Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, founder and chairman of the Global Peace Foundation talked about the potential of a grassroots movement to push ahead Korean reunification in an interview with Shin Donga Newspaper. Below is an English translation.
“A Grassroots Unification Movement will Generate a Huge Wave”
Peace Activist, Hyun Jin Moon, Chairman of GPF
- One dream to create one Korea
- Sponsored “One K Concert” to inspire the youth
- Realizing Hongik Ingan through a civic-led unification
Song Hong-gŭn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer: Pak Hae-yun
The Chairman of the Global Peace Foundation (GPF), Hyun Jin Moon, aims to be a “global citizen.” He goes all over the globe as if it were his front yard leading a peace movement. He instills ownership for peace based on the “Hongik Ingan” philosophy, “To Benefit all mankind.”
Moon studied History at Columbia University in the U.S. and graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School. He also has a Master’s degree in Religion. He competed in the Olympics (1988, 1992) as a national representative of Korea in equestrian. At age 46, he has nine children.
Moon is the third son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church. However, due to the passing of his two elder brothers, he is the oldest living son. He is not a member of the Unification Church. In fact, he has no relationship to Korea’s Unification Church. Moon emphasizes that he is a, “peace activist that has gone outside the box of religion.” He has led a global peace movement since 2009 with the founding of GPF. GPF’s headquarters is in Washington D.C., U.S.
He thinks of himself as an pioneer of ‘a grassroots reunification movement of the Korean peninsula.’ Along with around 1,100 domestic civil society groups, he is advancing the unification movement. GPF began to expand the unification movement beginning in 2010. On October 8th in Samsong-dong Seoul, GPF hosted the ‘Korea Unification Forum’ with the topic of ‘Examining the Role of Civil Society and Global Cooperation in Furthering a Unified Korea.’ On of the same day, GPF hosted the Global Peace Economic Forum with the title of ‘Peaceful Unification and Economic Development.’
I met him on October 6 at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in Samsŏng-dong.
“Reunification? The Answer Is in ‘Hongik Ingan’”
–You have been doing reunification movements for the Korean peninsula since 2010. Was there something that initially motivated you?
“As I explained in detail in my book that was published last year, unification of North and South Korea will not only be a blessing to the Korean people, but a blessing for humanity, especially in the advocacy of peace. There are two major hotspots in the world today: Northeast Asia with this North and South Korea issue and the Middle East. By bringing about the reunification of North and South Korea, you are going to be building North East Asia region for peace and economic growth for the other nations in the world and stability in the global economy, as well as dealing with nuclear proliferation.
Last year, Dr. Moon published the Korean Dream, subtitled, ‘A Vision of a Unified Korea.’ This book contains the ‘a roadmap for reunification,’ which is based on the Korean peninsula’s identity and destiny. The main idea of the book is if Korea can rediscover the identity of its people rooted in Hongik Ingan and achieves unification, Korea will become a leading country in the 21st century as a model for world peace.
A ‘Pebble’ and a Huge Wave
“The process of unification has to start with rediscovering the identity of the Korean people that was formed by its unique historical traditions. A mindset of Hongik Ingan, in other words, benefitting all people and working for humankind is our people’s destiny. The philosophy of Hongik Ingan holds the universal values of humankind. A vision of unification must be formed using a mentality of Hongik Ingan that is shared by both North and South as a foundation.
The start of this destiny starts from establishing a self-governing unified state that will realize our mission. As for unification, Korea will become the stepping stone contributing to a prosperous East Asia and world peace.”
He frequently quotes Genghis Khan, saying, “One person’s dream is nothing more than a dream, but when everyone dreams together, that dream becomes reality.”
“Genghis Khan’s tribe was the weakest group in Mongolia, but their dream of ‘one world beneath one sky’ was profound. They all dreamed the same dream, and constructed the largest empire in mankind’s history. The United States’ revolution was the same thing. Poor farmers and small store owners revolted against Great Britain. They dreamed that they would found a nation to preserve their God-given rights, and became the superpower they are today. The ideal that Hongik Ingan reveals is the same as the dream of the empire of the Mongolians and the hope of founding the United States.”
