The following speech was delivered by Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon, Founder and Chairman of Global Peace Foundation, at the Global Peace Convention 2019 on February 28, 2019.
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for joining us here in Seoul, Korea, my birthplace, for the Global Peace Convention at this momentous time in Korea’s history.
I would like to thank the many leaders here with the One Korea Global Campaign Organizing Committee, the Korean Parliamentary Society, Action for Korea United and the Global Leadership Council for their support and commitment and to welcome our many distinguished international guests here to Korea.
Guiding Principle of Hongik Ingan for Korean Reunification
All Koreans, North, South and in the diaspora trace their origins back millennia to the mythological story of Dangun, the ancestor of the Korean people. Running like a thread throughout our five-thousand-year history is the philosophical ideal of Hongik Ingan which roughly translated means “to live for the greater benefit of humanity.” It has always been a guiding principle throughout Korea’s tumultuous history in periods of crisis and national renewal. Representing our historic, cultural DNA, it allowed Koreans of every generation to connect to our heritage and define our future legacy.
Understandably, Hongik Ingan was a motivating ideal for the Independence movement that sought to create a new republic out of the ashes of the Chosen dynasty. It shaped the aspirations of the Independence leaders to want more than just freedom from Japanese colonial occupation. Based on this ethos they believed it was their destiny to create an ideal nation that would be an example to the world.
The most significant milestone of the Korean independence movement came in 1919. On March 1st of that year, more than two million Koreans, ten percent of the entire population, coalesced in a groundswell of support for the Korean Declaration of Independence, proclaiming it peacefully in mass rallies across the nation. Known as the “Mansei” or “Sam-il” movement to Koreans, it marked the first non-violent civil protest to Japanese and European colonial rule, inspiring other national movements for independence throughout the 20th century.
We are gathered here to celebrate the centennial of that moment in history and recognize the heroic efforts of our forefathers. Although a homogeneous people, Koreans have been inspired by Hongik Ingan throughout their history to seek universal truths from all philosophical and religious traditions. Unlike other Asians, Koreans were willing to embrace western values of freedom and human rights, political ideals of a constitutional republic as well as Christianity as we struggled to define our future.
This was reflected in the Korean Declaration of Independence. It appealed to the ideals of liberty, equality and the innate right of national self-determination. Harkening to the American Declaration, it highlighted the self-evident truths that are the basis for a world of conscience in line with a higher power and the peaceful progression of history.
Korean independence was seen through the lens of fulfilling Korea’s national destiny, instead of mere condemnation of Japan. I quote from the Declaration itself, “Today, our duty is to rebuild ourselves, not to demolish others.” It continues by stating that, “to boldly right old wrongs, opening a new relationship based on true mutual understanding, is certainly the best way for both countries to avert disaster and foster amity” with Japan.
Thus, for the architects of the Korean Declaration, one of whom was my Great Grand-uncle, Rev. Moon Yoon-guk, one of the most influential Christian pastors of his day, the Sam-il movement sought to stay true to the high ideals of Hongik Ingan. They recognized that “with the well-being of all humanity at stake, the establishment of Korean independence is a grave issue that transcends mere animosity of two nations.” Eventually signed by 33 signatories representing Christianity, Buddhism and Cheondogyo, as well as civic and cultural leaders, the Declaration stayed true to the spiritual roots of Korea’s founding and reinforced its sense of providential destiny.
The Role of the United States
The United States played a great role in shaping the geopolitical landscape of Asia and the fate of Korea throughout the 20th century. With the end of the Great War, President Woodrow Wilson drafted the 14 Points whereby one of those proposals mentioned the need for national self-determination for all colonized peoples, inspiring the Sam-il movement of 1919. Yet, due to weak American leadership, Wilson’s vision fell apart in a feeding frenzy as Allied Powers vied for the imperial territories of the Central Powers.
Instead of building a better post-war order, the Versailles Treaty paved a path for Japanese imperial ambitions in Asia. Because the West recognized Japan to the exclusion of every other Asian nation, it legitimized a sense of Japanese superiority over its neighbors. This would lead Japan on a collision course with the United States in Asia and, eventually, the entrance of the US into the Second World War.
