High-profile group wants to boost sensibility of unification

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High-profile group wants to boost sensibility of unification


A group of academics, businessmen and celebrities started a charity called 1090 TEK Volunteers on April 29 at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul. By Park Jong-keun

A group of high-profile academics, businessmen and celebrities started a charity called 1090 Peace and Unification to raise public awareness of issues related to reunification with North Korea.

The members of the group call themselves the 1090 TEK Volunteers. TEK refers to the talent, experience and knowledge that the South Korean members are willing to share with North Koreans. The ‘1090’ refers to the group’s goal of educating all South Koreans between the ages of 10 and 90.

The group, launched on April 29, is aimed at promoting unification among South Koreans in a non-academic or abstract way. It will show South Koreans how unification would benefit them.

“The idea of peaceful unification discussed in the academic world does not easily appeal to most people,” said Lee Bae-yong, President of the Academy of Korean Studies, who is a member of the group. “When the issue is applicable to the daily lives of people, we could raise public support for it. TEK is a step toward realizing this purpose.”

The group’s 40 members are divided into 12 subgroups based on their expertise. Each subgroup is coming up with detailed plans to boost inter-Korean cooperation in their own areas of expertise.

“The subgroups are in sectors in which North Korean society needs to share experiences with the South,” said Park Yeong-su, a lawyer with the Seoul-based law firm Gangnam.

At the launch ceremony on April 29, the members made a joint declaration to promote inter-Korean interactions on a daily basis.

Doctor Lee Guk-jong of Ajou University Medical Center, who became well known after treating the South Korean captain of the Samho Jewelry freighter who was shot by Somali pirates in 2011, said he has been dreaming of offering medical services to North Korean people for a long time and the group is a chance for him to realize that dream.

Another member, veterinary surgeon Lee Gyeong-pil, said he was eager to teach North Koreans how to raise livestock. Lee was one of the so-called “Kimchi Five,” five babies born on the SS Meredith Victory during its famous refugee rescue in December 1950 during the Korean War.

The U.S. cargo freighter rescued 14,000 refugees from the southeastern North Korean port city of Hungnam.

Choe Hyeon-seop, chairman of the Northeast Asia Forest Forum, is also a member. Choe led several tree-planting projects in North Korea. Rhie Won-bok, a professor at Duksung Women’s University and best-selling author of the comic book series “Far Countries, Neighboring Countries,” is planning to publish a new series introducing North Korean culture to South Korean people.

BY LEE YOUNG-JONG, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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