–You have taken the lead in unification movements lead by civil society groups and citizens. What is the reason for stressing citizen-led grassroots unification movements?
“Historically, social revolution has been driven from the bottom. The collapse of the USSR was that way, as was the unification of Germany. The Arab Spring was the same. True movements don’t happen from top to bottom but from bottom to top. Our government’s reunification policy goes back and forth depending on whether or not the administration is liberal or conservative. Grassroots unification movements that have Korea’s identity at the base can overcome these limitations. Consistent unification movements are possible.
In the U.S., civil society mainly changed society by politicizing agendas. In Korea, there is a mentality that ‘if the government doesn’t lead, it cannot be done,’ but it’s time for that attitude to change. One ordinary citizen, if one individual becomes an owner of the unification issue, a huge unification movement wave will rise up. The government will have to follow this giant wave.”
He stressed that, “’I’ alone cannot change the world. But I can throw a pebble which can make a lot of waves.”
–It seems that there is not much interest in reunification for the younger generation.
Why aren’t teens and people in their 20s interested in reunification? It’s the fault of adults. It’s because adults haven’t correctly explained to the younger generation that unification is an important issue, one that has a colossal influence on our future. It’s also a problem that they have been misinformed about the cost of reunification and the phenomenon that arose in Germany after the reunification, etc. We haven’t been able to teach the young generation about how many people would benefit if we were united or how it would contribute to the life of humankind. One of the reasons that I wrote Korean Dream, also, was to correct the perceptions of young people.”
“One Dream, One Korea”
–You sponsored the new era unification song ‘ONE K’ concert. Are you also interested in the songs of Korea’s girl groups?
“Sorry, I don’t really know. My daughter knows a lot. I organized the event to increase the interest of teens and people in their 20s about reunification.”
On October 9, a new era unification song concert, ‘ONE-K,’ was held in the Seoul World Cup Stadium, attended by people from all walks of life, such as K-Pop stars, Secretary Hong Yong-pyo from the Ministry of Unification, and representatives from both parties. Approximately 40,000 people sang the unification song ‘One Dream, One Korea’ together. ‘One Dream, One Korea’ was written by Kim Hyŏng-sŏk with lyrics by Kim Ina as a song targeted to the 1020 generation, and sung by EXO, Wonder Girls, EXID, AOA, and other K-Pop stars. The ensemble versions of ‘One Dream, One Korea’ and the Yang-pa and Na Yun-gwŏn duet version of the song can be downloaded or listened to on music track sites like Soribada, MelOn, Bugs, and Genie. In the music video, Kim Mu-sŏng of the Saenuri Party and Moon Chae-in of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy were featured.
Moon was born in Seoul and raised in the U.S. His parents’ hometowns were north of the military demarcation line. His father was from Chŏngju, in North Pyŏng’an Province, and his mother was from Anju, in South Pyŏng’an Province. Growing up as a Korean in the U.S., the division of his fatherland was, ‘something that could not be separated from his life.’ When he grew up, American people thought of all East Asian people as Chinese. If you said that you were ‘Korean,’ the next question was always, ‘Which Korea?’ He was uncertain about how to reply, since he was born in South Korea but his parents were from North Korea. The identity issues that he experienced while spending his childhood in the U.S. led to an interest in Korean history and his family background.
The Ideals of Dangun and Baekbeom
“My great uncle (Moon Yun-guk) who was a Protestant pastor led approximately 4,000 people from North Pyŏng’an Province’s Sŏnchŏn, Chŏngju, Osan, etc. at the time of the March 1st Movement, and while he was doing a patriotic protest, he was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison. He should have been one of the 33 people who represented the people and signed the Declaration of Independence, but since the whole region was under surveillance, Yi Myŏng-ryong, who was an elder who attended my uncle’s church, participated in the 33 signatures.