The unconditional surrender of Japan in 1945 offered the United States a unique opportunity to influence the geo-political order of Asia once again. It had single-handedly defeated the Japanese empire, and it stood as the world’s only great super-power. Europe was in shambles, with the colonies of Europe and Japan seeking national self-determination.
In this vacuum, the US could have righted the wrongs of colonialism and brought freedom to the oppressed people of the developing world, in line with the aspirations of the Korean and other subsequent independence movements. This would have been the best bulwark against Communism and the Cold War that was soon to follow. Sadly, this was not to be.
Inviting the Soviet Union into the Pacific theatre due to concerns of excessive casualties in the invasion of Japan, the US inadvertently allowed the Russians to influence the geo-political landscape of Northeast Asia. The peninsula was divided into zones of influence along the 38th parallel, very much like Eastern Europe. In 1948, two separate governments were created in Korea, permanently dividing the peninsula. When the Soviets successfully tested their own atomic bomb in 1949, the US no longer stood as the world’s only great super-power, ushering in the nuclear age and the beginning of the Cold War.
War Postpones Hope for Independent Korea
The creation of the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the South and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North was a direct product of the Cold War with both governments, however, seeking to unify the peninsula from its very founding. Interestingly, the names of both nations either is or ends with the “Republic of Korea,” which harkens back to the independence movement, reflecting their common root. Eventually, the North’s failed attempt to unify Korea by force led to the Korean War in 1950. The fighting ended with an armistice in 1953 that solidified the division and left the hopes of the independence movement still unfulfilled.
While the military stalemate remains, the two Koreas developed in very different directions. “The Miracle on the Han” has transformed South Korea into the twelfth largest economy in the world today. The North’s economy, however, has declined to become a dysfunctional basket case. The only national achievement has been its nuclear program, surprising the world with the speed at which it developed nukes and a missile system to threaten all its neighbors, including the United States.
In response, President Donald Trump’s administration made Korea the top international priority of the US for the first time since the Korean War. It imposed biting sanctions and galvanized global support to enforce those sanctions. In addition, it projected a credible military threat to counter the North’s nuclear program. This aggressive American approach with the full support of the international community, especially the North’s former allies, forced the hand of Kim Jong-un.
Ironically, Kim Jung-un’s nuclear ambition became the catalyst for former geo-political rivals, the U.S., China and Russia, to come together to contain him. His lack of geo-political experience created a perfect storm of global condemnation on a par with the United Nation’s response to the outbreak of the Korean War. Yet, unlike in 1950, the North stood completely alone.
A Missed Opportunity
The complete isolation of North Korea by 2018 was a historical diplomatic achievement largely due to strong American leadership, Kim’s naïve geo-politics and circumstances coming together to create a unique opportunity. Yet, instead of capitalizing on this tremendous inflection point to shape the future of Korea, the United States kept its blinders on in pursuit of the unrealistic narrow goal of the “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” of the North. This revealed its lack of strategic vision for the peninsula, the region and the Pan-Pacific Rim.
Squandering this opportunity, the US has merely reacted to events on the peninsula rather than helping to shape a new geo-political reality. Out of desperation, Kim Jong-un reached out to the newly elected president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in for a lifeline. Representing the legacy of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, it was natural that Moon would see the North’s overture as an opportunity to pursue a “Sunshine Policy” 2.0. This would build his and the Left’s political capital domestically as well as give him international bona fides as a peace broker.
What followed was North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and three highly publicized Inter-Korea summit meetings between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. It appeared that the South Korean president’s initiative to “engage” the North was easing the tensions on the peninsula.
Yet, the larger issue of global sanctions led by the United States, as well as its military option to take out the North’s nuclear capabilities, remained a real threat to Kim Jong-un. Astonishingly, Moon took extraordinary steps to advocate direct bilateral talks between the United States and the DPRK, breaking with longstanding diplomatic practice. This set the stage for the Singapore Summit, the first ever face-to-face meeting between a sitting president of the US and North Korea.
