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Northeast Asia Peace Initiative

L.Y. Moon: Women Supporting Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

The Women's Federation for World Peace (WFWP) was established for the purpose of contributing to world peace by strengthening the family and providing service and education for those in need. Our activities promote international exchanges and reconciliation to create a network for peace. We believe that the world is truly one family, a global village under God.

In Korea, we focus on activities for the unification of the peninsula, for this is as essential for world peace as resolving the Middle East crisis. Since its inauguration in 1992, WFWP members in Korea have held an annual prayer meeting with their children close to the northern border at the beginning of each year. This is symbolic and part of building a spiritual foundation to open the door to the north.

In February 2001, I was allowed to visit the North for the first time after fleeing from North Korea 50 years earlier as a refugee. Ten NGO representatives under the Korean Women Leaders Association visited there together. We brought a donation of 30,000 pieces of warm underclothing and ten television sets for children. They appreciated them, but they did not wish to admit that they were being helped, being very proud.

In August 2003, about 90 members of the Korean WFWP paid a visit to North Korea on one of the first direct flights from Seoul to Pyongyang. We often saw trucks full of poorly-dressed manual workers being transported to work. In the terraced fields along the mountains, we saw children collecting empty corn husks, probably to fill their stomachs. The soldiers whom we saw were mostly skinny and small. And yet, a couple of North Korean passersby (actually our monitors) came up beside us during our tour, remarking without even being asked, “We just had so much to eat, we came to take a walk.” Looking at them brought tears to my eyes.

After returning, the “1% Love Share Project” was initiated by WFWP. This is a pledge to set aside about one US dollar a month for aiding North Korean women and children. Although the amount is small, this project shows promise of developing into a nationwide movement in Korea, and we are receiving contributions from women throughout the world as well. From time to time, WFWP makes donations to the North as humanitarian aid for their children and women.

Former First Lady Lee Hee-ho, wife of Kim Dae-jung, also thought this was a wonderful idea, and she contributed to it. We were very inspired by the recognition given by the First Lady.

The “1% Love Share Project” attracted the attention of the Korean news media. Several radio and newspaper interviews were publicized. The public feels that this division and separation of the peninsula should not go on any longer and that efforts such as this project are truly necessary to speed up unification.

Over the past ten years, many South Korean NGOs have become more involved in joint activities with the North. WFWP Korea is also a member organization of the Korean National Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation, which is the counterpart to the same organization in North Korea. There are some 200 NGOs under this Council, and I am one of its Joint Chairpersons, based on our active work for unification.

Along with the other NGOs of the Council for Reconciliation, WFWP has held fairs and exhibitions. We also work with the Association of North Korean Emigrés living in the South. In May 2005, we organized a Peace Walk in Seoul together with these refugees. The event attracted some 1,200 participants, who made donations to assist victims of the explosion of a train in Ryongchŏn, North Korea, the previous month.

A Rally for Unification attended by representatives of both North and South Korea has been held for several years since August 2002, alternating between Pyongyang and Seoul, to commemorate the independence from Japan in August of 1945.

In 2003, WFWP Korea members visited North Korea, flying directly from South Korea for the first time. Until then we had to go via China. In 2004, a big rally was held in Seoul.

As we exchanged visits and met for the fourth and fifth times, usually the same women representatives in North Korea arrived to welcome us. At first, they were tense and emotionally closed off. At that time, I felt unification was still a long way off, and I was pessimistic.

We began to share more naturally about our lives, and each time, step by step, we could see a difference. They seemed more happy to see us, and we looked forward to seeing them again as well.

We could also notice a gradual improvement in the general atmosphere of the North. The people and the capital city have become more active than during our first visit in 2001. In the beginning, the Potonggang Hotel where we stayed was cold and dark due to an energy shortage. When we took trips outside of Pyongyang, we saw fields that were devastated. The children in their model kindergarten seemed small and underweight for their age.

In 1950, when my family fled from the North during the Korean War, my father was captured by North Korean soldiers and I never heard about him again. My only brother died during the war with no medical care. My favorite cousin committed suicide after being gang-raped by soldiers. I could not find any opening in my heart to forgive North Korea.

For years, I had the deepest resentment and anger in my heart toward the North. They had destroyed countless families and devastated the entire nation. Even now, some 10 million family members are still kept separated from each other and are suffering in heart. A limited number are occasionally allowed to see each other for a short time, but after such brief meetings these elderly people become very depressed at the separation, since they do not know if they will ever be able to see each other again.

However, the founders of WFWP, Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, were also refugees from the North, and they experienced unspeakable persecution during this period. After I met them, I saw that they were investing their entire life for the work of peace. I have learned from them that the most essential thing is to understand, love, and forgive each other—even enemies.

In order to do this, we have to first transcend the past and allow our hearts to be free from resentment and anger. The more exchanges we have with people from the North, the more we are able to understand each other and overcome the gaps caused by the decades of separation. I now have more hope for the possibility of unification, as I realize that people's concepts are changing on both sides.

We also contribute to and have exchanges with associations of North Korean refugees in the South. Their numbers keep increasing so much that to care for each person is difficult. Even after settling in the South, refugees need to go through much adjustment. WFWP has been pairing refugees with South Koreans in sisterhood/brotherhood exchanges since 1997, and we began providing scholarships four years ago. We hope that these activities can become a cornerstone for unification between North and South.

