Welcome to Campus AsiaLeaders of Korea, China and Japan made headway in an area outside the economic front in a recent tripartite summit in Beijing - discussions broke through on higher education. President Lee Myung-bak, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda attended a ceremony in China to launch Campus Asia, an exchange program of university students of the three East Asian countries modeled after the Erasmus Program - an acronym for the European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. The three heads of state attended the inauguration ceremony after announcing an investment agreement and the start of negotiations for a tripartite free trade pact by the end of the year.
Campus Asia is a joint initiative by the education ministries of the three countries to allow joint and shared university curriculum and degrees. The three countries selected 10 institutions to develop pilot programs in October of last year. The three neighbor countries that share a common history and culture have sometimes clashed and peacefully competed throughout history. Mutual understanding and cooperation are essential to coexistence. Academic collaboration has been motivated by the common goal of peace. It aims to set the grounds to offer education and experience for young generations who can grow up to be future leaders of the countries. It hopes to foster an understanding of the similarities as well as differences in the three societies and cultures. The presence of heads of the three countries at the launching ceremony can be a symbolic blessing that can add legitimacy to the initiative and purpose to vitalize academic cooperation and exchange for regional peace and prosperity.
The Erasmus program, named after the Dutch philosopher who credited his knowledge and insight to traveling to many places in Europe, dates back to 1987 and has since been successful in providing more accessible and affordable university education across Europe. Some 2.2 million students have already taken part in the program that broke frontiers in education across the continent.
In the globalized world, there are many problems that cannot be solved without the help of neighboring countries. A more prosperous and culturally vibrant East Asian community can only be possible through mutual understanding and cooperation among countries in the region. We hope that in the end, North Korea, too, can be a participant in the initiative to enhance lasting regional peace.