Korean DMZ & Hiroshima Peace Park Academic Expedition

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Ethnology of Environmental Peacebuilding in South Korea and Japan

Experience the power and beauty of East Asian culture, language and ecology in the Hiroshima and the DMZ program. This summer will take students back in time as they learn about the practical and symbolic work of environmental peacebuilding in South Korea and Japan through the ages. The program includes a trip to the Korean DMZ where students will learn more about how the militarized border turned de facto zone is used as a tool for environmental diplomacy and the challenges of using it to promote peace between the two Koreas. Students can also look forward to visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan to discuss how the language of peace and the environment are utilized to promote healing and cooperation between the United States and Japan. This is a great opportunity for students who want a summer full of adventure.

Just because a war has ended or that violence in a particular location has ceased does not mean that there are not lingering scars and painful memories from the conflict. The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, effectively ending World War II, but the people still recognize the devastation from that day and advocate for the end of nuclear weapons and war so nothing like this can ever happen again. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was constructed as a visual representation of “not retaliation, but reconciliation” (Miyamoto 13). The Korean War ended in the 1960’s, yet there are still strong tensions that exist between the North and the South, epitomized by the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) drawn between the two countries. Today, there is discussion on whether a peace park should be developed in the DMZ. This course will offer students the opportunity to learn about these conflicts in the classroom before travelling to both the Korean DMZ and the Hiroshima park in partnership with International Peace Parks Expeditions (IPPE), to experience the memories and emotions of the these conflicts for themselves. The goal of this course is for students to learn how environmental peacebuilding has the potential to mend these wounds through sustainable development, ecotourism, natural resource management and the development of peace parks designed to promote peace.  


Students will learn more about the historical context of the Korean War and its lasting consequences as well as the legacy of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima in the classroom. They will then go to these places and experience the feelings and emotions associated with these conflicts and efforts for peace and reconciliation by visiting memorials and peace parks, learn about environmental peacebuilding as a method of obtaining lasting peace, and interact with the local community to experience their culture and history. Finally, students will finish this course by reflecting on what they have experienced during their expedition, compare it to what they learned before, and apply deeper meaning to the concept of peace and reconciliation in these contexts.


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Course Objectives

  • 01

    Environmental Peacebuilding and International Peace Parks

  • 02

    Language and peace and conflict

  • 03

    Cross-sectoral analysis of environment, development, and peacebuilding

  • 04

    Experience the cultures of South Korea and Japan

Course Overview

The expedition will begin in South Korea, where students will not only learn about the Korean DMZ from a political and environmental standpoint, but they will also have the chance to get close to the border. This portion will be based off of the “Peace and Life Zone” trail designed to educate visitors to the history of the conflict, as well as hope for the future of the DMZ and the two Koreas. The second part of the expedition will be held in Hiroshima, Japan with a focus on the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. This park contains memorials and other structures that commemorate the lives lost during the 1945 atomic bomb, while promoting an end to nuclear weapons and war. On August 6th, the park will host a commemoration ceremony for the anniversary of the bomb dropping on Hiroshima.   
This multi-dimensional study abroad program is designed for advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in environmental studies, sustainability, geography, community development, natural resource management, ecotourism, East Asian history, and peace and conflict studies.


  • Todd Walters

    Founder and Executive Director of International Peace Park Expeditions, Inc.
    Chair of IPPE Inc Board of Directors, 2010 to Present.

    Walters has adapted Peace & Conflict Impact Assessment methodology to transboundary protected areas, and produced short documentary films in the Transcending Boundaries series which portray multiple stakeholder perspectives concerning environmental peacebuilding in transboundary protected areas. Walters is also a member of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature where he is developing a practitioners training curriculum on Transboundary Conservation best practices and is a Fellow at the Institute for Environmental Diplomacy and Security. Walters is a National Outdoor Leadership School certified adventure guide with wilderness first responder emergency medical training, has led expeditions in dozens of countries around the globe, and has published a number of chapters and articles on Environmental Peacebuilding.

  • Chris Thompson

    I am a cultural anthropologist that teaches Japanese language and culture classes in the dept. I also run our study abroad programs including ongoing tsunami relief work in Iwate Prefecture, Northeast Japan. I have been at OU for about 15 years. I really enjoy our dept. because we are so diverse. I am an OU Men’s Basketball fanatic! Let hesitate to let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Course Assignments

Journal Entries

Journal entries provide an opportunity for students to capture an individual record of their educational experience, and analyze it through the personal reflection of the writing process. They will be utilized to start class discussions, drill deeper on specific topics, identify linkages between the readings, class discussions and field observations, and as a chance to respond privately to guest lecturers. Topics include: pre-expedition impressions, reflections on guest lectures, in the field observable examples of concepts discussed in the readings, answer to the "Question of the Day" posed by the Instructors, and a post-expedition summary of the experience and the lessons learned.

Stakeholder Profiles

Compile mini biographies: identify how various stakeholders participate in environmental peacebuilding. Who are they, What are their Projects, Why do they do their work, Who do they cooperate with, and How does the language they use support peace or exacerbate conflict.

Group Project & Presentation

Students will work in teams on group projects on the theme of Observations on the use of Language or the Environment to promote peace or exacerbate conflict. Students will create a 15 minute presentation, practice their presentation for the instructors, and revise it based on instructor feedback. On the final night of the expedition Students will present publicly in front of our host partner organizations, guest lecturers and their peers.

Final Analytical Project

This project will utilize details from the course readings, lectures, guest lectures and interviews as well as additional research, to combine a topic that a student is passionate about with a need for a local organization in South Korea or Japan. This will be a tangible deliverable. Something unique and creative that may be utilized by one of our partners in South Korea or Japan. Examples of this project from past students include a short movie highlighting key issues within the region, a photo slideshow compilation of endemic plant species, a traditional food recipe book, a poster analysis of the geology and a profile highlighting women peacebuilders.


Ohio University Register Here here.