Sign up for our eNewsletter

This area does not yet contain any content.
« Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership | Main | Leadership at the Speed of Life »

Reflections on Korea: Supporting NVC in Asia

by Jim Manske

We just returned from a delightful journey to Korea to support the growing NVC community in Asia.  We enjoyed deepening existing connections and meeting many new friends.

We flew to Korea directly after our July Compassionate Leadership retreat in San Fernando, so our compassion and empathy batteries were fully charged.  After a restful one night layover in Honolulu where we briefly connected with some NVC friends, we embarked on the long trans-Pacific voyage, arriving safe, sound and tired after about 9 hours in the air.

The Korean Center for Nonviolent Communication is one of the most organized, active, and successful NVC centers in the world.  In addition to the 3 offices for the full-time staff of 4, plus other volunteers, there are 3 training rooms that are used daily for the many practice groups.  Their organizational skills and support provided much ease for us, as well as the IIT participants...and they made it look easy!  They arranged for someone to pick us up, and we were relieved to find Jinho Park’s smiling face in the greeting lobby of Incheon airport, and his fluency in English.  Little did we realize then that this connection with Jinho would be an important one for getting so many needs met in Korea!  He smoothly transported us from Incheon Airport to Seoul where a comfortable hotel bed awaited our tired bodies.  We hugged goodbye, knowing we would re-connect in a few days at the International Intensive Training (IIT).

We met with CNVC Certified Trainer and IIT lead trainer Katherine Singer for breakfast the next morning.  What a wonderful reunion!  Although Jori had seen Katherine on a previous journey to Korea in January, it had been a few years since Jim had the opportunity to connect.  It was fun to re-engage our friendship.  Like so many relationships that we enjoy within our NVC community, it was as if no time had elapsed since last we met.  Our hearts came immediately into sync with our shared intentions and mission.

We spent two days in Seoul adjusting to the time shift and life in Asia.  Words cannot describe the vast differences and underlying unity of the Asian experience.  There is an ineffable  quality of universality layered upon remarkable cultural distinctions.  We enjoyed the opportunity to experience a brief taste of the intensity of life in this burgeoning Asian capital and the growing impact of NVC there.  

On day three, we repacked our bags and boarded a charter bus, along with some of our new friends, for a 3½ hour trip the northeastern mountain region of South Korea.  The IIT was held at the beautiful Manaemaul Buddhist Retreat Center nestled on the riverbank of a vibrantly flowing river emerging from the mountaintops of the nearby national park, only a few miles from the DMZ, the De-Militarized Zone between North and South Korea, a decades-long standoff between conflicting cold war ideologies.

We were joined by a remarkably varied cast of trainers:  Marianne Gothlin of Sweden, Chris Rajendram of Sri Lanka, Katherine Singer from Korea, and Gina Lawrie from the UK who arrived a few days into the IIT.  Most of the 50 or so participants were from various parts of Korea, along with two Californians, Christie and Yaap; Vijay, an Indian immigrant living in Finland; and Cyril from Myanmar.  A team of interpreters were there to assist in translating the English to Korean and vice-versa.

Those of you who have experienced Compassionate Leadership or an IIT understand the magic that seems to emerge when a community unites with a common intention to “live NVC”.  The Korean IIT exemplified this magical quality.  There was a sweetly harmonious vibe to this IIT that gently supported people in remarkable learning, personal growth, integration and healing.  The days were filled with abundant opportunities to practice and integrate, and of course, all the kimchee you can eat!  Among other things, we learned that there are hundreds of varieties of kimchee, the Korean version of fermented vegetables.  

I enjoy savoring the opportunities to connect, empathize, and contribute during this incredible 10 day period.  I walk away cherishing deepening friendships and feeling inspired and humbled about how one person’s vision (in this case, Katherine Singer’s) can literally begin to change a country.  Talk about social change!

I also deeply appreciate the spirit of cooperation and harmony among the training team, and feel deeply grateful for the efforts of the interpreters who struggled with their own growing integration of NVC while translating from English to Korean and back again for hours a day.  Its like translating four languages at the same time - Giraffe, Jackal, Korean and English!  I’m also appreciative of the special quality of empathy displayed by the staff of the Korean center who seemed to anticipate our needs and requests before we knew we had them, like providing the anchor of a “western style” breakfast of granola, toast, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice.  Koreans prefer kimchee for breakfast. ;)  They also unwaveringly fulfilled every request for translating handouts even in the midst of the joyful chaos that characterizes an IIT.


