UPF Southeast Asia: Northeast Asia Peace Initiative (NEAPI) Virtual Conference

UPF Southeast Asia held the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative (NEAPI) virtual conference on March 30, 2021, featuring distinguished speakers in the field of academics and arts in the region. The conference’s theme was “Towards Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula: Academic and Cultural Perspectives.” In line with this, the event aims to support the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula by discussing prospects based on academic and cultural perspectives.

The event garnered a total of 870 registered participants from all across the Southeast Asia region. It was conducted in Zoom while also being broadcasted live on Facebook and Youtube, with Thai and Indonesian translations.

UPF has been organizing a variety of programs bringing together leading experts from a wide range of professional fields; government, academic, civil society, faith-based organizations, media, businesses, and the arts to explore the prospects for improved relations not only between the two Koreas but also among the stakeholder countries of the region. The NEAPI is one of UPF’s efforts in realizing the long-cherished dream of the founders, Dr. Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, which is the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.

The event was moderated by Dr. Julius B. Malicdem, the director of UPF Southeast Asia and chairman of UPF Philippines. He opened the event with his warm greetings to the attendees and gave them a brief overview of the event. And to further enlighten the attendees about UPF and its peace-building initiatives, a video presentation was shown.

In his opening remarks, President Masaichi Hori, co-Chair of UPF Asia Pacific Region 2 was pleased to welcome all the speakers and attendees of the event. He hoped that the event would be a great opportunity for learning. He said that the essence of the discourse is not a simple unification that coordinates interest, but what higher dimensional philosophies are based on building permanent peace.

Hon. Ek Nath Dhakal, regional chairman of UPF Asia-Pacific and International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace Asia-Pacific, also expressed his gratitude to everyone who convened the event in his remarks. He signified that the main goal of NEAPI’s approach to peace is to contribute to the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula through dialogue, scholarly research, and civil society initiatives, that build personal connections through various forms ofhumanitarian projects for people to people engagement. He also mentioned the significance of the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Union which will usher in a new era of a unified, peaceful, and prosperous region.

A special message was conveyed by Dr. Thomas Selover, co-chair of the International Association for Academicians for Peace International and President of Sun Hak UP Graduate University. He imparted an insightful presentation about the principles of Love Heaven, Love People, and Love the Nation and how they are the basis for a new vision of a new Heavenly Unified Korea. He further explained that reunification of the Korean Peninsula can be achieved through these values and that it is necessary to establish a national identity that the two Koreas have in common. With the principles, a Heavenly Unified Korea can be a new society based on interdependence, mutual prosperity, and universal values.

The second special message was by Dr. Sung Bae Jin, president of Unification Thought International, chairman HJ Academy of Arts and Science, and IAAP International coordinator. As the author of the theory of Heavenly Unified Korea, he cited an overview of its core concept. He also spoke about the March 1st movement being a revolution of consciousness. He said that the unification movement for a Heavenly Unified Korea also needs to start a new from a conscience liberation movement just as the March 1st movement in the vision. And there should be a new state of freedom equality and justice based on conscience.

Afterward, the floor was given to the four panelists who came to speak about their prospects on reunification based on their academic and cultural perspectives.

H.E. Suos Yara, vice chairman of the 5th Commission, National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, proposed the approach of cultural diplomacy and dialogue as one of the means to achieve a peaceful Korean peninsula. Culture, he said, forms a bridge of dialogue and trust between countries and regions. By planting more cultural seeds, soon these seeds will be plants that will bear fruits which will create a positive environment for reunification as culture holds no boundaries.

Dr. Ravichandran Moorthy, associate professor of the International Relations & Strategic Studies Programme, Research Centre for History, Politics & International Affairs (SPHEA), Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities of the National University of Malaysia, spoke about a need for a new international UN-sponsored framework in dealing with the state of the Korean Peninsula issue. He said that this framework may include members from regions like Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Oceania. He believes that the United Nations should play a more important role in conflict management and trust-building. He also pointed out the role of soft power diplomacy through sports, culture, and music and track two diplomacy, which is the effective engagement of different sectors of the society for peaceful cooperation between the divided countries.

Madam Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, UNESCO Artist for Peace, director of the Earthsavers, Philippines, delivered a passionate and moving speech highlighting the great role of the arts and culture in the reconciliation of the two Koreas. She affirmed that through artistic encounters, we can fertilize the ground for acceptance and for bonding together North and South Korea. Moreover, a focus on culture, communications, education, and science can serve as an initial platform for getting together toward an artistic handshake, which will be the beginning of cultural dialogue. Artistic expressions can touch minds and hearts to engender a strong urgent motivation to work towards the common vision of peace, not just in Korea but the world as well. As she emphasized, where politics divide, arts can unite.

Dr. Hariyadi Wirawan, M.Soc.SC., the senior lecturer of the National University of Indonesia was the last to present. He shared his insights on the involvement of big influential nations in the long history, as well as the current situation of the Korean peninsula. He said that peace initiatives can be enhanced by doing something beneficial for both countries. They can start sending exchange cards, establishing a cultural group, and conducting more governmental meetings in both capitals.

The program proceeded with a Question and Answer session facilitated by Dr. Robert Kittel, co-chair of UPF Asia-Pacific. Questions with regards to the role and approach of UPF for the reunification of North and South Korea, and how both countries can overcome the differences and barriers, i.e. security, power, economics, etc., were profoundly discussed by the panelists.

Dr. Kittel then concluded the session with his closing remarks. He thanked everyone who invested their time, heart, passion, as well as expertise for the success of the virtual conference. He stressed that each of us can participate in some way with our respective fields of expertise in the process of the reunification of North and South Korea.

The NEAPI came to a close with deliberations and insights that will contribute to the milestone of the promotion of peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula and resolutions to collaborate in pursuit of true lasting peace. The attendees were also invited to join the International Leadership Conference on April 28.

Written by: Won Joo Maglangit