On May 15, the Asia Institute and the Korea Peace Movement ― both deeply concerned about the fast deteriorating situation on the Korean Peninsula ― brought together their first peace march in downtown Seoul. Institute members feel they must raise their voices before it is too late and our children and dear ones are vaporized in the coming nuclear fire, and inform authorities that something must be done to address the growing concerns of citizens.
A broad section of Korean society participated in the march, including academics, business people, housewives, school teachers and students. Professor Emanuel Pastreich, director of the Asia Institute, opened the event. In his speech, he emphasized that no matter how small we are today, we must take the first step in the right direction. It takes an act of bravery to resist a wrong in society. Having gone through so much pain and suffering in the past few months because of the fear of nuclear war, we can no longer sit quietly in our homes and hope for this terrifying situation to return to normal. He said if others are preparing to wage war, we must come out in the streets and start waging peace.
Pastreich’s opening remarks were followed by a passionate speech by Lee Rae-kyong, director of the “Tomorrow” Institute in Seoul. He said peace is not passive. You cannot have peace merely by asking for it. One must actively work for it. One should always be ready to defend peace at any cost. Thus peace requires constant vigilance by all members of society.
Representing the literary section of society, Lee Eum-sim read her newly composed peace poem. In it she hoped the march will help restore peace in her war-torn country. She also expressed her sadness about how materialism and greed are affecting the citizens’ peace of mind. In this mad rush of extreme materialism, Korea‘s beautiful countryside, covered with beautiful mountains and rivers, offers true peaceful bliss. Connecting with nature can give us the true peace we are so desperately seeking.
Yoh Kawanaka of Japan performed a peace dance for the marchers. Through her dance she conveyed her message that only through durable peace can mankind reap its best potential. Peace is a fundamental imperative for the best to come out of us. After the performance, her brief remarks assured the Korean people that the people of Japan seek peace as much as the Korean people do. While there are some misunderstandings about her country in Korea, she brought her message to Korea of peace and love for the Korean people and hoped she can play a role in bringing these two nations closer together.
She emphasized good relations between Korea and Japan is the fundamental requirement for peace in the region. She strongly criticized the Japanese prime minister’s efforts to rearm Japan and said it will only lead to death and destruction in the region. She lamented she could not understand why her prime minster has proceeded in that direction when her country experienced so much devastation in the last war. According to her, all efforts to rearm Japan must stop.
Agam Jot Singh, representing the younger generation, posed the question: “If World War I was the war to end all wars, why we are still talking about the war today? Why could war not be wiped from the face of the earth? Why we are still using war to solve our differences? Why can we not solve our problems peacefully?” According to Singh, old people start wars, but the young people pay the price with their blood and lives.
After the speeches, a prayer was led by Professor Lakhvinder Singh for peace not only in Korea but across the world. In his remarks, Dr. Singh hoped that with the election of a new president a golden opportunity has appeared to build permanent peace in Korea. He felt Moon Jae-in is the “man of peace.” He encouraged all to pray for President Moon’s success and stand by him in this noble cause.
A peaceful march followed in downtown Seoul to make citizens aware of the dangers of nuclear war and what we must do to attain permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The march was concluded with a call to march again until permanent peace is brought to Korea, where our children can dream big and fulfill their potential in life.