This summit would give Kim the legitimacy his predecessors could not achieve and, thereby, increase his stature at home and abroad as an equal to the American president. Once he stood utterly alone, yet with the help of the South Korean president, he now stood as an equal with the very man who nearly brought him and his regime to the brink. The Singapore Summit was to be his greatest comeback.
The Singapore Summit exposed the flaws in American policy. In return for dismantling its nuclear program, the United States was prepared to aid the North’s flagging economy and even ensure the survivability of the Kim regime. In so doing, the US was willing to forfeit its basic values by ignoring the North’s atrocious human rights record as well as cementing a two-state reality on the peninsula. Although Kim agreed to some vague terms on denuclearization, few believed that he had any intention of abandoning his nuclear weapons and many were alarmed with the extent to which the US was willing to go in these bi-lateral negotiations.
Looking Beyond the Narrow Issue of Denuclearization
The US fails to see that the North’s nuclear program is more than its insurance policy against Western aggression; it is Kim’s crowning achievement in the face of a hostile world. For Koreans, whose fate had been determined by foreign powers throughout the 20th century, the need for independent self-realization is a powerful force and, therefore, admired when exhibited, even by Kim.
In addition, giving up its nukes would undercut the legitimacy of the regime that was built on propaganda about their importance to the North Korean people. The loss of credibility from giving up something so central to the Kim dynasty due to foreign pressure would damage the regime internally more than any enticements from the US would benefit it. Although Trump feels that he is on good terms with Kim, the DPRK will not give up their nukes no matter what they promise.
More importantly, American policymakers fail to recognize that the nuclear issue must be understood within the larger strategic framework of unification. Kim Jong-un and the North Korean ruling elite are an inter-generational dictatorship that have not abandoned the dream of Kim’s grandfather, “Eternal President” Kim Il Sung, of a united peninsula dominated by the North and its ideology. Remember, it was his grandfather who instigated the Korean War. Unification has always been the stated goal of both Koreas and something the North has been preparing for decades, with its ties to South Korean labor unions and elements of the ideological Left.
The North has a larger strategic view of a unified Korea that can reap the benefits of the South Korean economy with the might of their nuclear weapons capability. And what they can no longer achieve by force they will seek to achieve by geo-political maneuvers and exploiting the hyper-polarized ideological divides within South Korea. They will seek the official end of the Korean War, so that the US would be pressured to remove its military presence from the peninsula. They will appeal to the anti-American and anti-Japanese elements of the progressive Left in the ROK under the banner of Korean self-determination to erode the fragile alliance in Northeast Asia between South Korea, the US, and Japan; and by doing so, create an opportunity to create a new nation in their image.
American policy makers need to recognize wider strategic issues at play beyond the narrow issue of denuclearization. Following the first summit between Trump and Kim in Singapore, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pursued an evolving policy of greater cooperation with the North at the expense of its allies. He called for the “relaxation of sanctions” and the “declaration of the end to war” between the two Koreas and the United States, to the chagrin of the US and Japan.
The Moon and Kim summits acknowledged Korean unification as a stated goal. On September 19, 2018, in his speech at Rungrado Stadium to the North’s elite, Moon stated that he and Kim pledged “to hasten a future of common prosperity and reunification on our own terms.” This statement was made under “the principle of autonomy for our people, whereby we ourselves determine our own fate,” meaning the two Koreas and no other parties.
With an impetus towards unification underway, the most important strategic question for the United States, the region, the world and, most of all, the Korean people will become, “What sort of unification will it be? What sort of country will the new Korea be?” This is where the battle for the future of the peninsula will be fought.
Yet, how many South Koreans are aware that their leadership has made a tacit agreement for unification? Why is there no debate on the future of unification here in South Korea? Why is North Korea negotiating with the United States in Vietnam to the exclusion of the ROK when it would surely be the most affected by any outcomes made during that summit? The stakes are just too high. There should be a transparent process where the Korean people in the South, North and diaspora are participating in the debate for unification on the peninsula with the support of the international community.
