For the second year in a row, Schar School of Policy and Government professors spent a week in South Korea in late May, delivering research to political leadership, professors, and students in a well-attended symposium addressing international security. And for the second year, the message was urgent.
Last year, the topic involved security policy and the uneasy relationship between North and South Korea. This year, five Schar School professors presented findings and opinions as to how environmental issues must be approached as security issues. The danger, they warned, is real.
The “International Security Symposium on Environmental Challenges and Solutions” was organized by George Mason University’s new Korea branch of the Schar School’s Center for Security Policy Studies.
The Schar School team was led by Dean Mark J. Rozell and included CSPS Director Ellen Laipson, who is also director of the Master’s in International Security degree program; Schar School Associate Dean and Professor Ming Wan; Associate Professor Todd M. La Porte, who researches climate change adaptation policy; and Andrew Light, University Professor at Mason and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. Robert Matz, the newly installed dean of the Mason Korea Campus, provided the welcoming address.
“It is time to look at climate issues from a ‘security’ perspective as it is impacting national security, military assets, as well as social and diplomatic issues,” Laipson said of the overarching theme.
Other speakers included CSPS-Korea Director Soyoung Kwon, Changwoo Ahn of Mason’s College of Science, Taedong Lee of South Korea’s Yonsei University, Simon Wilson, head of communication at the Green Climate Fund, and Eunjung Lim of Japan’s Ritsumeikan University.
“One of the strongest impressions I had from our visit to Mason Korea was how engaged, earnest, and enthusiastic the students are,” said LaPorte, who was making his first visit to South Korea. “Everyone I met was excited to meet with us, excited to be coming to Fairfax their junior year, excited to continue their experience with their studies of politics, policy, and international affairs.”
Many students attending Mason Korea split their semesters between the Korean campus in Songdo and the U.S. campuses in Fairfax and Arlington, Va.
“To a person they are eager to get the tools they need to become effective participants in their own policy communities,” he added. “This was certainly true in terms of the environment, climate, and security policies—the theme of our visit. They look to their Mason professors, both based in Korea and in Virginia, to help them on their way.
“And they are a delightful bunch, eager to show us their home culture, and ready to continue their exploration of the wider world. I look forward to seeing them in Fairfax and Arlington in the coming semesters.”
Andrew Light, a former State Department senior advisor in the Obama administration who was also making his first trip to South Korea, agreed that the Mason Korea students were receptive in receiving information about climate change and security. So was Yoo Yeon-chul, the Korean Ambassador for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the delegation called on him at the ministry.
Light added that he was “really impressed with how developed Songdo is for such a new city. I also thought Seoul was a beautiful place, and much more humanly scaled than a lot of other major Asian hubs. Our campus is terrific. It’s a completely different experience being there from reading about it, and the students were very engaged.”
“Establishing the extension of our Center for Security Policy Studies on the Korea campus is a great accomplishment, and I believe it can become a major hub for extending the reach of our work on security policy in Asia,” Light said. “This is the region where a lot of the global future will play out, from cyber security to climate security. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will all develop.”