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Ex-soldier globetrots to promote peace

Jul 10. 2013
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By Pravit Rojanaphruk
The Nation

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North and South Korea can never be reunified by force, said a prominent South Korean peace advocate, Lee Manhee, during a recent visit to Bangkok.
Lee, honorary chairman of the Seoul-based Mannam Vonlunteer Association, also said he is not certain if countries like the United States and Japan even want to see the two Koreas reunified.
  “What I think is that there’s no big benefit for them to see North and South Korea reunified,” said Lee, who was in Bangkok to pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, although the meeting did not materialise due to Yingluck’s busy schedule.
  As for the new North Korean president, Kim Jongun, Lee said the young leader cannot act completely according to his own wishes because he has senior officials and the legacy of his late father to consider.
  A number of South Koreans remain deeply suspicious of the United States and its role in the Korean peninsula, and 84yearold Lee, a distant descendent of the Lee dynasty which ruled Korea for five centuries, is not afraid about expressing doubts about the role of the US. He also said it is important to achieve peaceful reunification between the two Koreas. But Lee’s concerns are not just about peace in the Korean peninsula. “So many people are suffering in the North. They’re starving right now.”
 Lee has been busy globetrotting to spread the message of peace. He tries to convince world leaders to commit to not waging or supporting war. Lee has so far met with nine heads of state and his foundation organises international youth coalition events, with participants from 66 countries. It has also hosted the World Peace Festival in South Korea.
  The foundation’s work is geared towards spreading the message of world peace and volunteerism amongst youth, as young people are the group most profoundly affected by wars. They are sent to the front lines as soldiers to fight and die, unlike politicians and military leaders. 
  “There will be less conflict when all of us come together,” he said, referring to crossborder understanding. “What we know is that throughout the history of mankind, there have been many wars, but human beings do not have to fight one another.”
  Lee, who fought during the Korean War, said the solution is to spread the culture of peace, something he dubs the “heavenly culture”. While Prime Minister Yingluck may not have had time to lend an ear to Lee this time, he said he makes it a point to send video footage of peace activities organised by the foundation to all world leaders, to try to convince them that waging war is not the answer to international disputes.

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