“Business for Peace” (B4P): can this new global governance paradigm of the United Nations Global Compact bring some peace and stability to the Korean peninsula?

Is there a way to bring some peace and stability to the Korean peninsula with the power of business? I argue it is possible, and the article outlines the way forward.

Professor

Oliver Williams

(He/Him)

Associate Professor

Faculty of Economics, Business & Management

University of Notre Dame

Oliver Williams is professor of business ethics and the Director of the Center for Ethics and Religious Values in Business at the Mendoza College of Business of the University of Notre Dame. He a a member of the 5 person Board of Directors of the United Nations Global Compact.

American
Is there a way to bring some peace and stability to the Korean peninsula with the power of business? I argue it is possible, and the article outlines the way forward.

Key Takeaways

    How To Apply Insights

    • When working in a conflict ridden areas, you have to work in stages, with an incremental approach. Its not going to work in you say to North Korean for example “Before we can negociate, you have to give up all nuclear weapons programmes”.
    • This staging process needs to be used to build trust. You need to use a reciprocal approach: “You do a little, we do a little”.
    • The conflict area needs to take transparent steps to advance human rights. They need to be incremental, but also transparent, so that progress can be monitored and there can be accountability.

    Why This Research Matters

    The UN global compact is an initiative that encompasses 15,000 companies across 160 countries. Its main goal is to advance human rights using the power of business. For the past 20 years, we have been witnessing a paradigm shift. Traditionally, the assumption was that what’s good for business is good for society. However, most companies I work with nowadays say that what’s good for society is good for business. This article looks at the Kaesong Industrial complex, a complex for business and companies set up in 2002, and asks the question of whether it can help foster human rights and peace between North and South Korea. The project has been halted since the use of nuclear weapons by North Korea, and the article grapples with what the best way forward is.

    Findings & Research Conclusions

    The main argument put forward is that, at its core, the conflict between North and South Korea is one over ideology and power. The leadership of North Korea sees itself as a revolutionary socialist state, and it is dedicated to keeping a tight grip over the country’s cultural life. However, North Korea also stands to benefit from the economic activity and stability provided by the Kaesong industrial complex. Therefore, it is important to develop the project and find a way to convince North Korean leadership of its value.

    The way forward outlined by the article rests upon an incremental denuclearization of North Korea. This process needs to happen one step at a time, without rush. The main benefit for North Korea’s leadership and Kin Jong Un would be that the country would be much more stable and easy to run if the leadership were to develop the life of its people, and provide them with decent employment and living conditions.

    Research's methodology

    The article is based on three sources. First, it is a comprehensive literature review of writings about B4P and the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Second, documents published by international organizations like the UN, South Korean government agencies and the Kaesong Industrial complex foundation were reviewed. Third, interviews with South Korean business leaders and government officials were conducted.

    A good example is Burma (Myanmar). After the military dictatorship was overthrown, we encouraged companies to go in and do business, both because there were plentiful available resources and because we thought it would be good for the society. There were no indications that the military government would return, but when they did, most companies left. Still, it was a good attempt, and that’s the main takeaway. It’s a good idea to try having companies do business in any conflict ridden part of the world.

    However..

    The main limitation of this study is that it features no interviews from North Koreans. It creates a strong possibility of bias.

    ConceptDefinition
    Business as a potential peacemakerThis is a relatively new idea concerning the role of business in society, but it essentially means that businesses can have a positive role on fostering peace.
    Seeking Peace is seeking Justicehe overarching theme of the article is that the goal is to create a more just society in North Korea, byt providing people with decen living conditions and jobs.

    Reference this research

    Williams, F. O., Park, Y-S. S. (2019) “Business for Peace” (B4P): can this new governance paradigm of the United Nations Global Compact bring some peace and stability to the Korean peninsula? Asian Journal of Business Ethics, 8, 173-193.

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