In a time of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula that is feeding the threat of nuclear conflict, the Korean Declaration of Independence may serve as a point of unity and way forward.
The dream elucidated in the declaration issued on March 1, 1919 gave exigency and courage to the Korean Independence Movement, lighting a path that was not hinged on the injustices of the past, but rather driven by a sense of duty to honor the heritage of the Korean people and secure a bright future for succeeding generations.
The document sparked the March 1 Independence Movement that was a largely peaceful movement, spreading throughout the peninsula, engaging millions of Koreans to stand up for the right to self-govern and pursue happiness.
The Declaration of Independence, penned by an inter-religious body of 33 Koreans, has deeply spiritual undertones. It recognizes the global “awakening of the consciousness of mankind” to heaven’s mandate that all people have the right to live with dignity and freedom, and that all nations should co-exist peacefully. It called upon Korea’s rich history and spiritual legacy as the foundation for the Korean people to rise up and claim their destiny to serve as an example for humanity. Moreover it asked that the Korean people not dwell on the grievances to the oppressors, but forgive in order to focus on the future.
Below are excerpts from the Declaration translated by Han Kyo Kim:
We hereby declare that Korea is an independent state and that Koreans are a self-governing people. We proclaim it to the nations of the world in affirmation of the principle of the equality of all nations, and we proclaim it to our posterity, preserving in perpetuity the right of national survival.
We make this declaration on the strength of five thousand years of history as an expression of the devotion and loyalty of twenty million people. We claim independence in the interest of the eternal and free development of our people and in accordance with the great movement for world reform based upon the awakening conscience of mankind. This is the clear command of heaven, the course of our times, and a legitimate manifestation of the right of all nations to coexist and live in harmony. Nothing in the world can suppress or block it….
Because of the urgent need for remedies for the problems of today we cannot afford today, we cannot afford the time for recriminations over past wrongs.
Our task today is to build up our own strength, not to destroy others. We must chart a new course for ourselves in accord with the solemn dictates of conscience, not malign and reject others for reasons of past enmity or momentary passions…
Behold! A new world is before our eyes. The days of force are gone, and the days of morality are here. The spirit of humanity, nurtured throughout the past century, has begun casting its rays of new civilization upon human history. A new spring has arrived prompting the myriad forms of life to come to life again. The past was a time of freezing ice and snow, stifling the breath of life; the present is a time of mild breezes and warm sunshine, invigorating the spirit. Facing the return of the universal cycle, we set forth on the changing tide of the world. Nothing can make us hesitate or fear.
We shall safeguard our inherent right to freedom and enjoy a life of prosperity; we shall also make use of our creativity, enabling our national essence to blossom in the vernal warmth. We have arisen now. Conscience is on our side, and truth guides our way. All of us, men and women, young and old, have firmly left behind the old nest of darkness and gloom and head for joyful resurrection together with the myriad living things. The spirits of thousands of generations of our ancestors protect us; the rising tide of world consciousness shall assist us. Once started, we shall surely succeed. With this hope we march forward.
For more on Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon’s book, Korean Dream: A Vision for a Unified Korea, that proposes a comprehensive, vision-based approach to reunification, visit: https://www.hyunjinmoon.com/korean-dream/
For more on activities of the Global Peace Foundation that are promoting a common vision for reunification, including the One Korea Declaration, visit: http://www.globalpeace.org/korea