Buddhism in Asia: Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula
Venerable Pomnyun Sunim addressed the role Buddhism has played in defining modern Asia’s religious, cultural, social, political, and economic dynamics. A long-time activist and advocate for human rights, Venerable Pomnyun has worked extensively on advocating peace within the Korean peninsula, including working to supply humanitarian aid to famine victims in North Korea and defending the human rights of North Korean refugees in China. His dedication to Buddhist ideals has not only brought accolades to his work, but has shaped his outlook on the prospects for peace and reconciliation between North and South Korea.
Venerable Pomnyun began by describing the work of the Jungto Society, an organization dedicated to a life of sharing, educated by Buddhist teachings, environmental outreach, and supporting peace in Korea and around the world. To focus on building peace on the Korean peninsula, he also established the Peace Foundation to engage experts in analyzing how best to bring about peace between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States, as well as to bring together Buddhists and Christians in a dialogue about peace.
To bring about peace in Korea, Venerable Pomnyun emphasized the need to focus first on relieving the suffering of North Koreans, including North Korean refugees. Along with that would come a process of reconciliation between the two Koreas, including the denuclearization of North Korea, the drafting of a peace regime for the peninsula, and the normalization of U.S.-North Korea relations. Finally, unification would be necessary for Koreans to finally resolve their differences and move on toward the future.
Venerable Pomnyun also shared some insight into how engagement toward unification might go forward. Believing that South Korean propaganda would only push North Koreans closer to their regime, he suggested that large amounts of food aid be given to the poor and South Korean manufactured goods be made available to mid-level North Korean officials as a way of making South Korean society more attractive to these groups. Meanwhile, the upper echelons of North Korean society ought to be assured that they will maintain their status and privilege in a post-unification Korea.
DOWNLOAD TRANSCRIPT HERE: Transcript of Remarks by Pomnyun
Chairman, Good Friends and The Peace Foundation
Venerable Pomnyun is the chairman of The Peace Foundation and a Zen master in the Jungto Society. He also currently serves as the chairman of Good Friends for Peace, Human Rights and Refugee Issues and The Joint Togetherness Society. Venerable Pomnyun has been advocating for peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1997. He has also worked extensively to supply humanitarian aid to famine victims in North Korea and defend the human rights of North Korean refugees in China. In recognition of his efforts, Venerable Pomnyun won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in September of 2002.