“A new world is opening up before our eyes. The age of oppression by force is giving way to an era where principles reign. Our humane spirit, honed over thousands of years, now signals the dawn of a new civilization in the history of humankind. A new spring is enveloping our whole world, breathing new life into everything under the sun. The times of stifled breath in freezing blizzards are giving way to an age of balmy breezes, glowing light, and new life.” —Korean Declaration of Independence (March 1, 1919)
The skies were overcast on a crisp autumn morning that marked Gechjeoncheol 2023. The holiday was established in 1909, before Korea’s official annexation, to commemorate the origin story of the Korean people, the day when heaven opened up.
In the park, I passed by an old, army green plane. C-47 is printed in white letters underneath, and the date 1945 August 18, the date that the exiled members of the Provisional Government of Korea had been allowed to return to their homeland. I’m sure many of them thought that the dreams that were penned in the Declaration of Independence three decades prior were about to finally come true.
But they still haven’t. Korea remains divided. It is a global security and human rights threat and a tragedy for families who have never seen each other since the 38th parallel was closed.
But maybe soon?
Behind the plane, activists gathered for the 2023 Korean Dream Festa.
And just before the main program, the clouds broke, and the sun smiled down, and it made me smile as well—the heavens opened up for the day.
In his rising call to the thousands gathered, Dr. Hyun Jin P. Moon urged us to read the Korean Independence Declaration, a declaration not seeking reparations for past wrongs but to build a shared future for all. I am reading it now:
“We are too focused on upbraiding ourselves to point the finger at others. We are too occupied with righting wrongs of the present and not the past. The task at hand is to build ourselves up, not to tear others down. We are compelled by our conscience to create our destiny anew, not by envy to drive out others to indulge a long-standing resentment or a moment’s whim.”
As I read, I am understanding the power of living for the greater good. When we set our sights on the good our choices, examples, and works can do for others—we liberate ourselves from our past scars, but we can also see forgiveness and a shared future.
There is much in the work ahead for reunification, global peace, and even peace in our families and relationships around us—but I want to own this work in my thoughts, actions, and deeds—and share it with others. Who wouldn’t want to join in to live a life of meaning and impact?
And I’m grateful that I have a starting point—to seek to live for the benefit of humanity and start to find ways to own the Korean Dream in my daily life and civic activity.
Read about the Korean Dream Festa 2023.