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South Korea activists advance unification amid unrest at home

More South Koreans want to promote unification as an international cause.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea activists advance unification amid unrest at home
Grammy award-winning songwriter Jimmy Jam (L) and Seo In-taek (R), president of the Korea chapter of the Global Peace Foundation, have teamed up to promote Korea’s unification as a global cause in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Elizabeth Shim/UPI

March 3 (UPI) -- As South Korean protesters continue to gather every weekend to stage rival rallies in Seoul, some civic leaders in the country are shaking their heads.

Members of more than 800 non-governmental organizations, a coalition of groups known as Action Korea United, say the nation is losing sight of the bigger picture: a peninsula still divided after more than 60 years, a nuclear North Korea and 25 million North Koreans shut out of enjoying some of the freedoms of their brethren in the South.

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They see the ongoing protests as a distraction that's drowning out the urgent priority of unification, a process that would permanently stop the threat of nuclear war and create a region of renewed prosperity.

Seo In-taek, president of the Korea chapter of the Global Peace Foundation, said during the organization's convention in Manila on Thursday that resolving the problem of Korean division is not just an ethnic issue.

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"This is a world issue," Seo said, pointing out a unified Korea could bring improved freedom and human rights to North Korea and put an end to worldwide jitters about Pyongyang's unpredictability.

Seo, who brims with energy and recently organized a K-pop concert in the Philippines, is launching a campaign to raise awareness of unification as a global concern.

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He and other South Korean activists, including high-profile North Korean defectors, are taking the cause of unification to the world stage while some of their fellow countrymen feud with each other over President Park Geun-hye's impeachment.

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Their strategy seems to be working.

The K-pop concert that was the highlight of the Global Peace Convention drew a crowd of at least 10,000 music fans on Thursday evening.

South Korean singer PSY and popular boy bands headlined the concert, but Seo also used the event to promote unification as a cause with the help of the Grammy Award-winning songwriting duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

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The American artists had volunteered their talents to write a song of Korean unification, titled "One Dream, One Korea," which was performed in public for the first time in Manila on Thursday.

For Seo, the concert and other projects represent an effective way to get his message out to the public.

The NGO representative said it is now up to South Korea civic society to work toward unification.

"Do we have reliable politicians?" Seo said. "We have to solve this issue, because we live in an era of democracy."

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Seo also said he and others are not ruling out the possibility of unification with Kim Jong Un still in power, but only in a scenario in which the North Korean leader "changes his mind," or realizes he cannot survive if he doesn't jump on the unification bandwagon.

"Unification can come suddenly," Seo said. "Just like Korea was not divided by will, unification can come like a thief."

The Global Peace Foundation is affiliated with the ultimate holding company that owns United Press International.

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