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For Youth, Peace, and Human Rights

 

   

/photograph by Lho Hyun-jung

   
 

   On September 22nd, Professor Park Kyung-seo gave a special lecture to students who are taking the course, “Journey to Find Real I” in the Central Hall. Professor Park is currently serving as a president in the office of the UN Human Rights City Promotion Commission, and was appointed as a distinguished professor of Dharma College this semester. Dongguk University stated, “Professor Park’s contribution to human rights activities deserves to be highly appreciated.” Professor Park exerted himself to protect human rights and peace, working as the first Ambassador at large for Human Rights of Korea and president of the Policy Making Commission in the Ministry of Unification. He continues his career as an advisory committee member in the Korea Human Rights Foundation and in other organizations. In this interview with Professor Park, we have listened to his advice for students in the global era of the 21st century.

 

Q.  Hello, professor. You just delivered a lecture to students of Dongguk University. How were your days in college?

A.  It was 1950s when I was a university student. In those days, people suffered from poverty and scars of Korean War. However, university students had enough time to speculate and to create bonds with people at school, so I dreamed of managing ourselves from these difficult times. That is why I chose to study sociology. I thought studying sociology would improve my ability to criticize the negative aspects of society and to propose alternatives. Also, I participated in 4.19 revolution, opposing the fraudulent election, as a student president of the Department of Sociology of my university. My fellow students and I took part in such movements because of the responsibility that we should make the future.

 

Q.  Today, there are students who carry out student movements. On the other hand, a lot of students do not care about political situation. What is your opinion about these students?

A.  It is not desirable that all the responsibility for political apathy is shifted onto today’s students. The political state of today is disappointing, so many people have come to give up improving political situation. However, students are the next generation, so they should keep trying to lead themselves into the right direction. In terms of students who are carrying out student movements, I think they have to be mature and balanced. Students usually have progressive ideas, and that is natural. There is a possibility that students might run to extremes. Therefore, they need to listen to other's advice.

 

Q.  You were the first Ambassador for Human Rights of Korea. What do you believe “Human Rights” is?

A.  I constantly think about that idea. “Why do we have to protect human rights?” I believe it is to make the whole society happy, which means any members in it do not have to lie. Therefore, activities preserving human rights should be honest and unaggressive. Surrendering others with violence under the name of “defending human rights” is not real human rights. It is important to make the main agents for human rights to consider human rights essential and to internalize them. In conclusion, the real human rights should be constructive, peaceful, transparent with love and reconciling.

 

Q.  Then, what do you think of human rights in Korea?

A. Human rights in Korea have improved a lot, but there is still a long way to go. Civil liberties are now protected well, compared to the past, but there are still many people who neglect and deceive others’ rights for their own interests.

 

Q.  Currently problems about refugees from Syria have become a big conversation topic in recent days. What is your opinion of this topic?

A.  The current disaster of refugees is  man-made. Refugees are suffering from wars which are caused by human beings. Of course, nobody agreed with the dictatorship in Syria, so wars against it happened by political authorities. Therefore, political authorities are responsible for caring refugees. Even though Korea is not directly involved in the problems of refugees from Syria, Korea must develop an engagement policy on refugees.

 

Q.  You said, “War never brings peace” in an other interview. What is the real meaning of “Peace?”

A.  Peace must exist with justice. If peace does not go along with justice, it is just peace only for powerful nations. Wars have occurred all along human beings’ history and we can also find a simple example in history. In the 20th century, Pax Americana dominates the world, but I doubt that it would bring peace today. These days, wars exist and people keep fighting. I believe it is necessary to spread the awareness of human rights and peace. Also, to internalize human rights and peace, education emphasizing them is needed. I still insist establish ing a lifelong education center to inform people on the importance of human rights is crucial.

 

Q.  You worked as a chief of the Asia Affairs Bureau in World Council of Churches for 18 years. What did you experience during your terms of office?

A.  During that time, I had the experience to travel all around the world. I thought about what Korea could do in the world stage. Korea has unique history. It went through wars, the Japanese colonial era, and the period of dictatorial governments. Therefore, Korea can share this experience to help guide the world to a better direction. There will be more various ways for young people in Korea to work globally. People who desire to work globally ought to broaden their perspectives toward the world. These days, most of countries have the tendency to pursue freedom, peace, justice, dignity, and sustainable development instead of just focusing on the economic growth. It is essential to keep speculating about virtue the world is pursuing.

 

Q.  Students of today are struggling to get a job in a severe competitive society and lose energy of the youth. Could you tell something to cheer them up?

A.  I am aware of young students’ difficulties and feel applogetic that they cannot spend their youth with much hope. The overall situation is tough for them. Nonetheless, students with real youth mean students who take time to introspect themselves restlessly rather than being swayed by external environment. Youth possesses great values. All of you have promising potentials to do something brilliant.

You Eun-sun  esyou05@dongguk.edu

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