At the Action for Korea United Festival on August 15, 2022, twenty thousand Korean citizens pledged to build a grassroots base that would gather 10 million people by 2025 to mark the 80th anniversary of Liberation Day. Throughout the month of February 2023, AKU held four regional rallies in Busan, Honam, Chungcheong and Daegu as part of the build up towards 2025. The final victory celebration for the series of rallies took place in the capital city of Seoul on February 21 with key leaders of the growing grassroots, civil society-led movement to realize the Korean Dream.
It is a tremendous honor for me to be here, to be able to speak to all of you today. You represent the leadership of this nation. I’m not talking about the leaders in government, but leaders of Korean society. You represent the Korean people.
The reason why I embarked on this tour this year is to build the momentum for not only the gathering later on this year but for this entire 10-million campaign.
Why is this 10-million campaign so significant? I believe I have already told the leaders, especially of some of the associations, how significant that event will be. It will be the most significant event not only of that year but will resonate throughout this entire century.
One of the things that we have to understand is that the Korean people also set a tremendous precedent in the beginning of the 20th century, at a time when we did not have a nation, but only a dream. A dream that one day we will be able to realize the providential mandate rooted in Hongik Ingan, in building an ideal nation.
When the door was opened by the President of the United States at that time, Woodrow Wilson, through the League of Nations and also his proposal that all colonized nations should eventually have a pathway to national sovereignty, Korea was the first nation to rise up to take on that call.
The Samil movement was not a movement just relevant for Korea and for Koreans but became the inspiration for every single nation in the 20th century that sought independence and their own national sovereignty. It was the voices of the Korean people, not any leader, but the Korean people that rose up at a time of hopelessness and gave the world inspiration that eventually set the precedent for the first half of the 20th century. The Samil movement did not just shake this peninsula but the region and the world.
Today we stand in the 21st century. Many thought that the 21st century would be much better than the 20th century, and yet, look at the quagmire that the world is in today, with statist powers on the rise, of China and Russia reminiscent of the ideological divide of the Cold War of the last half century. With the war in Ukraine, we also realize that these nations are no longer working on an ideological level but now are even willing to exercise and utilize their military might. Even in this region in the world, China makes no bones about its threat to even take Taiwan by force.
So, although humanity has made tremendous progress, the world is still a dangerous place, faced with many travails. Yet at the same time, it can be an opportunity for the world to see a glimpse of hope of what this century could usher in and bring for humanity – like our ancestors did a hundred years ago.
A people with no nation, a people with no identity, holding on to our Hongik Ingan ideal and the providential mandate that we believed God had given to us, to create a nation that can benefit all of humanity; holding on to that dream, the Korean dream, that inspired a century. That spirit shall be revisited on this land once again, through this 10-million march. Aju? We shall raise the voices of the Korean people once again – the forgotten people who need hope not only for themselves but through their hope and their courage can bring hope to the rest of humanity.
Let us, as Koreans, show the world, as well as our fellow Koreans in the North and around the world in the diaspora, that we stand together as one, and we go back to our founding visionary mandate to build an ideal nation, the Korean dream, that will bring us out from this morass.
You have to remember that there are larger forces at work. As you know, I’m a man of deep faith. I come from a very, very faithful family. I believe that each and every one of you are gathered here for a reason and a purpose, that you are providential figures that are now at a critical juncture and inflection moment in the history of our people that have received the clarion call to be the owners of this dream and to inspire your Korean neighbors and to give them the hope that they need to empower them, to be the owners of this dream, so that collectively, our voices together can shake this peninsula, this region, and the world. Aju?
That is what this movement is about.
Remember what I always quote from Genghis Khan. That if one person has a dream, it is but a dream. But if everyone shares in that dream it will become a reality. For those who still need convincing, let me just tell you this: in history all the major movements for transformation never happened on the top. It was always a grassroots movement of the people that brought about the fundamental transformations of events that nobody believed could actually happen. In the 1990s, who would have believed that the Soviet Union would collapse? They were at the height of their powers. Who would have believed that the Berlin Wall would come down?
It is dreamers who are willing to put their neck out on the line and recognize that there are moments in history – inflection moments in history, consequential moments in history – that calls upon us to act, that calls upon us to become the owners. And this is that moment for the Korean people.
This time I visited four major cities, but I was telling many of the top leaders that usually in order for me to go and speak I need to have at least a minimum of 10,000 people, and that I want you to bring more young people because if you bring more young people and they take ownership over this Korean dream it will light it on fire. There are those who say the Korean young people are not interested in unification. Just bring them to my rally and let them hear my speech. Then you will see whether or not they will be the owners of the Korean dream.
Before I go, I want to leave every one of you with a challenge.
My challenge is this. This time next year, I will do these regional rallies again, especially in preparation for the million campaign later on that year. My challenge to each and every one of you is that in every single one of those locations, you have to have a minimum of 10,000 people and you have to bring many young people. That means your sons and your daughters! [Korean: Can you do that?]
I gave you that challenge. Those of you who will take ownership and will make an even greater preparation as we roll up this campaign for next year, stand up and say Aju! Aju! Aju! Aju!