Articles From the July 1994 Unification News


International Student Seminar on Science and Peace, Beijing, China

by Robert S. Kittel-Beijing

The largest number of North and South Korean students brought together in a harmonious setting since the Korean War was a substantial achievement of this recently-concluded seminar; there were 20 North Korean and 28 South Korean students present. The theme for this meeting was "The Role of the Youth in a Time of Global Change," but clearly the unique aspect of this 5-day gathering of 155 students was the opportunity for direct dialogue between North and South Koreans.

In all, 18 nations were represented at The Second International Student Seminar on Science and Peace. Other former enemy countries also had student representatives from both blocs. China and Taiwan had 20 and 6 delegates respectively (originally 10 Taiwan students planned to come to Beijing but because of final exams this number was reduced by half). There were 12 representatives from the United States while the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) had 7 delegates. Japan, with 23 representatives, had the second largest delegation while other nations represented at the seminar included: Great Britain (6), Germany (7), Canada (6), Italy (6), France (3), Australia (3), and Brazil (2). Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Paraguay, and Costa Rica each had a single representative.

The venue for the Opening Ceremony was the prestigious Great Hall of the People. This building is where the highest level Chinese government meetings take place and was build in only 10 months in 1959 with cooperation from the Soviet Union thus reflecting more Soviet architectural styles than Chinese.

The overall spirit of the speeches at the Opening Ceremony given mostly by Chinese academics from the Chinese Society of Science and Technology for Social Development (CSSTSD), the seminar co-sponsors, was that science and technology will be the saviors of China. It was as if the Chinese are running into an uncharted future seeking economic prosperity at almost any cost. Only one speaker, Mr. Liao Gen-Sheng the Executive Director of the State Student Union of China, mentioned anything about trying to preserve their great cultural heritage.

The North Korean paper given by Prof. Chol Soon Kim, from the Philosophy Department of Kim Il Sung University, was read in Korean with an English translation provided. It opened with general greetings to the sponsors and to "brothers and sisters from the south [who represent] 1 million fellow students." The conciliatory spirit towards South Korea remained throughout the paper, but western imperialism was castigated.

The fall of the communist Eastern bloc, according to Prof. Kim, is an unhealthy development because it allowed the bipolar world to become unipolar. The West now has a monopoly on nuclear power and is only interested in non-proliferation (not in the reduction of nuclear weapons) in order to maintain their superior position, according to North Korean thinking.

At the end of his 10-page address Prof. Kim called for youth and students to rise up in a joint effort against the old world and specifically names South Korean students as a "brilliant symbol of the world's progressive youth and students who are fighting for justice and truth."

After a short intermission, students from 5 countries presented papers. Their idealism and youthful enthusiasm was contagious. In Chul Shin of South Korea warned the delegates that "as long as man bases his values only on humanism and his material surroundings, he can never find dignity."

Kim Augustad, a guest of American CARP, represented her country by encouraging people to search for a central or mainstream tradition. She explained that today's youth cannot adopt one or another of the various historical legacies, either traditionalism or liberal secularism. "The role of youth," she said, "is to find the original root out of which all traditions emerged and [then] to chart a course into the future."

In addition to bringing together the largest number North and South Korean students to this date, this was also the first CARP-sponsored event held in the People Republic of China. Officially "World CARP" (but actually Korean CARP) co-sponsored the seminar along with the CSSTSD.

Even from the first day, the Koreans were united in a heartistic oneness unprecedented among the other seminar delegates. But this common bonding of heart, failed to bridge any ideological obstacles.

One South Korean staff member said that it was easy for the Koreans from North and South to be united in heart but, he added, their minds were still far apart. The North Korean are so proud and unyielding in their idealism for Kim Il Sung and the philosophy he propagates.

Interestingly, the clothes of North Koreans seemed to reflect of their unanimity of mind. The 18 North Korean men all had identical western suits, obviously they were recently purchased for this conference.

At the reception dinner on the first day of international student seminary Mr. Sung Am Moon, World CARP Vice-President, spoke of why people always put so much hope in young people. It is because they possess two outstanding qualities: they are open-minded and have a positive mental outlook on life. Young people dream of traveling around the world and want to overcome divisive forces like racism and nationalism. Concluding his remarks, Mr. Moon said that the mind of young people doesn't look at obstacles as impediments, but opportunities; opportunities to test themselves and challenge their unconquerable spirit.

During the second day delegates were divided into 4 sub-sessions. In the morning meetings, lively discussions followed the presentation of papers in 4 different groups: The Environment and Survival of Mankind in the 21st Century, The Role of Youth in Science, Technology and Peace in the 21st Century, The Family Ethic in Modern, Scientific and Technological Society, and World Peace and Sustainable Development in Northeast Asia.

Following lunch a plenary session was held so reports from the sub- sessions could be given to all delegates. This was followed by a period of questions and answers from the floor.

There were only 2 days where academic dialogue took place (out of the 5-day conference). Sightseeing was an important part of this seminar mainly because the conference schedule was organized primarily by the Chinese hosts.

This was good because it allowed for plenty of free give-and-take between delegates. The places we visited were: The Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Palace Museum, a tomb from Ming Dynasty, Beijing University Campus, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and we even took in a magnificent Chinese Acrobatic Show. North and South Koreans added 2 days at the end of the seminar to visit Mt. Changboi (Mt. Peak Tu) which is a beautiful mountain on the Chinese-North Korean boarder. Not surprisingly, the media found this conference very news-worthy. The Chosen Ilbo, the largest newspaper in South Korea, scooped all other electronic and print media, and gave this conference front-page coverage.

The Closing Banquet was an unbelievably intense, emotional experience for both the North and South Koreans. Arm-in-arm they stood on stage singing slightly different variation of Tongil, but there was not a dry eye among them. When the singing stopped, small groups of North and South Koreans intensely embraced each other wiping each others tears. Several of the students were sobbing uncontrollably while the rest of the delegates stood spell-bound in silence.


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