Engaging North Korea: environmental cooperation in peacebuilding

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Third World Quarterly, 2020, 41, (11), pp. 1809-1827
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Despite ongoing political tensions and sanctions, North Korea and South Korea have made some progress in forestry cooperation. To explain the persistence of this cooperation, we draw upon a local approach to environmental peacebuilding. By tracing inter-Korean forestry cooperation from 2000 to 2018, this study finds that cooperation persists because of a North Korean desire for cooperation specifically on the environment, and because non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with close ties to the South Korean government provided an alternative way to implement inter-Korean forestry cooperation through periods of tension. Our findings also highlight the benefits of using environmental cooperation as a way to engage with North Korea in a depoliticised and sanction-free context. This finding has far-reaching implications for environmental peacebuilding. First, NGOs can pave the way for engaging conflict parties even in the face of ongoing hostility. Second, environmental cooperation provides an opportunity for a win–win strategy for conflict parties.
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