International Women Leadership Exchange Raises Awareness and Support for Korean Reunification, Regional Peace

Global Peace Foundation
October 1, 2016

5-Day program joins women from Korea, Philippines and Japan in Seoul Korea

Three women posing with corsages at the global peace women leadership exchange 2016 event.

(left to right) Global Peace Women Korea President Ms. Mihwa Kim, Dr. Nona Ricofort, Commissioner of Higher Education and Ms. Keiko Kobayashi, actress and star of the moving film, “Jun-Ai”

More than 100 women from Korea, Japan and the Philippines, including civil society leaders, government representatives, lawyers, educators and business executives, convened in Seoul, Korea for a five-day Global Peace Women Leadership Exchange entitled “Korea Reunification and Peacebuilding in Asia.”

The exchange sought to build regional cooperation to address the ongoing division on the Korean peninsula while highlighting the unique and indispensable contribution of women’s leadership in peacebuilding and social development.

Global Peace Women Philippines representative and former Philippine commissioner for higher education Dr. Nona Ricofort emphasized the important role of women leaders. “Women are vital players in creating innovations and proposing new ways of interventions,” she said.

(Above) Traditional dance from the Philippines during the cultural exchange (Below) Sisterhood ceremony.

Dr. Soonok Kang, Secretary General of Global Peace Women, the women’s division of the Global Peace Foundation, underscored the multi-leveled role women play from public policy and community building to the most basic social unit of the family. “In order to truly build a peaceful world, we need more families nurtured with women’s love and leadership

to form the bedrock of peaceful communities and nations,” she said.

She cited the Reunification in the Family campaign as an example such leadership. The campaign was launched by Global Peace Women in 2015 to encourage women, especially mothers, to raise the next generation to empathetically connect to their northern brethren and understand the importance of Korean reunification in regional stability and world peace.

Global Peace Foundation Korea President Inteck Seo explained the regional impact of the political volatility and human rights violations in North Korea, as well as the emotional heartbreak of separated families. He also noted the significance of the Philippine women’s visit to Korea, recalling the 7,200 soldiers from the Philippines who sacrificed their lives during the Korean War. “I was reminded that we Filipinos have always been ready to serve other countries,” reflected a delegate. “You have helped us remember that Filipinos are capable of great things. We look forward to working with you in achieving the dream of “One Korea,” and in the process, achieving global peace.”

President Seo appealed for international cooperation to resolve the division on the Korean peninsula, encouraging the women to join ongoing efforts such as the One K Global Campaign which uses music and popular culture as a platform to raise public awareness and global engagement for Korean reunification. The Global Peace Convention 2017 in Manila, Philippines will include a One K concert featuring popular K-pop stars promoting the message of regional peace and Korean reunification.

A visit to the Demilitarized Zone vividly illustrated the grave situation of Korea’s division.

“We could see North Korea and imagine the pain, the poverty, and the suffering of the millions of people living there,” wrote one participant. “I still clearly see in my mind the kilometer upon kilometer of barbed wires installed along the borders of South Korea to protect its territory from another invasion.”

Filipina lawyer and Standard columnist Rita Linda V. Jimeno wrote later in her column, “The continuing division of the Korean peninsula into North and South poses a serious threat to peace, not only in Korea itself, but in the whole of Asia and even the world.” She continues, “This is an event we—the peoples of the world—should not allow.”

Packaged sweets for North Korea

Packaged sweets for North Korea

The women also joined the production line at a sweet factory owned and run by North Korean defectors that manufactures traditional North Korean confections that they named “Reunification Sweets.”  Filipina, Japanese and North and South Korean women baked side-by-side, investing in a common hope for peace.

Notable guests included Inja Hwang, former congresswoman; Mihwa Kim, GPW Korea representative; and Keiko Kobayashi, executive director of the NGO Jun-Ai, a GPF Partner.  Ms. Kobayashi is the lead actress in the film Jun-Ai (“unconditional love” in Japanese), which was screened during the exchange. The film presents a story of a woman who overcomes cultural and national divisions by her unrelenting commitment to her community and family. The women were paired in a sisterhood ceremony that emphasized their connection as One Family under God, creating a beautiful blend of cultural and national differences.

The eye-opening, five-day exchange showed the relevance of Korean reunification to regional and global peace. Women from all three countries expressed their determination to offer continued support for the issue through the upcoming Global Peace Convention 2017 and in their daily lives.

For more information about the Global Peace Women Leadership Exchange, click here.

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