Following the completion of the IIT, we motored back to Seoul on the chartered bus, savoring the receding countryside as we re-entered the urban zone of Korea’s southern capital.  Arriving back in the city, we were greeted by a relentless heat wave that engulfed South Korea for the rest of our time there.  Every day for a week, temperatures climbed to 95 or hotter with sky high humidity.  We often huddled in the relative comfort of our small air-conditioned room at the Korean Center for NVC.

Our first days back in Seoul were filled with sight-seeing with trainer Gina Lawrie and IIIT participant Michelle. a professional tour guide with virtually infinite energy for showing off the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Seoul.  She gave us a “local’s eye” off the tourist beaten path, allowing glimpses into the everyday life of Koreans as they shopped, worked and played.  

The highlight for me was attending the Lotus Festival at one of the Buddhist temples in Seoul.  It was rich to see the pageantry unfold as the Buddhist congregation celebrated the famed Lotus Sutra amid a garden filled with 1000 lotuses flowering.  As the only caucasians in the crowd we stuck out a bit.  After the ceremony while putting on our shoes, we were approached by a formally dressed man I recognized as one of the speakers.  He opened a conversation common for those who travel, “Where are you from?  What do you think of Korea?”  Turns out he is the former Prime Minister of Korea, who was educated at Princeton and lived in the US for awhile in his younger days.  Perhaps he will become an ally in continuing to spread the skills and consciousness of NVC in Korea!

We also participated in the first assessment of CNVC trainer candidates in Korea.  Gina Lawrie, Assessor from the UK, joined Korean Assessor Katherine Singer to celebrate and learn with the three candidates.  Observing and being a part of this event renewed my faith in CNVC’s certification process, and I’m happy knowing that three more certified trainers will join our ranks within the next few months to continue to support Katherine in her efforts to bring NVC to Korea.  A half dozen more candidates continue working on their preparations with an aim of Assessment next year.  I’m happy that the Pathways to Liberation Matrix of self-assessment is one of the tools utilized by the Korean Center to help candidates move toward deepening skill and integration of the consciousness.

Our last two evening in Korea were spent in the southern part of Seoul with our new brother, Jinho.  We were honored to be the first guests in his new home, and he treated us like family, escorting us to wonderful connections with other friends, delicious meals and one-of-a-kind tourist adventures.  A deep bow of appreciation to Jinho for his love and support, exemplifying the spirit of hospitality of Korea.  

As a final treat before heading to the airport, we were invited to participate in a gathering of Third Culture Kids (TCKs) living in Seoul.  TCKs have the unique world view that emerges from their experience growing up in one or more cultures other than their birth country, such as children of missionaries or diplomats.  We learned a lot about flexibility in relating and holding national identity lightly from these dynamic young people just beginning to make their mark on the world.  Another example of inspiring social change!

We imagine we will return to Korea someday, hopefully at a time with more pleasant weather.  No matter when we go, we feel safe and secure knowing our needs will be held with care by our ever-growing NVC community in Korea.  We will always treasure this experience of helping to nurture the world we want to live in, united by the universal values of human needs.



Reader Comments (3)

Jim, I read your story with great interest and it reminded me of the time that I spent in South Korea in 2007 and 2008 -- I was there for five weeks both years sharing NVC.

I'm so excited to hear that three people are going to become certified from Korea and trust that will help in the spread of NVC all the more.

I agree about the Korean Center for NVC -- much appreciation to Katherine Singer for her founding efforts and I also enjoyed the sense of community and support that you describe.

Thanks for sharing this!

Jeff Brown

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Brown

Hi Jim & Jori,
I so enjoyed reading of your adventure to Korea. I feel inspired by your description of the center there and the growing spread of NVC and the upcoming trainers. It sounds like it was a grand adventure accentuated by a lot of love and support! Hurray for your efforts and all the trainers and NVC community efforts there! What a beautiful celebration. I appreciate you sharing it. It gives me a greater sense of global connection through your very real descriptions. With love and best wishes, Kathy Z

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Ziola

Dear Jim and Jori,
I have so enjoyed reading this account of your IIT experience in S. Korea. I'm imagining, for the first time, me in that setting!! I can do this because of the vision you've supported through the Compassionate Leadership Program. Your love for people learning and growing together to create the world they want to live in as revealed through Marshall's description of nonviolent communication is why I cherish knowing the two of you. I feel I can savor the trip though your words and pictures you've drawn of this event. Imagine, 1000 lotus flowers???
My heart is full knowing the love of Marshall's work is growing and FLOURISHING in South Korea.
Thank you, my dear friends, for being in the world and being in the joy of giving.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>