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Y. Ohno: Address to an International Leadership Conference

Address at an International Leadership Conference
Seoul, Korea
Feb. 28-March 4, 2015

As you heard in the introduction, my name is Ohno, spelled O-H-N-O, which sounds like “Oh, no!” It is a very negative name! But I will never say, “Oh, no!” to this wonderful International Leadership Conference organized by UPF, which was founded by Dr. and Mrs. Moon. On the contrary, I will declare, “Oh, yes, ILC.”

I was born in Taiwan in 1935, which at the time was known as “Formosa,” and lived there until two years after World War II, and then repatriated with my family to Japan. As an eleven-year-old boy, I experienced a lot of misery during that period. My father had no job, my sister got seriously ill and I went to school putting on baggy girls’ pants with great embarrassment. Above all, we had little to eat. “Oh, no!” to war.

However, the United States extended assistance to Japan. I grew up sturdy, having consumed American skimmed milk and corn flour.

In this connection, I would like to mention that there are many people suffering from a shortage of food, and we should seriously think about extending aid through international cooperation.

At the outset, I said the world is getting diversified. But, at the same time, the world is changing.

Back in 2001, on September 11, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center buildings in New York. U.S. President George W. Bush shouted, “It is a new war.” Indeed, it is a new war. Wars in the past were fought by countries against other countries. The new war is a war for the international community to get rid of terrorists. In order to do so, we need international cooperation. In other words, international cooperation will certainly pave the way to world peace.

International cooperation can be built up based on person-to-person relationships, mutual trust. We should be frank with each other. We should hate wrongdoing but not people; we should love people. I am quite sure that the spirit of international and interfaith cooperation will come up through this meeting.

Quite recently I was shocked to know that two Japanese had been beheaded at the hands of the militant group Islamic State. Why Japanese? Japan has been keeping good relations with the countries in the Middle East.

Ten years ago, Japan was dispatching its Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to be engaged in peacekeeping operations, and I paid a visit to Iraq as Japan’s defense minister. Iraqi people told me, “The Japanese Self-Defense Forces are a dove of peace bringing peace to the Middle East from the Far East.” I went downtown, and Iraqi people waved their hands at me, recognizing a Japanese car, and I waved back. There was a meeting of minds between the Iraqi people and Japanese. I felt like as if I were doing an election campaign.

More surprising is the fact that foreign youngsters are now streaming into Syria and Iraq in order to join the Islamic State. Why? Are they lonely? Don’t they have any job in their own country? Are they losing their hope in the future? Is the discrepancy between the rich and the poor widening?

We have to think about this seriously.

Concluding my remarks, let me shout once again, “Oh, no!” to any war, and to terrorists!  “Oh, yes!” to this wonderful meeting through which we can push forward world peace through international and interfaith cooperation!