The Peace Foundation, an independent research institute founded by the revered Korean Dharma master and social activist Venerable Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님), hosted an international symposium in June on the theme “New Awareness of War, Peace, and Life.” The live-streamed forum brought together a panel from experts from Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, who discussed a range of traditional and non-traditional threats to global peace and security and corresponding new strategies and approaches to mitigating these risks.
“The Peace Foundation, which seeks new and alternative solutions to security and peace through the paradigm of life security and climate peace, hosted this online international symposium on 8 June under the theme of New Awareness of War, Peace, and Life with the objective of exploring alternative solutions to humanity’s security crises and to seek new measures and areas for cooperation in pursuit of global peace,” the Peace Foundation shared with BDG.
The forum was led by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim and attended by Dr. Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for Unification, who presented on the topic “The Revival of Traditional Security and the Paradox of the Anthropocene Era,” and Prof. Nam Ki-Jeong of the Institute for Japanese Studies, Seoul National University, who spoke on the topic of “War and Peace from the Perspective of Climate Peace.”
From overseas, Prof. Chihara Takenaka of the Japan Peace Studies Association shared observations on how the framework of nation-states is vulnerable to the current crises facing humanity, highlighting how the responses of various countries to the pandemic had illustrated how imminent these vulnerabilities are. Meanwhile, Prof. Tobias Ide from Murdoch University in Australia offered compelling perspectives on how the issues of war and climate change are not one-sided problems but, in fact, closely interrelated.
Lee Jung-pil, director of the Energy and Climate Policy Research Institute, and Kim Sang-bae, professor of Political and Diplomatic Affairs at Seoul National University, discussed their views and perspectives on the presentations, as did Prof. Youzhi from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in China, and Prof. Tsai Dong-je of Taiwan’s National Chung Hsing University.
“The dissolution of the Cold War allowed mankind to feel a sense of relief that we were finally being freed from the threat of world war and nuclear conflict, and the concept of security was extended to human security,” the Peace Foundation explained. “However, more recently the Ukraine conflict, the strategic rivalry between China and the US, and the North Korean nuclear threat level have led to a renewed fears of war and nuclear crisis. With the rapid development of science and technology, the shadow cast by by new, non-traditional security threats, including climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, is also intensifying. This is an era of complex crises in which the revival of traditional security threats and the rise of non-traditional security threats now intersect.”
Established by Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in 2004, the Peace Foundation is an independent non-governmental organization aimed at working toward permanent peace, free from the threat of war, on the Korean Peninsula, contributing to ending the 60-year division of the two Koreas, and at participating in the path to collaborative prosperity and harmony in East Asia. The foundation engages with experts in various fields to analyze how best to bring about an end to conflict and to cultivate interfaith dialogue on the subject of world peace.
The forum discussions were wide-ranging, examining various views and opinions on new cooperative approaches for global peace amid the growing threat of climate change and the reframing of humanity’s approach to addressing the climate crisis in the “climate peace.” After all the experts had shared their views, concerns, and suggestions for nations to navigate new ways forward, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim shared some concluding remarks to bring the conference to a close:
“There’s an ancient saying in Korea: ‘It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a hundred times.’ However, it’s better to take action once rather than seeing something a hundred times,” Ven. Pomnyun Sunim said.
“Everything we use results in carbon emissions—not only energy production. Therefore, the ultimate solution to combating the climate crisis lies in reducing consumption. While issues such as rising electricity bills and oil prices may seem burdensome at the individual level, they can actually serve as pathways to reducing overall energy consumption.”
“This is why I believe there should be a consumption limit that prevents individuals from engaging in excessive consumption beyond a certain threshold. No matter how wealthy one person may be, there should be a limit on the amount that one can consume. Therefore, we should not envy those who engage in excessive consumption. Such behavior corresponds to deadly acts that inflicts harm on countless other lives on Earth. In that regard, practical action is more important than mere words. By taking action and advocating for change as individuals, we can create a ripple effect across society. Thus, I want to emphasize to all of you the importance of even small practical actions.
“On the other hand, the Korean Peninsula is currently facing a growing risk of war, which could destroy everything, above and beyond the threat posed by the climate crisis. From that perspective, we must firmly hold on to the view that war is not permissible for any reason. Otherwise, we will all have to endure immense suffering. In that sense, I hope we do not think of peace as some distant, abstract goal.
“I recently traveled throughout Southeast Asia. To many of the people living there, Korea is a dream country. Today they admire Korea more than we in Korea used to admire the United States. Among those individuals who have some awareness, all of them are concerned about the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula, yet people living in Korea often find themselves in a rather complacent state, so to speak, almost with a sense of indifference to war. I hope that all of us can become aware of this aspect: preventing war is not a matter of ideology, progressiveness, conservatism, political parties, or religion. In order to preserve what we have achieved over the years and in order to preserve and lead a stable society, we must make firm the commitment that war is not an option. This must be an underlying understanding before engaging in actions to reduce consumption.”
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim is a widely revered Korean Dharma teacher, author, and social activist. He has founded numerous organizations, initiatives, and projects across the world, among them: JTS Korea, an international humanitarian relief organization working to eradicate poverty and hunger; Jungto Society, a volunteer-based community founded on the Buddha’s teachings and dedicated to addressing modern social issues that lead to suffering; Ecobuddha, an organization focused on environmental ethics and sustainable living based on the teachings of the Buddha; and Good Friends, which promotes reconciliation and cooperation between the North and South Korea, and provides humanitarian aid to North Koreans. Ven. Pomnyun Sunim also works closely with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).
In October 2020, The Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan presented the 37th Niwano Peace Prize to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim in recognition of the revered monk’s international humanitarian work, environmental and social activism, and his tireless efforts to build trust and goodwill between communities of different faiths and cultures, toward the goal of world peace.*
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