Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon, Founder and Chairman of Global Peace Foundation, delivered the keynote address at the International Forum on One Korea on October 2, 2023 held in Seoul, South Korea.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is a great honor to address such a gathering of patriotic Koreans and supporters of peaceful unification. I would particularly like to recognize General John Tilelli who led the U.N. Command and the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces here. Your service, General, is a fine example of the Korean and American people’s commitment to defend freedom and democracy on this peninsula. I also want to thank my good friend, Ed Feulner, founder of the renowned Heritage Foundation and a lifelong friend to the Korean people. Thanks also to the Honorable Kim Jin Pyo, Speaker of the Korean National Assembly, as well as Honorable Lee Myoung Soo, Honorable Baek Seung Joo, and Honorable Seok Dong Hyeon. I want to thank all of you, the leaders in the field, who are spreading this Korean Dream, not only among the Korean people, but around the world.
Korea’s Destiny Rooted in Our Origins
Ladies and gentlemen, to build a bright future we must draw upon our past. Tomorrow, we celebrate Gaecheonjeol, Korea’s Foundation Day. This is not the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea, or even of the Korean Declaration of Independence. Instead, it marks the beginning of our 5,000-year history in ancient Gojoseon and characterizes that moment as “the opening of heaven.”
Thus, we the Korean people, from our very origin, have been endowed with a special destiny to live by heavenly principles and ideals, and to represent them to rest of the world. We trace these principles for creating a just and harmonious society to the founding figure of Dangun. Most notable among them is Hong-Ik Ingan — “living for the greater benefit of all mankind,” that has been a spiritual touchstone and a guiding light throughout our Korean history.
Let us fast forward a little over four thousand years from ancient Gojoseon to the early 20th century. That same sense of a special destiny was still alive and was expressed in the spirit of Korea’s Sam Il independence movement and the aspirations of its Declaration of Independence.
The Hopes and Ideals of the Sam Il Movement
The 1919 Sam Il movement, directed against Japanese colonial rule, was the first mass, non-violent protest movement in history. Ten percent of the population took part. They marched for the principles expressed in Korea’s Independence Declaration that was inspired by, then, US president Wilson’s views on colonized nations after the end of the World War I.
Certainly, they wanted an end to Japanese colonial rule. But, more than that, they sought to create a new nation that lived up to the highest ideals, rooted in Hong-Ik Ingan. They even envisaged a free Korea working together with Japan for the benefit of the region and the world.
The independence leader, Kim Ku, expressed that sense of the Korean people’s special calling in his essay, “The Nation I Dream Of.” There he wrote, “I wish my nation would be a nation that doesn’t just imitate others, but rather it be a nation that is the source of a new higher culture; that it can become the goal and example for others. And so true world peace would come from that nation… I believe that this is the Hong-Ik Ingan ideal of our national ancestor, Dangun.”
What became of those hopes and ideals? The path of our special destiny passed through bitter suffering. The Korean people endured oppressive foreign rule that sought to extinguish Korea’s distinctive culture and identity, including even our ancestral names. This experience has a parallel to the people of Israel during the centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. They, too, suffered under foreign rule and brutal attempts to force them to renounce their divinely ordained way of life, a witness to the One God.
The end of the Second World War brought liberation and with it a brief window of opportunity to achieve the Sam Il movement’s hope for a free, unified, and independent Korea to be established. Tragically, however, that moment passed, and the land that was made whole became divided, as well as its people.
The ROK was established unilaterally in the South, to be followed quickly by the DPRK in the North. Both sides wanted a unified Korea, but their respective visions for it were radically opposed and irreconcilable. The DPRK, true to its guiding Marxist ideology, tried to impose its vision of unity by force. As we all know, the resulting war killed millions of Koreans and left this Peninsula devastated.
The Miracle on the Han and Its Cost
The post-war response in the South was to build a country strong enough to resist future attacks. The result was the Miracle on the Han, the fruit of the resilience and enterprise of the Korean people when given a degree of freedom to flourish. The growth from a poor, war-torn, agricultural economy to an advanced industrial and technological one in just 50 years is unprecedented in human history. It was indeed a miracle.
But it has come at a great cost. The materially prosperous society that was created had shallow spiritual and cultural roots. Koreans have caught the disease of a purely secular consumer-based materialistic society that has infected the West, and its consequences are the erosion of traditional Korean identity and culture.
We see the evidence of this in the disturbing social trends of the cosmopolitan South which has the lowest birthrate in the world; the rise in divorce and suicide rates; the largest unemployment rate for college graduates amongst developed nations; and the subsequent fall in marriage rates among young people; as well as the growing number of elderly living – and dying – alone, unthinkable in the Korea of my youth.
