The Next Korean Miracle

October 2, 2023

Have you ever witnessed a miracle?

I’m at the International Forum for One Korea. 

If I counted, I would have to use two hands, maybe three to keep track of the number of times I heard that Korea is the place of miracles.

One in particular mentioned is the “Miracle of the Han River.”

In 50 years, from the end of the Korean War to the early 2000s, Korea went through unprecedented economic growth, technological development, and improvements in life expectancy and child mortality. By 2010, Korea entered the ranks of G20 nations. Today it is ranked number 13 among the economies of the world and is the only nation that has turned from an aid-recipient to an aid-giving nation. 

My first time in Korea was a year after the Seoul Olympics in 1989. It was starkly different. Many of the skyscrapers that you see in Seoul today were either not even imagined or in the process of being built. The streets felt empty after the flurry of Olympic hype. I remember people selling leftover merch at subway entrances. 

Today, I sat in one of the newer edifices, one of many that now line the Han River, hearing the call for the next Korean miracle. 

Poetically, the forum was held in Yeido, an island nestled in the middle of the Han River and a financial and governing hub of Korea. Would I call it the start of the next Han River miracle? 

Hon. Myung Su Lee commented on this serendipity, adding his observation that the Han River flows powerfully and peacefully because the waters run in the same direction. 

What the Korean Dream movement, what Action for Korea United is doing, what Dr. Moon sparked when he wrote out the Korean Dream, is to set a point that allows us to look towards and move together. 

I saw the power of a shared vision at work during the economic panel at the conference. As the panel of economists and scholars from diverse perspectives and approaches grappled with how possibly economic cooperation could contribute to reunification and regional peace, words were repeated—unity, humanity, peace, and vision. The situation in Korea is hard, the issues are complicated—the human rights crisis in North Korea, nuclear proliferation, the fraying social fabric, dropping birth rates and soaring unemployment in the South, but I learned that in crisis, you start by asking, “Where do we want to go?” 

Dr. Moon outlined the “challenges,” that are set before Korea today: resolving the division of their homeland and rediscovering and reconnecting to their identity and destiny. It makes sense to start with fixing eyes upon a vision that speaks across time, that has propelled the Korean miracles to date. Dr. Moon is calling for such a sea change—but it takes each of us—yes, I’m getting behind the Korean Dream as well, to go in the same direction.

Korea is the land of miracles.

Hon. Seung Joo Baek, President of the War Memorial of Korea, listed a few:

  • Regaining sovereignty at the close of World War II
  • The unparalleled economic growth over the last 50 years,
  • And the Miracle of democratization.

I think I am witnessing the next Korean Miracle—Miracle of the Han 2.0?—unfolding before my eyes. If the waters can flow together. 

Learn more about the International Forum on One Korea.

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