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Y. Ohno: Address to International Leadership Conference 2019

Address to International Leadership Conference 2019, Seoul, Korea, May 15-17, 2019


I am extremely happy to be here, participating in this special International Leadership Conference, and I am greatly honored to have the opportunity to make a speech on the topic of this conference, “Toward Peace and Security in Northeast Asia,” under the teaching and guidance of Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon.

Please allow me to start by briefly introducing myself. I was born in Formosa back in 1935, and I was repatriated back to Japan two years after the end of the Second World War. I experienced a lot of misery and agony in the war as a small kid.  I escaped deep into the mountains in order to avoid air bombing, living far away from my parents. After the war, there was no school for us. Then, what did I do?  I sold household goods, such as cups and bowls, on the roadside.

And then, back in Japan, we were suffering from a food shortage. I ate even grasshoppers and I went to school, wearing second-hand pants for girls. Why pants for girls? Because I had an elder sister, and I wore her hand-my-downs. My parents could not buy new pants for me.

And my name? It’s OHNO. I’ll shout my name, “Oh, No!” to any war, in light of my miserable wartime experiences as a small kid.  On the contrary, I’ll shout out loudly, “Oh, Yes,” to this wonderful meeting of the UPF. 

World War II ended in August 1945, right after the atomic bombs were dropped onto Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. We Japanese are the first victims of the atomic bomb, and I earnestly hope that we are the last victims of the atomic bomb. No more Hiroshima, no more Nagasaki throughout the world! We do not say, “Remember Hiroshima,” or “Remember Nagasaki.”

On the point of nuclear weapons, we are paying special attentions to the movement of North Korea. Recently, world leaders met the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The United States demanded that North Korea abandon nuclear weapons.  If North Korea accepts, not only Northeast Asia but also the world as a whole could go one step forward to a world of no nuclear weapons.

In this connection, first of all, I’d like to say, we should go together to the world of no nuclear weapons.  In order to do so, it is highly important for leaders, especially parliamentarians, to meet periodically across national borders to discuss various matters.

In the second place, needless to say, the world is getting smaller and smaller due to increasing interdependence and development of new technologies in every field. I went to the United States as a Fulbright exchange student back in 1961. The airplane I took first landed at Wake Island, then Honolulu, Hawaii, then San Francisco, and finally at Philadelphia.

Today, we can go to the East Coast of the United States from Haneda, Japan, in 10 hours or so. Under such circumstances, international cooperation is most important in order to survive. I’d like to stress that the core of international relations is the cooperation and friendship of neighbors. North Korea is our neighbor in Northeast Asia. 

In this connection, what I am a little bit concerned about is that the world is tending to be inward looking. Please do not say, “Build a wall on our national border.” Please do not say “Brexit.”

We should be more international. We should place more importance on the exchange of people. Let’s place more importance on student exchange programs. It’s quite often said that exchange students are ambassadors for the future.

In short, interdependence, mutual prosperity, and cooperation are the basis for the ideal of peace and security in Northeast Asia. Let’s open the door. Everybody is our friend.

Finally, allow me please to report to you that Japan named a new era on May 1, 2019, in accordance with the succession of Emperor Naruhito. The name of new era is Reiwa, which replaces “Heisei.” Reiwa means “beautiful harmony” and the last name “Heisei” means “achieving peace.”

Under the new era Reiwa, we should try our best to make a world of peace with beautiful harmony. Thank you.



To go to the May 2019 ILC Schedule page, click here.