An Out-of-the-Box Approach to Unification
I have long recognized the need for an “out of the box” approach to unification ever since my father, the Reverend Dr. Sun Myung Moon, pioneered the opening to North Korea through his groundbreaking meeting with Chairman Kim Il-sung in 1991. I was disappointed then to witness what followed. Although my father’s intent was to work towards unification in line with the ideals of the independence movement, the South Korean government had no overarching strategic plan or objective except engaging the North. What soon followed was the Sunshine Policy.
This policy of engagement opened the door to the reclusive DPRK. Every chaebol, religious, civic, political group and NGO as well as international governments and entities rushed to the get a foothold in the North. Huge amounts of capital poured in from official and unofficial sources, enabling North Korea to raise the funds it desperately needed to survive and, later, develop its own nuclear program.
The North’s economy at that time relied on subsidies from the Soviet Union; when the Soviets collapsed in the early 1990s, the DPRK was in serious jeopardy. What could have been a tremendous opportunity for unification was squandered due to the lack of leadership in South Korea and the US. Although unification has always been the stated goal of both South and North Korea, due to the ideological nature of their respective plans, neither plan is accepted by the other. With the lack of a clear objective, the policy of engagement reinforced the ideological, social, political, and economic differences of the two Koreas, leading some to wonder if the division of the peninsula could ever be bridged.
A new approach was needed that broke out of the Cold War framework and could appeal to both sides. Such an approach is encapsulated in my book “Korean Dream: Vision for a Unified Korea.” First, I looked to our common history and culture as an ancient people, beyond the divisions imposed upon the peninsula by outside forces. The common thread that ties all Koreans together is the founding mythology of Dangun and the ideal of Hongik Ingan. It is the very root of our Korean identity.
The seventy-four-year division of the Korean people is but a drop in the bucket of our five-thousand-year collective history. Our Korean identity was the common thread that held our people together throughout the ages, allowing us to overcome tremendous challenges. The division on the peninsula is the challenge of our generation but it is by no means insurmountable.
Secondly, I started with the end in mind by clearly stating that the purpose of unification should be to create a new nation in line with our cultural heritage. It encapsulated the aspirations of the independence movement from which the leadership of the two Koreas had come and, thus, made it relevant for the discussion of a new unified homeland. In so doing, I put the emphasis on the outcome and not the process of unification, thus presenting a focus that looks beyond the current opposing ideological positions; and thereby enabling the dialogue to start from a blank slate.
As a student of American history, I knew that the United States, which most agree is the paradigm of freedom and human rights, became the type of nation that it is because of its ideals and its founding principles and values. They are the skeletal frame upon which the flesh of democracy and free enterprise takes form. Yet, when we consider the rich and ancient history of Korea, we have been blessed with many of the ideals, principles, and values that resonate with those championed by the US. A new nation built upon that foundation would truly be a model nation in the world, due to our ancient pedigree and the fact that we overcame the horrors of colonialism and the division of the Cold War.
Civic Society Engagement for Reunification
Great social transformation requires the active engagement of a broad public united in pursuit of a common cause. That cause should be unification. Koreans from the North, South as well as the diaspora must engage with one another on many different levels. Civic organizations and NGOs are the perfect means for such engagement. Understanding the need for a broad civil society coalition, I have been instrumental in launching and developing Action for Korea United.
Since its launch with key partners in 2012, it has grown rapidly into the largest citizen-driven movement for unification in the history of South Korea, and now includes nearly 1,000 organizations. It is making unprecedented progress in building civic consensus, bridging political, religious, and regional divides, and collaborating with government and other stakeholders to promote the cause of unification among Koreans everywhere.
AKU organizes grassroots community education programs based on the Korean Dream approach in provinces throughout Korea and the diaspora. These are coupled with activities through which participants, including refugees and defectors from the North, experience making unification a part of their everyday life. AKU is also building broad support and enthusiasm for unification especially among the young, through culture and the arts, most notably with new unification songs and One K Concerts featuring award-wining artists and top K-Pop groups, with significant reach and impact through social media.
