Book Review of Korean Dream by Rob Sayre

Korean Dream

A Vision for a Unified Korea

By Hyun Jin Preston Moon

 

“In the Golden Age of Asia

Korea was one of the lamp-bearers

That lamp awaits to be lighted once again

For the illumination of the East.”

 

Rabindradh Tagore

 

This book, The Korean Dream is at once a cogent discussion of the history of Korea, a sociological and political analysis of its present dilemmas and a vision for a future as a united people and nation.

 

Hongik Ingan is the Root

What is unique is a new presentation of a new, united Korea as the fulfillment of the original vision of the founding of Korea by Dangun, the legendary founder of Gojoseon who coined the principles of Hongik Ingan. This founding vision can be summed up to mean, “to broadly benefit all humanity.” Dangun aspired to govern with truth and morality and thus enlighten the world with truth and thus create an ideal world. That truth rests in a broad and holistic understanding of God as the Parent and Creator and that the Korean people were given a special providential mission by God to live for the sake of all mankind.

Because the spirit of Hongik Ingan was incorporated into the consciousness and lifestyle of the Korean people, it has the effect of making them aware of the importance of religion and spirituality in their life and its importance in their national identity and destiny.

Central to the lifestyle and identity of the Korean people is the importance of its most sacred institution, the extended family. The extended family in its Korean manifestation is unique and central to root of the Korean identity and also to its revival and ultimately the reunification of the people in both North and South Korea.

Korea first accepted and digested both Confucianism and Buddhism and finally both Catholicism and Protestant Christianity. The spirit of Hongik Ingan allowed the people to adopt these new faiths and yet retain their unique cultural heritage and their extended family.

To quote from the text, “The Korean Dream is more than simply an aspiration to unite our peninsula but about the destiny of the Korean people, rooted in our founding. That destiny is defined in the vision of Hongik Ingan and manifested in our living history. It is the source of our people’s potential greatness and what could inspired us to define the future of our peninsula, the region, and the course of human history. The future is what we determine it to be. That is why now is not the time to stand idly on the sidelines as the tides of history lap against our own shores. Now is the time for us to dream big. It is time for the Korean Dream.”

 

The Dream is not Only Political or Economic in Character

The Korean Dream foresees the adoption or reigniting the root of Hongik Ingan into the consciousness of the people of both North and South Korea.  The author quotes Genghis Khan, “If one person has a dream, it is just a dream, but if all people has that dream, it becomes a reality.”

The Korean Dream envisions the adoption of seven core principles that will unite the Korean people and usher in a new unified nation.

“First, the nation should embody the spirit of Hongik Ingan, since this is the root of our common history and embodies our common aspirations, principles and values.” Similar to the Declaration of Independence, the new united Korea should recognize the sovereignty of God as the basis of humanity’s intrinsic value, rights and freedoms.

Second, the nation needs to represent the wishes of the people, so it should have a popular, representative form of government. It should be made clear that the people are the real stakeholders of the Korean people.

Third, the Korean educational institutions, which have been the envy of the world for training the minds of our children, need to add the instruction of their hearts and spirits.

Fourth, while communism is indisputably a failed experiment and that the free market system provides the most efficient distribution of goods and services, the Korean Dream recognizes some inherent flaws when blind ambition and greed go unchecked. Regulation has been the response so far, but the Korean Dream also envisions raising people of character who would act ethically and morally in their economic life and decisions.

Fifth, the Korean dream requires an engaged, objective and independent media that will speak truth to power on behalf of all the Korean people and to the world.

Sixth, the Korean Dream should encourage faith traditions to make their unique contributions in the public square as proponents of moral behavior.

Finally, and what is seen as central the sacred institution of the Korean family must be preserved and reintroduced in some cases. It is seen as the most important legacy and manifestation of the Korean destiny and the safety net beyond what any government could provide.

 

History Molded the Korean Identity

The great Korean independence leader, Kim Gu summarizes the unique character of Korean history. “I wish my nation would be a nation that doesn’t just imitate others, but rather it be a nation that is the source of a new and higher culture, that it can become the goal and an example (for others). And so true world peace could come from our nation. I wish peace would be achieved in our nation from there to the world. I believe that it is the Hongik Ingan ideal or our national ancestor Dangun.”

The text includes a detailed analysis of the history of the Korean people, perhaps an answer to why Korea has been considered a providential nation. It is beyond the scope of this brief review to recount this, but Chapter Four includes a detailed and fascinating account of the Korean people, their history and the unique inclusion of both Eastern and Western religious principles as well as political thought.

To quote the author, “Through the Korean Dream we can bridge East and West, and draw on the past to build a new future. For the Korean peninsula, it offers the chance to make a fresh start. It will enable the Korean people of both North and south to move beyond the past and the conflict that was largely imposed upon us by forces we could not control.”

 

A New Strategy for Unification

The book also recounts how the incorporation of core principles combined with people oriented, bottom up historical examples of change. These include the March 1 Korean Independence Movement as well as Gandhi’s leading the independence movement in India; Nelson Mandela leading the changes in South Africa; the peaceful revolution in Poland; the transformation of Mongolia from Soviet vassal to a free Democratic state; the emergence of Paraguay in South America as a beacon of growth and development as well as the ultimate unification of East and West Germany that lead to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Korea is the only place left where the old divide from the Cold War remains and it presents not only a dilemma for the Korean people but for all of Asia and the entire world. It cannot be accomplished by governments alone, nor just as a political or economic approach.  The Korean Dream seeks to spark a “ripple in the waters of change” that can become a tsunami of transformation at once uniting all the people.  The phrase One Family Under God is the concept of Hongik Ingan applied beyond just the Korean peninsula.

 

Engagement Beyond Governments

The Forward to this edition, written by Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder of the Heritage Foundation I think explains this strategy and this books unique contribution with clarity and yet simplicity.

“As an American with a profound respect for the American Founding and its expression in our Declaration of Independence, I find Dr. Moon’s emphasis on the importance of fundamental principles for a future unified Korea both significant and inspiring. He views such a Korea from a perspective that steps outside of the current artificial ideological and political division that has existed since World War II.”

“Civil society organizations are the instruments that are central for creating this engagement. As an admirer of the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, I have long been advocate of the importance of the privates voluntary associations that form civil society and that are the expressions of a healthy, vibrant democracy with widespread involvement.”

Dr. Fuelner emphasizes the principle of Hongik Ingan, which means, “to live for the greater benefit of humanity, a principle that is associated with the very origins of the Korean nation.” Dr. Moon also explains in detail how his own efforts and those of other NGO’s can and are playing in the unification of Korea. This is not only of import for Korea, but for the U.S. and the world.

There is a lot more in this book, which this review can’t cover. I recommend anyone interested in the future of the Asia Pacific region to buy the book.

 

Book Review by

 

Rob Sayre

Former Business Manager,

Rodale Press Book Division

Founding Member Shehaqua Family Ministries

Real Estate Investor

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