A message from Dr. Jai Ryu, founder of One Korea Foundation and co-chair of One Korea Coalition
Greetings and thank you for your interest in the dream of a unified One Korea. We are approaching the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation, and the almost simultaneous division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel. For Korean people this is both a joyful and deeply painful commemoration, like finding one’s parents, separated in the chaos of war, only to lose them in a bitter divorce.
There is a general perception that Korea unification is a remote possibility. Why is that? First, Koreans have been separated for 70 years. Most people today were born and have grown up in a divided Korea, accustomed to the daily realities of life in a divided nation. Second, the division has resulted in two radically divergent social structures and systems of government that appear to be irreconcilable. However, a divided Korea is an aberration. Koreans have lived together in one land and as one people for thousands of years. In the context of Korean history and shared cultural identity, the division is brief, artificial and unsustainable.
My interest in unification is quite personal. I was born in North Korea in 1941 and left with my parents when I was four years old. My mother used to tell stories of the trip south and I would think, “What if, by some change of fortune, I were still living there?” That possible destiny caused me reflect that those people suffering in the north could be me. That could be my story.
After a career in academia, I established the One Korea Foundation in 2012 both from my lifelong concern for my homeland and from the inspiration of a friend, Professor Chang Min Shinn, the author of Unification is Daebok [“Bonanza”] 2012. I am pleased to be serving as the co-chair of the One Korea Coalition, a broad-based network of more than 600 hundred organizations in the United States and Korea working to raise awareness and promote policies that can end the division of the Korean peninsula, particularly as we approach the seventieth anniversary of the liberation and division of Korea.
August 15 marks the seventieth anniversary of Korea’s liberation and division. In our commemorative events and ongoing work, the One Korea Foundation seeks to advance the vision of a unified Korea by appealing to both to the mind and heart. The “Declaration of One Unified Korea” is the result of more than five months of careful drafting and represents the considered insights of many dedicated Korean patriots. It is a landmark statement of the ideals and values that can inform both the unification process and a unified Korean nation. Please read it carefully and may it provide guidance in future conversations, deliberations and decision-making regarding Korea’s future.
In addition, the unification song, “One Dream One Korea,” will debut at commemorative events in Washington, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. Music is universal, intergenerational, and can be a powerful messenger of peace, particularly among youth. Our hope is that the unification song will become an anthem of peace, not only for the Korean peninsula but for a unified world, where oppression, indignity and want will be eradicated.
Dr. Jai Ryu
Founder, One Korea Foundation