What the Captured American Journalists in North Korea Could Mean for Diplomacy

05/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

From Deepak and Gotham Chopra

We have been close friends with Laura Ling and her family for over a decade. So when we heard almost 3 weeks ago that Laura and her colleague Euna Lee, while reporting on a story on the North Korean-Chinese border, were arrested by North Korean officials, we were naturally alarmed. For days we communicated with the Ling family, various officials within the media and the Government, and voraciously read all press accounts to glean whatever details we could regarding the young women's conditions. We were greatly comforted when we heard reports that North Korean officials were keeping them comfortable and safe in a Governmental guest house but equally scared when other reports suggested they may soon be sent to trial, charged with very serious crimes.

Upon deeper reflection though, we also realized that this international incident presents a truly unique opportunity for members of the global community - led in this case by American and North Korean representatives - to establish a new method of diplomacy and communication for resolving their differences, big and small.

It was just over 7 years ago that former President George W. Bush identified North Korea infamously as a member of his "axis of evil." Whether or not that was fair to begin with, today - depending on how North Korea proceeds with Laura Ling and Euna Lee - they now have a chance to shed the ugly stigma of that label. While the Obama administration must work diligently to disassemble Bush's other dark legacy that is the Guantanamo apparatus, North Korea sits in the ironic position of being able to demonstrate just how the repatriation of nationals back to their home country should be done.

In doing so, they would demonstrate what we are all gradually learning - that in the 21st century, wherein the planet is truly globalized economically, ecologically, and otherwise - it is the strength of our ideals, and our compassion and respect for others that will determine the next Super-Powers. Gone are the days of survival of the fittest, replaced by survival of the wisest - and the wise are those that take advantage of opportunity, are not held back by past grudges or the need for others' attention, but rather determine the course of their own evolution.

Any conflicts' resolution relies on the two feuding partners willingness to sit down face to face, identify their differences, and seek reasonable solutions. In this case, we urge North Korean and American officials to do so. As a students in the science of conflict resolution and healing (Deepak), we truly believe that there is no conflict that cannot be resolved with intention, attention, and action.

While we are well aware that there are larger significant issues that desperately require prompt attention, including nuclear disarmament and Human Rights issues on both sides, we also believe these should not impact the immediate intention of returning Laura and Euna home safely to their respective families. With this smaller step secured, both sides might confidently move toward a deeper discussion that is clearly in the best interest of every nation on Planet Earth.

We live in challenging times, where Jihadists and Jingoists often use the same rhetoric cloaked in different languages, where extreme nationalism is disguised misguided nihilism with a singular inevitable outcome in nobody's interest. Circumstance demands that we take responsibility for our own collective fate. Small steps determine the way.