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Peace Education

Renewed Hope in Seoul for Korean Reunification

Korea-2008-11-10-Renewed Hope in Seoul for Korean Reunification

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Can Korea ever be reunited? That was the urgent question poseprd separately to a crowd of tens of thousands at the Global Peace Festival in Seoul’s Yoido Plaza, and to a smaller but highly placed group of more than 600 people at the Korean National Assembly. Congressmen and women and representatives of the international diplomatic community in Seoul gathered November 7-9 for a frank and often outspoken debate on the need for new strategies for the reunification of Korea. The UPF’s International Leadership Conference also included 177 delegates from 55 nations gathered in Seoul to celebrate the Global Peace Festival.

The Hon. Young-sun Song, a National Assemblywoman and Co-chair of the International Leadership Conference, outlined the case for a new approach to peacemaking. “The current Six-Party talks are producing only one winner, and that is North Korea,” she said. “The more we talk, and the more aid we send to the North – more than US$6.7 billion already – the more the North develops its nuclear and military capabilities.”

Mr. Cheol-hwan Kang, a defector from North Korea who now works for the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in Seoul, agreed that the North Korean leaders were being manipulative, but explained: “The reality is that the ordinary people of North Korea are in a disastrous situation. More than three million have already died from hunger. Human rights are almost non-existent, and even the deployment of more and more troops on the Chinese border is failing to prevent the flow of North Koreans wanting to defect.”

The seminar featured panelists from each of the nations participating in the Six-Party talks that are the current framework for the peace process on the peninsula. In turn, each panelist outlined the primary and often conflicting concerns of their nations. With common land borders with North Korea, China and Russia are very cautious about any sudden changes. In contrast, the Japanese focus on the human rights abuses in the North, especially the much-publicized abductions of Japanese citizens to train as North Korean agents.

Dr. Victor Cha, former US National Security Director for Asian Affairs at the White House, sounded a more optimistic note. “The US-ROK alliance remains one of the most underrated,” he said. After a low point in 2002 following death of two Korean girls accidentally run down by a US military vehicle, the alliance has gone from strength to strength, with ROK troops a key US ally in Iraq and playing peace-keeping roles in other nations.

“The key task facing the United States now is to prepare for change in the North,” Cha said. “Kim Jong-il is not well, and there is no clear line of succession. The US and the ROK may very soon need a ‘concept plan’ to deal with the possibility of a collapse or implosion of the regime.”

“The relationship between Korea and the United States is at a new turning point,” said Hon. Hyong O Kim, Speaker of the Korean National Assembly, “and we hope that the election of Barack Obama will provide an opportunity for a new beginning for our two nations.”

A highlight of the seminar was a moving ceremony to honor 21 Korean War Veterans representing all 16 nations of the United Nations Forces that defended South Korea after the North Korean invasion in 1950. “Australia is intimately involved with the Republic of Korea,” said H.E. Peter Rowe, the Australian Ambassador to Korea in a greeting to the veterans. “We are proud to have spilled both blood and treasure here to help a young nation be free, a decision that has been vindicated by the progress this country has made.”

“The Philippines is also proud to have been a member of the UN Command,” said Ambassador Luis T. Cruz. “Over 7,000 Filipino soldiers served here in Korea, and for 116 it became their final resting place. We must not let the young generation forget the price of freedom.”

Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, Co-chair of the Universal Peace Federation, spoke to the need for the inclusion of faith leaders in a new peace process that would bring the conflict on the Korean peninsula to a final conclusion. “We only need to look back to the last century to recognize the futility of tackling the world’s problems through the same old military, economic, political, and diplomatic solutions,” he said. “Dealing with the symptoms of global crisis and conflict and ignoring the root cause just will not work. Without a foundation in the universal principles that come from God, there can be no lasting human rights and no peace.”

Despite Korea’s profound spiritual traditions going back over a thousand years, Dr. Moon said that the current situation was worrying. “The fact is that North Korea has become an atheistic, secular society, while here in the South we are seeing religious conflict as an increasing source of tension in our nation,” he said. “We are in danger of losing our most valuable spiritual and moral traditions. This is why the vision of ‘One Family under God’ is so important for Korea at this time.”

Rev. Jim Swilley and Bishop William Sheals, leaders of two fast-growing megachurches in the United States, representing the many faith leaders supporting the Global Peace Festival, strongly agreed. “Peace is always possible with God,” said Swilley, speaking later that evening at an Opening Banquet for the Global Peace Festival, “even when it seems impossible from the perspective of men.”

“Humanity is now entering a new era—the era of heaven that turns the world upside down,” said UPF Founder, the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon. “The time of suffering for both God and human beings is coming to an end. We are in a new era of peace when all humanity can live as ‘One Family under God.’”

On Sunday, November 9, the Global Peace Festival took its message of hope and reunification to the streets in a rousing appeal to the citizens of Seoul and Korea to stand up for peace. Tens of thousands came out to voice their support for a peaceful reunification with the North.

“It is no coincidence that today a Korean, Ban Ki-moon, serves as the Secretary-General of the United Nations,” said UPF Co-Chair Dr. Hyun Jin Moon in his keynote address. “I believe that it is God’s will for Korea to work anew with the international community of nations and lead the peace process. Together, we can dare to dream the greatest dream of all, to create One Family under God.”

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