The following article by Park Ji-won for The Korea Times covers the Action for Korea United Festival 2019 hosted on August 15 in Seoul where 15,000 civic activists and citizens gathered at the Kintex Convention Center marking Korea’s 74th National Liberation Day to support a vision for a unified Korea.

While the world is eyeing North Korean missile launches and the dispute between South Korea and Japan in recent weeks, a global campaign is seeking to raise public awareness of the need for unification on the Korean Peninsula.

Civic activists and citizens gathered at KINTEX, Gyeonggi Province, Aug. 15, to take part in the Action for Korea United Festival, a cultural event held to share the vision of peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula as part of an international campaign by the Global Peace Foundation (GPF), a nonprofit organization for peacebuilding activities around the globe. This time, it was specifically organized to mark the 74th anniversary of the country’s liberation from Japan in 1945.

During the festival which was co-hosted by Action for Korea United (AKU), a civic alliance of over 800 NGOs, trot artists including legendary singers Kim Yon-ja, Hong-ja and Jung Mi-ae, performed in front of an audience of 10,000 people from around the world, according to the One-K Global Campaign Organizing Committee. Prior to the performance, attendees agreed that citizens should take the lead in unification.

The festival and an international forum on unification held Aug. 14, co-hosted by the GPF and AKU, were designed as a means to better understand the vision of creating a unified nation in line with the founding philosophy of Ingan Hong-ik Ingan who called on the Korean people to live for the betterment of all mankind.

To this end, the AKU has held a series of events since 2015 including K-pop concerts in South Korea and the Philippines and released a campaign song titled “One Dream, One Korea.”

The organizers stressed the importance of taking the initiative and sharing a unified vision among citizens to achieve Koreas’ long-time goal of unification, amid the difficulties that South and North Korea face today. These include military provocations by the North which continues to fire short-range missiles into the East Sea, amid soured relations between the South and Japan over trade and historical issues.

“If only we take the leadership, we can bring about tremendous transformation on this land. But before we do so, we as Koreans, have to strip ourselves of all the foreign constructs that have divided this land. North and South. And even here in South Korea. Left and right. And recognize that we have a common heritage and common identity as the Korean people. We are one Korean family. We have to unite that family,” the organizers said during the event.

Claiming that the Korean people have greatness in their DNA, they added, “That was reflected by the declaration of independence and read one hundred years ago. Remember it was our forefathers that were living through the tragedy of colonization. But in the declaration, they made it a point that Korea should work with Japan to establish peace in East Asia.”

Meanwhile, other VIP guests from all over the world participated in the festival and pledged to join hands to support the unification movement for peace in the region.

“In order to realize the unification of the Korean Peninsula and create a new era in such a rapidly changing environment, we should foster a dream of unification by creating an environment through civic cooperation as well as expanding the unification movement to realize greater values and goals beyond ideological and system barriers,” said Kang Young-kyu, chief of the Korea National Police Veterans Association, one of the co-hosts of the venue said in a congratulatory speech.

Ha Jae-sung, a councilor at Kingston Council in the U.K., said North Korean defectors began to move into his district 15 years ago. “In the beginning, there were conflicts [between Koreans] due to the differences in language and thoughts in the past, but now they understand each other and have initiated a unification movement.”

He added that if Koreans truly dream together, unification will become a reality while pledging to give more support to those North Koreans who want to see their families still in the North.