledge, capacity building and development of human capital are key factors in addressing many of the challenges of the Arctic. Long distances, low population density, lacking technological infrastructure are among factors making access to higher as well as lower and middle-level education challenging in many Arctic communities. Vice president Paul Markusson of UArctic presented how UArctic tries to meet these challenges. 

One sequence of the program had the students giving a short presentation of a specific project that they were working on. This presentation showed a wide variety of themes and issues, and gave a demonstration of how different disciplines and approaches are needed to understand the complexity of Arctic issues.

For most of Arctic students, Korea is a distant and unfamiliar country. The program included a crash course in Korean culture, and in the free time, the Korean students took the roles of guides and buddies to the rest of the group and introduced them to the more informal aspects of Korean culture.   

To conclude: also during this 5th Korea Arctic Academy the team at KMI had succeeded in putting together a very interesting program, focusing on the present and future challenges in the Arctic. This is a group of students that is extremely important for the development in the Arctic. Bringing them together in a context like this, enables questions about what kind of development do we want in the Arctic, and what kind of common responsibility do we have to make it happen. Creating networks, sharing experiences and participating in discussions at the Korea Arctic Academy is one good example of how to give life to UArctic’s vision “empowerment of the north – with shared voices”

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Reported by Paul Markusson,  Vice President Mobility, UArctic