The Institute of Trans-division and Border Studies (ITBS) at Shinhan University was established in 2015, the year that marked both the 70th anniversary of independence of Korea and the 70th year of the inter-Korean division. In the course of the time, the memory of the undivided Korea has been fading away and only a small proportion of people in the two Koreas now retain it. Even so, the division is still an enduring tragedy. Likewise, reunification is not simply a possibility of a distant future but it is a challenge that we are confronted with relentlessly. The history has taught us that reckless campaigns for the reunification forestall genuine steps toward reunification. It means that historical reconciliations and joint measures for the construction of peaceful co-existence between the two Koreas should precede mere rhetorics. As such, the ITBS proposes a paradigm shift in the inter-Korean relations through our inquiries on the “trans-division” and the “border” concepts.
To make a breakthrough in the peaceful inter-Korean relations, we should stop otherizing each other and get engaged in a dialogue with mutual respect. The “trans-division” stems from the recognition of the ideological and institutional differences between the two Koreas. At the same time, it encompasses all the efforts to ameliorate pains and sufferings caused by their differences. In envisioning the “trans-division” of the two Koreas, the “border” concept can make substantial contributions. Although the border has so far functioned as an invulnerable barrier differentiating us and them in many ways, various kinds of practices by various actors within and/or cross the border have formed points where identities become uncertain and need to be redefined. Capital’s penetration, trans-border networks, politico-economic upheavals in the region, and globalizing wave have created chasms of the border, ambivalent space, and internal changes.
The ITBS aims to shed new light on the division between the two Koreas from an angle of the “border”. It proposes to elucidate the multiple and sometimes self-contradictory phenomena happening around the border. Thereby, we hope to contribute to accommodate peaceful and mutually beneficial inter-Korean relations, which will be a first step toward a re-unified Korea. For this cause, we believe that your attention and support will be indispensable.
Director of the Institute of Trans-Division and Border Studies