My father saw the unification of the peninsula as the core that would realize world peace. Through his dramatic meeting with Premier Kim Il-sung in 1991, he blazed the trail for opening North Korea’s doors. Afterward, through the Sunshine Policy, with North Korea’s doors open, countless groups went into North Korea and worked. However, the government and the private organizations worked disjointedly without agreeing on the purpose of the exchanges with North Korea or what kind of reunification would take place, so in the end, the North Korean regime was prolonged and nuclear development was facilitated.
As I emphasized before, a vision of what kind of unification is more important than anything. Hongik Ingan is both the origin of the Korean people, as well as a thought that has become our dream, and the root of our people’s identity. Korean people’s given destiny is to achieve reunification and create a new future for the Korean people and the Korean peninsula, as well as for all of Asia and the world.”
In Baekbeom, Kim Gu also said something similar to this.
“I want Korea not to become a country that imitates others, but to become the source of new high culture, to become a goal, and to become a model. Thus, I want true world peace to become real in the world because of Korea. I believe that Hongik Ingan was an ideal of our national founder, Dangun.” (Kim Gu)
Moon considers Hongik Ingan to be inherent to Koreans.
“The philosophy of inalienable rights that appears in the U.S. Declaration of Independence was recognized 5,000 years ago within the philosophy of Hongki Ingan, and it contains the ideals that has consensus from humanity. As for ‘benefit the world,’ the founding philosophy of our people contains the aspiration to realize true peace that starts with us. A united dream can create a united Korea. The burning desire of eighty million people is to attain a unified Korea and found a new future. The dream we are all dreaming together of a reunified country includes each one of us.”
“We have to make an equal opportunity ‘arena’”
–Why emphasize identity, destiny, and vision?
“The Cold War system has vanished, but unfortunately, the Korean peninsula is still divided. The only place that is still locked in a Cold War mentality is the Korean peninsula. The USSR collapsed and China’s Korean peninsula policies have changed, but in North and South Korea, the Cold War continues. If we want to get out of the Cold War mentality, we have to propose a vision with Korea’s historical roots, our identity, and the fate of the people at the foundation. There are those who think that North and South Korea’s administrations will reach an agreement and become unified that way, but they don’t know what they are talking about. The only way Korea will become unified is if the citizens become owners and lead unification movements. In order to that, more than anything else, vision is important.”
–Successful economic reform is also an important factor in preparing for reunification.
“When the economy needs to be revived by government leadership, a crony-capitalism system may be tolerated, but in Korea today, where the economy is developed, it’s a problem to just focus on a few chaebŏls (family-run conglomerates). This situation is crushing the potential of the Korean people. The fact that population of young person has diminished but there are still more young people who are unemployed than ever is evidence of this. The phrase, “Hell Chosŏn” that has been coined to describe the self-torturous environment is clear evidence that Korea’s economy is in a bad place.”
He emphasized that, “reform and deregulation of the financial market is necessary. After the foreign exchange crisis, unfair capital distribution became worse. Improvements have to happen and move in the direction of expanding opportunities to create capital.”
“If we don’t solve the problem of an economy fixated on conglomerates, when we become united, how are we going to accommodate more than 20 million North Koreans? We have to make a fair playing field in which many people have access to capital and everyone is provided with equal opportunities in order to block the economic focus on conglomerates. Among the big differences between the U.S. and Korea, one is that in the U.S., when intelligent and talented young people are starting their own businesses, there are paths to access capital, but in Korea, they are already blocked from the very beginning. It’s not just difficult for young people to get jobs; it’s also hard for them to establish a business.”
–I’m aware that in less developed nations like the Philippines, Nepal, Cambodia, Mongolia, etc., solar lanterns and streetlamps have been installed, and educational and living environments are being improved by the All-Lights Village Project.
“The solar lanterns are symbolic. Light means escape from poverty and enlightenment. Poverty can be overcome through reformation of consciousness. The New Village Movement also succeeded thanks to reformation of consciousness under the goal of ‘let’s be self-reliant.’ We are helping people to think, ‘I can escape from poverty’ with solar lanterns and streetlamps as the medium. The All-Lights Village Project started in the Philippines as a public-private partnership community development program, and developed as self-reliant village project to eradicate illiteracy in rural areas and develop the economy.
