In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace, Kyung Hee University and the UN Academic Impact (UNAI) co-hosted an international symposium under the title, “Give Peace Another Chance.”
This symposium began simultaneously at the Grand Peace Hall in Seoul at 8:20 A.M. on September 15 and at the UN Headquarters in New York at 7:20 P.M. on September 14 and was broadcast to the rest of the world live via UN Webcast. Over 3,000 professors, students, staff, and citizens filled the Grand Peace Hall and about 600 professors, students, and activists were in attendance at the UN Headquarters.
UNAI-Kyung Hee International Symposium Held in Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace
The ceremonies began with a song from Beth Nielsen Chapman and an opening remarks from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Secretary-General Ban started with a recollection of his service as a representative for the Korean Government in a UN meeting thirty years ago, stating “I know better than anyone that Dr. Young Seek Choue worked behind the scenes day in and day out to realize his vision of an International Day of Peace.” He continued by stating that “The power of higher education is integral to spreading peace and deepening democracy. When people participate in the democratic process and become engaged, they build peace, day by day, year by year.” He emphasized action and practice, saying, “I urge all champions of social justice and clean environment throughout the world to make their voices of peace heard in the classrooms and beyond.”
In his keynote speech, “On Peace, Another Dream Ever Onward,” President Inwon Choue of Kyung Hee University and Kyung Hee Cyber University proposed beginning dialogue on the creation of a new global fund in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the UN International Day of Peace; a fund that would provide “global endowment to create a turning point in ‘world civic education’ and ‘global service’ at higher learning institutions” as means to realize a future of peace. The 600 members of the audience showed strong support for the concept through their applause.
In addition, President Choue pointed out the new challenges faced by universities to “go beyond the ivory tower to narrow the gap between ‘destitution and affluence,’ ‘alienation and tolerance,’ and ‘suffering and compassion’,” and emphasized that “the harmonious bonding of academe, practice, and service as well as ‘transcendental engagement’ based on our love for fellow man should lie at the heart of all such endeavors of academic practice and creative service.”
A roundtable discussion was moderated by Mr. Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director of the Outreach Division of the Department of Public Information at the UN and Chief of the UNAI, and attended by many international scholars, diplomats, and peace activists. The roundtable dealt with “Higher Education and Human Dignity” and was further enriched by a bilateral Q&A session that linked the Grand Peace Hall to the UN Headquarters via webcast.
At the Grand Peace Hall in Seoul, Dvorak’s piano quartet and “Magnolia Blossom” were performed by the Kyung Hee Orchestra and Kyung Hee Chorus in response to Chapman’s earlier performance. “Magnolia Blossom” was translated into English for the first time in its 25 year history, with the second verse being performed according to this translation. The ceremonies closed with John Lennon’s “Imagine,” sung in chorus by participants of the symposium at both locations.
Kyung Hee University student Jang Jun (Department of International Studies) expressed “pride in Kyung Hee University’s rise to international prestige” and conveyed his belief that “In the future, more of these kinds of opportunities will enable students to see the world from within Korea without having to travel abroad.” Yi Hyang-seon (Department of Law) said that she “learned through the UNAI-Kyung Hee International Symposium that the importance of human rights, respect, and tolerance should not end at learning in theory, but should extend further to practice,” and that “it is when we, the direct recipients of higher education turn knowledge into action, that today’s discussion will bear true meaning.”
The UN International Day of Peace was proposed by then Kyung Hee University President Young Seek Choue at the 6th Triennial Conference of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP) in San Jose, Costa Rica in 1981. It was officially established at the 36th Session of the UN General Assembly in November of the same year. This symposium was the first event to be hosted by the UNAI since its founding in 2010 by Secretary-General Ban. The purpose of this symposium was to seek for the full potential and possibilities of education in an age when higher education has come to focus on specific subjects with an intensity that precludes a vision of its larger, human possibilities, by carefully discussing the values and roles of the new university of the 21st century.