An International Women Leaders’ Conference was held at the Mt. Geumgang Cultural Center on the eastern border with North Korea from October 30 to November 1, 2007 under the title of “Women’s Leadership for the Unification of South and North Korea and World Peace.”

More than 720 women leaders from 50 countries across the world attended the conference, including Koreans, Japanese, Americans, and ten women leaders from North Korea, some of whom were members of parliament. The event was emceed by Secretary General Young Sun Choi. After WFWP International President Lan Young Moon gave the opening address, Vice Chair Kyeong-Ok Kim of the Chosun Democratic Women’s Federation of North Korea delivered a congratulatory address, which was followed by peace messages from WFWP’s regional representatives: Tetsuko Kuboki from Japan, Alexa Ward from the US, and Tina Coombs from Europe. Next, the second daughter-in-law of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, Julia Hoon-Sook Moon, Chair of the Korean Cultural Foundation, delivered the keynote speech in her stead. It was entitled “The Mission of Women in the Realization of World of Peace and a New Civilization.”

In her congratulatory address, Kyeong-Ok Kim of North Korea reminded the audience that Rev. Sun Myung Moon had visited North Korea in 1991 and met with President Kim Il-Sung; she emphasized that the conference was made possible on that foundation. Her words revealed the importance they place on their fellowship with people connected with the WFWP founders. The candlelight ceremony for peace held at the end of the conference, which included the singing of songs of unity, touched the hearts of all participants from South and North Korea and other countries as well, and they shed tears in reverence for the occasion. The ceremony gave proof that the maternal love of all mothers in the world can be the basis and motive not only for the unification of South and North Korea but also the realization of world peace.

It was the first time since the tours to Mt. Geumgang began in 1998 that so many foreigners visited the place. Not only the employees of the North Korea Immigration Bureau but also the state tour guides gazed at the participants with curiosity, and the usual chilly atmosphere was somewhat mellowed. When we first proposed holding the conference there, the North Koreans had trouble believing that many foreigners would come. They then went on to say that they needed the passport copies and personal information about the foreign participants two months in advance.

They also said that they needed to go through all material that would be used in the event and asked to see the program, speeches, banners, and emcee’s comments in advance. They also re-checked the video clips that were to be used in the conference five minutes before the event began. In short, they were fastidious about everything.

But when the event actually began, they welcomed us wholeheartedly and were excited; they opened their heart to talk about unification and peace. At the conclusion of the ceremony, they said they were sorry to part with the other participants; they asked to shake hands and said they hoped to meet again.

After the WFWP founders received a report on the conference, they addressed a letter to Chairman Kim Jong-Il, asking him if they could invite 120 North Korean women leaders to South Korea or to Hawaii in the USA for a friendly exchange of women. We are still waiting for such an opportunity to meet with North Korean women leaders in reconciliation and cooperation.

The WFWP is also now carrying out the “1% Love Share Project for the Global Family,” and has sent about US$50,000 worth of goods every year, including children’s blankets, comforters, paint, and flooring material, to the Kim Jeong Sook Nursery in Pyongyang. However, due to the strained political relationship between South and North Korea in recent times exchanges have been more difficult, and we have been unable to send anything during the last two years. Therefore, we have decided to find a way to support them indirectly.

At present, there are more than 20,000 North Korean defectors in South Korea, and although some of them have successfully settled down in the South, quite a number of them have given up hope in frustration and despair. With words of encouragement and consolation, we have sent sewing machines to the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights, headed by Soo-Jin Gang, that is helping North Korean women defectors find jobs and settle down in South Korea.

The South Korean government banned sending help to Pyongyang in 2011, so we have plans to send flour and milk powder together with the YWCA in South Korea to a children’s nursery in the Anju district of Northern Pyongahn Province (hometown of Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon) and also to visit the district. At the moment, we are waiting for approval from the Ministry of Unification.

Though humbly begun, the “1% Love Share Project” for North Korea has received warm response from various parts of the world, and it has become all the more rewarding now because we will be sending help to children and women in other parts of the world who have suffered from natural disasters. The new name is the “1% Love Share Project for the Global Family.”

I wish to emphasize that education is also absolutely necessary for successful unification. The people of the North have been trained since birth with an ideology, unlike the South, which is becoming more democratized but at the same time people are becoming more individualistic and materialistic.

Beginning with youth and women, we need to educate people about the need for a nation to be centered on God, not communism or democracy by itself. We are making efforts to carry out this kind of education. I have been touring Korea and have spoken to some 5,000 women throughout the country, emphasizing these points.

We hear so often about the “Era of Women.” Through their genuine motherly love, women develop the endurance and capacity to reach out to others, going beyond politics, economics, or pride. Because we want to minimize suffering, women can begin to effect a change. It is almost our nature to work to resolve anger and hatred and move towards reconciliation and forgiveness.

I am deeply inspired that the true love and dedication of a mother’s heart can nurture peace even between enemies. Let us begin to see others as our children. Let us empathize with one another and share the common situations of humanity. We will continue to be initiators in bringing reconciliation and spreading love to this world. We all know in our hearts that true love is the greatest cure for eradicating poverty and reconciling people in conflict around the world.

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