One hundred years ago, Koreans and Americans in Philadelphia stood together in solidarity and support of the millions of people in a united Korea peacefully protesting colonial rule in a fight for freedom and independence. April 14th and 15th of this year marked the centennial of the First Korean Congress in Philadelphia, a delegation of 150 Korean and American citizens inspired by the First and Second Continental Congress of the United States and the millions of Koreans who peacefully stood for freedom in the March 1 Movement of 1919. Notable founders of the First Korean Congress included Philip Jaisohn, Han Kyong Jung, and Syngman Rhee, who became the first Korean President of the Republic of Korea.
Following the establishment of the First Korean Congress, Philadelphia would soon after become the birthplace of the League of Friends of Korea in America, organized in 21 American cities as well as abroad in London and France. The aspirations of the Korean people for basic freedoms and rights go beyond the border of any one nation, as demonstrated by the international outpouring of support for the peninsula over the last century.
In an interview with Global Peace Foundation, City Councilman David Oh, a military veteran and the first Korean-American elected to a political office in Philadelphia, encouraged citizens to embody that same spirit to go beyond racial and cultural boundaries to be a part of the commemoration saying,
“To be an American citizen has no racial or ethnic identity. But if we never raise a flag, if we never celebrate history, if we never invite people to understand who Korean-Americans are, then we are not offering the hand of friendship. There’s a lot of misunderstandings and so when there is an opportunity to celebrate any culture—whether we share in food, culture, language, or music—it’s an opportunity to partake as people. Americans come from such diverse backgrounds and hopefully have some level of unification and common values and perspectives that we can bridge with other communities.”
Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon, GPF Founder and author of Korean Dream: Vision for a Unified Korea, turned a spotlight on leaders of the Korean independence movement at a centennial commemoration of the March 1 Movement in Seoul during the Global Peace Convention 2019.
Dr. Moon pointed out that independence leaders wanted more than just freedom from Japanese colonial rule, rather believing in their destiny to create a nation that would become a model to the world saying, “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.”
“People hope for reunification of Korea—to be one country—because it is one people, one culture,” said Councilman Oh. “Hopefully that will address poverty and hopelessness in North Korea and new opportunities and democracy in both Koreas.”
Councilmembers David Oh and Helen Gym are Honorary Co-Chairs of the First Korean Congress Centennial Celebration Advisory Committee.
The original post appears on Global Peace Foundation. Global Peace Foundation is an international non-sectarian, non-partisan, nonprofit organization, which promotes an innovative, values-based approach to peacebuilding, guided by the vision of One Family under God. GPF engages and organizes a global network of public and private-sector partners who develop community, national, and regional peace building models as the foundation for ethical and cohesive societies. Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon is founder and chairman of the Global Peace Foundation.