–What about your work in South America?
Work in Asia and South America
“We do the same work in South America as we do in Asia. In particular, through character education with each country’s Ministry of Education, we work to cultivate young people of good character. We also provide a variety of volunteer opportunities in order to change attitudes toward civility. GPF also starts national transformation movements in South America. As you know, South American countries have a lot of problems in their national systems and organizations. Whether a country functions properly or not is determined more on what the principles and values are that preserve the country than its political system. The U.S.’s becoming a superpower was influenced by their impartial value system which stresses responsibility from Christianity and Judaism. The financial crisis and such took place after those values and principles collapsed. Our work in South America, too, stresses the importance of principles and values, just as it does in other places, while presenting solutions based on them as the basis.”
–Are you willing to visit North Korea and meet Kim Jong-un?
“That will happen sooner than you think.”
–When do you think reunification will happen?
“That depends on the Korean people. Civic-led reunification movements are important.”
Reunification Experts and Reunification Economy Forum
“Reunification Is Coming Faster Than You Think. The More We Prepare, the Better.”
On October 8, GPF hosted the ‘Korean Peninsula Reunification International Expert Forum’ with the Hansun Foundation and others in Seoul’s Samsŏng-dong. The topic was ‘the role of civil society in reunification and seeking international cooperation plans.’ On the same day, a reunification economy forum was held with the topic of ‘peaceful reunification and economic development.’ The opinions expressed at both forums are introduced here.
“The reunification of the Korean peninsula is the destiny of the Korean people as a community. Not only the government, but also civil society needs to actively get involved for reunification to happen. Let’s gather the knowledge of all of our people and open the road to the reunification of the Korean peninsula.” (Pak Chae-wan, Chairperson of the Hansun Foundation, former Ministry of Strategy and Finance secretary)
“For a long time, our society has thought of ‘unification’ in terms of South Korean-centered unification or the enormous financial burden we will have to undertake if we are reunified. It’s time now to change our perspective when it comes to unification. This is because of the opportunities and hope that come with reunification. Outwardly, with Northeast Asia’s peace and stability as a foundation, this region can be changed into a new growth center for the world economy. Inwardly, a new stepping stone can be made for Korea’s economy, which has lost some of its growth power. Germany, which faced reunification without being prepared has advised that, ‘unification comes faster than you would think, and the more you prepare for it, the better.’” (Kim Chu-hyŏn, Unification Preparation Committee, Economic Branch Chairperson Advisor to the President)
“If we take apart the process of reunification in terms of economics, it can be divided in terms of the development of North Korea’s economy, the transition of North Korea’s economy, and the joining of the economies of the North and South. Before the joining, if North Korea’s economy develops and the transition is already propelled to some degree, then the work of joining the two economies will be that much easier and the cost of reunification will also be reduced. Thus, economic cooperation between the North and the South is the most beneficial method to prepare for reunification.” (Cho Tong-ho, Director of the Research Institute for Reunification Studies at Ewha Women’s University)
“The longer we continue to be divided, the more laborious the responsibility of reunification becomes for us.” (Kim Chin-pyo, former deputy prime minister for economic affairs)
“I propose breaking the standard framework up until now of North/South economic cooperation which was South Korean capital + North Korean low pay labor power and using a model in which commercial finance supports North Korean industry. This is a model in which South Korea’s commercial banks join up with other private banks or commercial banks in other countries like China and support North Korea’s industry with equipment funds or operating funds. This is an overall support plan that isn’t limited to only fund support; so that North Korea’s industry can succeed, different kinds of knowhow instruction for the processing trade, help with facility funds, improvement of trade finances, purchasing of the products produced, etc. would be included. If this kind of model is realized and North Korea’s economy gains autonomy while becoming market and finance-oriented, it would be a big help in making ‘the unification jackpot’ a reality going forward.” (Sin Sang-hun, former Shinhan Bank president)