An annual international peace forum kicked off in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on Tuesday for a three-day run to discuss peace, inter-Korean relations and ways that the upcoming Winter Youth Olympics in 2024 could serve as an opportunity for peace on the divided Korean Peninsula.
Under the slogan of “Peace, Here and Now!,” the PyeongChang Peace Forum brings together global leaders, scholars and experts in the city of PyeongChang, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 2018. The event, marking its fourth year, is being held in an online-offline hybrid format due to the pandemic.
This year’s forum, being held under the theme “The Declaration to End the Korean War and Beyond,” discusses five key agendas: economy, sports, DMZ Peace Zone, UN Sustainable Development Goals, and peace public diplomacy.
Participating in the forum are Jim Rogers, noted American investor and co-founder of the Quantum Fund, Sohn Hyuk-sang, president of Korea International Cooperation Agency, National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug and Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon Province, among others.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated the forum via a video message, underlying the need for “peaceful diplomatic solutions” amid latest developments in the region.
“The latest developments in the region have reminded us of the need for peaceful diplomatic solutions,” he said. “We are living in a time of escalating geopolitical tensions and divisions, when misunderstanding or miscalculation could have disastrous consequences for humanity. It will take unity and solidarity to turn the tides and realize the PyeongChang Peace Forum vision of ‘Peace, Here and Now.’”
At Tuesday’s opening ceremony, Park Byeong-seug, the National Assembly speaker, stressed the need for trust between the two Koreas and related countries to maintain peace.
“Peace doesn’t last forever. We need trust. We need mutual trust between the two Koreas, and between the US and North Korea and the international society, as well as US and China’s sincere willingness for peace,” said Park. “What’s the most important is the South Korean citizen’s steadfast consensus for (peace).”
Unification Minister Lee In-young, via video, stressed the need for the “PyeongChang spirit” and urged the North to return to dialogue.
“The course of peace on the Korean Peninsula boils down to determined efforts and will of the direct parties of the peace, more so than the surrounding situation and condition,” said Lee, recalling that the situation on the peninsula before the PyeongChang Olympics were severe with the North’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missiles test. “This is the lesson of PyeongChang.”
“For the North to return to dialogue and cooperation is today’s PyeongChang spirit,” said Lee.
In his remarks, KOICA’s Sohn noted that challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change have exacerbated conflict between social groups and regions. “In this process, the risk of global conflicts and disputes has increased, requiring more effort on our part to secure peace,” he said. “Development and progress cannot exist unless they are founded on peace. Even if they do occur, they are not sustainable. It is inevitable for peace to be threatened and lead to conflict if poverty, hunger, marginalization, and discrimination persist.”
Peace cooperation between the two Koreas through co-hosting the Winter Youth Olympics 2024 in Gangwon was one of key agendas for discussion at the forum. South Korea hopes to co-host the upcoming Olympics with the North, with hope that it could provide an opportunity for dialogue with the regime beyond sports, replicating the success of the 2018 Games.
Kang Kum-sil, a former justice minister who serves as chair for Gangwon Art and Culture Foundation, called for support for the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Gangwon Province. “In order to provide the future where there is no war and conflict in South and North Korea, let’s move forward together for peace together with our whole heart, will and passion.”
By Ahn Sung-mi (email@example.com