The Words of the Lee Family
The second conference for Koreans overseas, sponsored by the Research Institution on World Affairs, a division of the International Cultural Foundation (ICF), was held at The Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles on September 26-29. Seventy scholars and community leaders from 10 different countries met to discuss two main topics: the unification of the Korean peninsula, and the educational methods of the children of Koreans living in many countries overseas.
Dr. Il Pyong Kim, chairman of the conference and professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, said in his opening address: "The purpose of this conference is to study and analyze in a scholarly way the situation of Koreans overseas who are scattered around the world -- 1.9 million in China, 800,000 in America, 600,000 in Japan, 500,000 in the Soviet Union, and many others. We want to understand the cultural gap, and to examine and preserve a sound identity in [all] cultures and environments..."
He went on to say, "This is a special moment in history -- 40 years after the Korean liberation and 40 years since Korea was divided into north and south."
Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak, chairman of ICF, mentioned in his welcoming address: "Even though the unification of the Korean peninsula is our long cherished hope, our methodology must be selective in order to avoid another national tragedy and more suffering. The unification of our fatherland must come through peaceful and democratic methods, not through war.... I hope this conference can draw out useful conclusions through which our people can learn. I also hope this conference can explore the right standard for the future of Koreans overseas."
This conference was a valuable opportunity for Koreans living abroad to discuss these issues. Koreans who live in North or South Korea are necessarily heavily influenced by their government's stand on the reunification of Korea. But Koreans living overseas have the benefit of various perspectives on the issue, and the scholars felt free to openly discuss the situation and come up with new ideas, as Rev. Kwak urged, on unifying the peninsula.
The participants also realized that Koreans living overseas cannot simply hold to their identity as Koreans, nor can they easily adopt a second identity as Americans or Japanese or Russians. They realized the need to adopt a new, synthesized cultural identity and yet maintain strong cultural unity. This issue was vigorously discussed and debated as problems pertaining to all Koreans were brought to light.
At the end the participants felt that this was a historic moment in Korean immigration history, and that it had been extremely valuable to share their common concerns for the future of all Koreans living abroad.
The first Conference for Koreans Overseas had been held in December 1984 in New York. At that time delegates from the People's Republic of China (mainland China) were invited, who proved to help open the door for Rev. Kwak to later visit that country on behalf of Father.
A third Conference for Koreans Overseas is planned for the near future.