At the same time, South Korea faces a more belligerent North Korea with ever-growing and diversifying nuclear capabilities in an increasingly unstable geopolitical environment. This situation demands a response. We cannot be complacent nor stand still while our house and its neighborhood are burning around us.
Korea’s Two Challenges
Koreans today have two major, interconnected challenges. One is the re-unification of our traditional homeland. That is the only viable solution to the threat of the Pyongyang regime.
It must be driven by a civil society movement of Koreans, in the South and the diaspora, with broad international support. Inter-governmental talks alone will never lead to unification. For over seven decades, it has achieved nothing to date except to help create a more powerful nuclear-armed North Korea.
The second challenge is for free Koreans to rediscover their Korean identity and reconnect with the destiny we are called to achieve. That is the precondition for overcoming the first challenge. We are one people. Koreans in the North are our brothers and sisters who have been denied their most basic human rights.
They struggle to feed their families and get basic medical care for their children while their leader rattles his nuclear missiles in the face of the world. They are not citizens but slaves of the state who have no choice in how they are ruled. We, their brothers and sisters in the South, must be their voice. Otherwise, how can we expect to enjoy the blessings of prosperity while members of our Korean family endure such suffering?
The Korean Dream and My Family’s Commitment
I launched the Korean Dream movement to offer a vision for the present age that connects with Korea’s founding ideals, manifested in the noble aspirations and sacrifice of the Sam Il Independence movement.
I owe this to my ancestors. I come from a family line that has been deeply committed to Korea’s independence and re-unification. My great-grand-uncle, Rev. Moon Yoon-guk, was a Christian pastor who deeply believed in the providential destiny of the Korean people and saw Pyongyang as a new Jerusalem, like many of his time did. He donated his entire family’s savings to the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai, even though it caused them tremendous hardship. He helped to draft the Independence Declaration and was severely tortured by the Japanese police for his independence activities.
As a young boy, my father, the Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon, was deeply inspired by the words and example of his great uncle. Throughout his tumultuous adult life, he devoted himself heart and soul to the vision of a world that lives as “One Family under God,” a vision rooted in Korea’s providential destiny. In 1991, he traveled to Pyongyang via China to meet North Korea’s first ruler, Kim Il Sung. Since he was well-known as a fierce critic of Marxist ideology, there was no guarantee he would ever return from the DPRK.
Nevertheless, he boldly urged Kim to abandon his “Juche” ideology and acknowledge the providential mandate of the Korean people to create an ideal nation centered upon God. My father’s ground-breaking visit opened the door to the North in the 1990s, where significant developments in inter-Korean relations materialized: such as the efforts to unite divided families from the Korean War; open industrial and commercial investments; and led to the first visit by the South Korean president; as well as the DPRK’s agreement to comply to nuclear safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tragically, however, these breakthroughs were later reversed, leading to today’s volatile and dangerous situation.
This is my family’s legacy that I have inherited. I wrote the Korean Dream to revive the spirit of our ancestors and to bring to fruition the unfulfilled hopes that they lived and died for. It stands as a monument of our filial devotion to their noblest ideals and a pledge to see them fulfilled in our lifetimes.
The Global Struggle over Universal Values
The future of Korea is being shaped within a global context that is increasingly dominated by a struggle over fundamental principles of freedom and basic human rights. The outcome of that struggle will have immense and far-reaching implications.
The most striking aspect of today’s geopolitics is the reemergence of nation states that aggressively assert their power, both domestically and internationally. Russia invaded Ukraine, seeking to impose Putin’s version of history on its neighbors by force. Similarly, China has declared its right to rule Taiwan, pressuring other nations to sever ties with that nation, and threatening to seize it by force.
The resulting global tension is not primarily about political or economic primacy. It arises from a historic clash over fundamental principles and values. Xi Jinping and Putin do not believe in the universal values of western liberal democracies. As long ago as 2013, Xi issued a directive on ideology that required university professors and journalists to avoid “seven unmentionable topics.”
These included topics such as universal values, press freedom, civil society, citizens’ rights and the independence of the judiciary. Today he calls these values a Western rhetorical ploy to impose its hegemony on the rest of the world. For him, everything is ultimately about a struggle for state power.
Contrast this with the worldview articulated in the United States Declaration of Independence. It did not simply list its complaints against the various excesses of the British monarchy. Rather, it began by stating the fundamental principles that guided its founding. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights[…] that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The contrast with the views of Xi Jinping could not be more striking. Western democracies were created based on the principle that every human being has rights and freedoms that come from the Creator. These are universal and eternal, and cannot be abridged by any state power or institution. In short, the nation state does not exist to be served by the people, but to uphold and preserve the fundamental God-given rights and freedoms of their citizens.
