AOK activist works for reunification from abroad

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AOK activist works for reunification from abroad

Jeong Yeon-jin founded Action for One Korea, an organization working toward the reunification of the two Koreas, last year in Los Angeles.

The AOK president frequently travels between South Korea and the United States to lead the reunification movement. She has also visited North Korea to meet women who were forced into sexual slavery during the Japanese colonial period.

She returned to Korea on May 26 to celebrate the group’s first anniversary.

“Overseas Koreans have different opinions about political issues, like liberal or conservative people in Korea,” Jeong told the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, this week. “But when it comes to the issue of unification, they have the same thoughts.”

The activist first began AOK on Facebook in 2012 and launched it as a legally recognized organization last year. The group had 300 members at the beginning, and the number jumped fourfold within a year.

Jeong also collected the signatures of 42 million people online to oppose Japan becoming a member of the United Nations Security Council in 2005.

“Using the Internet for civil movements can be an easier way to gather more participants,” Jeong said. “It was a brilliant way to form nationwide public opinion.”

Jeong entered the department of Western history at Seoul National University in 1981 and left for the United States a year later.

“Korea was a gloomy society in the early 1980s,” she said. “I wanted to help Korea from overseas.”

After studying history at the University of California, Los Angeles, the campaigner worked for 10 years as a public relations specialist. Her job was to successfully inform the world about Korea’s local government branches and public institutions.

In 1999, a lawsuit filed by Korean-Americans forced into labor during the Japanese colonial period sparked Jeong’s curiosity in civil movements. She spread word of the lawsuit and since she was involved in historical issues, her interest naturally moved toward the reunification of the Koreas.

“The only agenda that the two Koreas speak together in one voice on the national stage is historic issues,” she said.

Jeong pulled out a handkerchief with a map of the Koreas printed on it. The word “peace” was written in 20 languages on the map.

“The unification movement is not a difficult or big-scale thing,” she said. “If you show this handkerchief to someone, you can easily come out with issues about unification and share your opinion.”

Jeong will hold lectures in Busan, Sejong and Suwon from June 10 to June 12.


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