Conference report 4: Witnessing to Hope, 13-20th August 2000, Caux, Switzerland

   
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Korea and Japan

The scars of war in North-East Asia are slow to heal. Japan and Russia have not yet been able to agree on a peace treaty. The Iron Curtain between North and South Korea is still there. Controversy over wartime atrocities still strain relations between China and Japan. The June 13-15 meeting of President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-Il of North Korea lit a hope that reunification of the peninsula might come about.

In Caux, the Secretary General of Japan's Democratic Party, Tsutomu Hata, MP and former Prime Minister, addressed the bitterness and mistrust left by Japan's 40 years occupation of Korea: "It is my sincere hope that the two Koreas will succeed in peaceful reunification. I accept that the main reason why the unfortunate situation exists on the Korean peninsula is due to Japan's action prior to and during the Second World War. I apologise for this from my heart to the people of both countries. As a politician I promise that Japan will assist in peaceful re-unification and reconciliation."

"I accept that the main reason why the unfortunate situation exists on the Korean peninsula is due to Japan's action prior to and during the Second World War... As a politician I promise that Japan will assist in peaceful re-unification and reconciliation."

Among the Koreans listening to him were the former Korean Ambassador to Japan, Kim Tae-Zhee, and a leader of Korea's Buddhists, the Venerable Mother Park Chung-Soo, Director of the Won Buddhist Temple at Kangnam in Seoul and also of the Won Buddhist Parish of Pyongyang in the North. Her story helped the conference participants understand the depth of feeling characterising many Koreans' attitude to Japan: "Korea was oppressed by Japan for 36 years. I experienced the agony of it in my childhood. Koreans worked hard in the fields and harvested the products. Yet our people were not able to eat rice. Sometimes we got over our hunger by eating the inner smooth part of the pine tree. I came to hate the Japanese unconditionally.
" When she came to Caux in 1987 she met Japanese who were different to the kind of people she experienced in her childhood. "They were humble and would regret the past. One day, when I was going on a picnic, a young Japanese woman made the packed lunch for me. Changes began to take place in my heart and gradually I was able to give up my hatred completely. Mountain House, Caux, was a smelting furnace to melt away my hatred, anger and resentment. I greatly appreciated Mr Hata's sincere apology at the opening of this session."
Mother Park Chung-Soo has initiated and supported humanitarian aid projects in 44 countries, raising some 20 million US dollars in South Korea. Her latest venture is to help the orphans and malnourished people in North Korea. "I believe that my efforts to help my brothers and sisters in North Korea will contribute to the peaceful unification of a divided Korea."

Sri Lanka

A workshop on Sri Lanka portrayed life and work for reconciliation amidst war and conflict. Rohini De Mel and engineer Roshan Dodanwela, who is now working with AfR, gave the historical background and outlined the current situation in the country. Constance Chabrière from France, who has worked for UNICEF in Sri Lanka during the last two years, described projects to support children affected by the war. Amidst the booming guns, parents hope and strive for a safer tomorrow.

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