This war of ideas is at the root of the existing geopolitical conflict. Its outcome will determine whether future generations will live in nations and regions that honor and protect universal values rooted in the classic liberal democratic ideas of “inalienable” rights and freedoms, or not.
This challenging geo-political reality is compounded by the eroding moral authority of the US and Europe as they struggle with their own basic founding values. The very spiritual underpinnings of western democracies are being undermined by neo-Marxist ideology couched under the thin veneer of “critical race theory” and progressive post-modern thought. What is more troubling, however, is that this new orthodoxy is being exported to the rest of the world. Ironically, those who condemn the colonialism of the past are the same ones who are now trying to impose a radical cultural colonialism that dissolves the ethical fabric that binds traditional religious communities together the world over.
The Global Significance of Korea’s Role
In this environment, Korea has a pivotal role to play. A unified Korea in which the vision of the Korean Dream is given practical expression will be a new nation of high ideals. It will be a powerful witness to the fundamental principles expressed in the U.S. Declaration of Independence as well as be deeply rooted in its own historic cultural identity. In short, it will draw on the best lessons from the West while also looking to the ancient wisdom of Asia for new insights into the 21st century.
A unified Korea, that recognizes unalienable rights and freedoms endowed by God, will be a model nation and a catalyst for advancing a new civilization in the most dynamic region of the world. As I emphasized in the Korean Dream, it can draw upon the deep ethical roots of the Hong-Ik Ingan ideal, as well as rekindle the social strength and moral order of the Korean extended, multi-generational family that is essential in building harmonious, cooperative communities, and societies. With that underpinning, coupled with the fortitude and resilience of the Korean people, it will become a transformative force for good in the world.
Already, South Korea is unique in being the only aid recipient nation to become an aid donor. The future unified Korea will become a moral leader by overcoming the challenges of its own division as well as offering other nations a model of development, especially in the Global South. It offers a successful model of transformation from a poor, agricultural economy into a technologically advanced and diversified modern one; although, like many of those nations, it suffered the same exploitative colonialism and ideological past that led to its own civil war.
Social and Economic Benefits of Korean Reunification
Reunification based on the Korean Dream framework will restore basic human rights and freedoms to the DPRK and bring peace and security to the Peninsula. In addition, it will create long-term economic benefits. The North has significant, untapped mineral resources, including strategic materials that the South has the know-how to extract. Overcapacity in sectors such as major infrastructure construction will find a natural new market to grow upon unification.
The difficult circumstances of young people in the South will also be significantly improved. The South’s increasingly aging population with a diminishing youth demographic portends an unsustainable economic reality, as the increasing welfare burdens will be borne by a decreasing tax base. The North’s population, however, is the inverse of the South. Therefore, unification will not only bring peace but will solve the social economic challenges, especially of the South, but of both Koreas.
In addition, the process of developing North Korea and gradually integrating it into the South Korea’s economy will open many new opportunities for new creative enterprises that will harness and reward the talents of youth here in the South and in the North. Supporting the Korean Dream will benefit, not only the Korean people and nation as a whole, but also those young people who are seeking and looking for brighter prospects on this Peninsula.
A Call to Action for Korea
Ladies and gentlemen, a dream needs a movement of committed, united people to become a reality. Action for Korea United is where such people are gathered together. It is the most significant civil society movement in South Korea working for unification today. It is a dynamic people-power alliance of over 800 civil society groups, overcoming the many obstacles to unite Koreans throughout the South and in the diaspora in a common cause.
Yet, we have a big dream with ambitious goals. This forum and tomorrow’s public rally are the first stage of a campaign to spread the Korean Dream among the Korean people everywhere. It will culminate in 2025, on the 80th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule when our people had – for the first time – the possibility to fulfill the Sam Il aspirations of creating an ideal nation in line with Hong-Ik Ingan.
Millions will mobilize at public gatherings in towns and cities across the South and throughout the diaspora, calling for a free and unified Korea rooted in the Korean Dream that will finally achieve the hopes and dreams of our ancestors and the movement for independence: the Sam Il movement. The sound of those united voices, rooted in the Korean Dream, will reverberate across the 38th Parallel that divides the peninsula like the trumpet blasts of Joshua’s Israelites that tore down the walls of Jericho.
The Korean Dream can unite all Koreans. It is where we will find and fulfill the unique national destiny to which we are called as a people. This goal needs the support of dedicated activists and thought leaders such as yourselves. I urge you to become the true owners of the Korean Dream. Become the patriots who can bring to fruition the hopes, aspirations and destiny of our people by creating an ideal nation that can be the light that will illuminate the world in this century and beyond.
May God bless you and your families. Thank you very much.