In addition to these vital efforts, AKU has joined with the Global Peace Foundation and other partners in the One Korea Global Campaign to advance the unification agenda with a wider global public. From experts’ forums like this one, to youth exchanges, cultural initiatives and social media, it is building awareness and generating support for a unified Korea on virtually every continent. Many of you are already actively engaged in this campaign, and I invite all of you to join us in this vital cause.
Need to Recalibrate International Approach to Korean Reunification
While we are gathered here, critical negotiations are underway between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK) at the second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim, concluding today in Vietnam. The main reason for this summit is the lack of substantial progress on denuclearization from the first meeting in Singapore last June.
I urge the ROK, US and the international community to recalibrate their approaches. As a concerned Korean, I believe the citizens of South Korea should be alarmed in the misdirected actions of this current administration. Appeasement of and advocacy for Kim’s regime is not a strategy, nor would it lead to anything productive for the Korean people. Unfortunately, the North understands the weakness of the South’s hyper-partisan political environment. It is no coincidence that the North historically only engages with left leaning presidential administrations and not conservative ones.
My book, the “Korean Dream,” offers a new framework for unification that can appeal to all Koreans, in the South, North and the diaspora, rooted in our collective heritage that defines our destiny as a people. I wrote this book to empower all Koreans to be the masters of that destiny and to fulfill the dreams of our forefathers of creating a model nation in line with the Hongik Ingan ideal. As a good friend and famous contemporary poet Ji Ha Kim said about my book, “My dream, your dream, our dream; all become one in Korean Dream.” If every Korean becomes the owner of this dream, I am confident it will soon become our collective reality.
Most of all, I believe that the US should abandon its narrowly defined denuclearization policy and widen its Korea focus. It should view this issue within the larger framework of unification, especially since it is being actively considered. Like the Marshall Plan in Europe and MacArthur’s reconstruction of Japan did after WWII, the US should have a longer strategic view of Korea in relation to its neighbors and the pan-Pacific Rim. Both those plans led to a post-war alliance that was the bulwark against communist aggression, providing global security and unprecedented economic growth.
Likewise, a unified Korea that is built upon the ideals of Hongik Ingan would naturally align itself to the West since it shares its values of liberty and human rights. In addition, it would be an indispensable peace broker, bridging East and West, in the most dynamic region in the world. As a result, a unified Korea should become the clearly stated and actively pursued policy of the U.S. with the support of the community of nations. In doing so, it would help the Korean people bring closure to the legacy of colonialism and the Cold War that plagued us throughout the 20th century and open a new chapter of freedom, unity and global prosperity in line with our providential charge “to benefit all humanity.”
Celebrating the March 1 Centennial with the Korean Dream
The centennial celebrations that we will be attending tomorrow remind us of the dreams of our forefathers to create an ideal nation. I would like to share what Kim Gu, the head of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in Shanghai, wrote, “I wish my nation would be a nation that doesn’t imitate others, but rather it be a nation that is the source of a new and higher culture…And thus true world peace come from our nation.” This is the Korean Dream—to create an ideal nation and lead the world to peace.
What would happen if a new united nation is created that reflects the Hongik Ingan ideal of “living the for the benefit of all humanity?” Would it not benefit all Koreans, both North and South, especially those with families divided by the 38th parallel? Would it not benefit the region with a Korean nation friendly with its neighbors beyond ideological divides and true to its historic identity as an advocate for peace?
I pose these questions since the creation of a new nation is still a dream and not yet a reality. But what would happen if everyone gathered in these centennial celebrations were to have that same dream, reminded of the sacrifices of our forefathers during the Sam-il movement of 1919? As Chingis Khan observed seven hundred years ago, “if one person has a dream, it is but a dream; but if everyone shares in that dream, it becomes reality.”
Now is the time for far-reaching vision, wise leadership, and bold action. Korea’s historical quest for one free, independent sovereign nation is no longer a distant dream. It will be the reality of tomorrow. Let us all become the owners of the Korean Dream and realize the Korean Dream!!!
May God bless you and your families, and, once again, let us realize the Korean Dream!