▲ Simon Weane speaks at the Jeju Peace School. Photo by Lee Eun Mi
The Institute of Peace Studies at Jeju National University hosted the second Jeju Peace School from Aug. 3 - 21, with scholars from across the world debating how best to put peace into practice.
Since 2005 Jeju has been touted as a World Peace Island and it is a moniker proudly visible across the island. With a history as tortuous as Jeju’s, however, it is clear that there is more to peace than merely slogans and sound bites.
Running concurrently with the higher profile Peace Island Forum in the International Convention Center, this scholarly forum focussed on issues of professional and community development, rather than statesmanship.
Professor Ko, President of the World Association for Island Studies, said “Teachers are talented people and are ideally positioned to pass expertise on to our younger generation, therefore this Peace School is essential for sustainable peace into the future.”
Ko stressed Jeju’s pivotal position in regional peace due to the unhealed wounds of the 4.3 massacre, and he similarly justified the Peace Institute’s partnership with the Hiroshima Peace Institute at Hiroshima City University. “4.3 and the bombing of Hiroshima are key events in world history and partnership is essential if conflict is to be understood and a culture of peace to be realized across the region,” he said.
Training sessions were held daily for teachers and public administrators on how to engage students in peace education and human rights. Scholars agreed that before Jeju could truly merit its peace island status it had to reach out across the generations, from survivors to younger students, something that is arguably lacking in formal curricula.
Aug. 14 saw activists and scholars from as far afield as Mauritius, Australia and the United States hold a series of seminars on the central issues of the institute. Prof. Prem Saddul, from The University of Mauritius, opened with a discussion on the experiences that islanders bring to notions of peace, such as interdependency, hardship and community.
Historical and cultural analogies between Malta, Mauritius and Jeju were made, as islands were argued to exemplify peaceful ideals often less expressed amongst continental communities.
This was followed by a presentation on the dangers of cultural ignorance by undergraduate Daniel Morse, of Suffolk University, Boston, evidenced through current stereotyping of Islamic culture in our globalized media. Morse outlined various mythologies constructed about Islamic cultures and the consequences this has for lasting peace and understanding.
Media was again the theme for Simon Wearne, a cinematographer of Stripey Dog Productions, as he introduced an impressive proposal for a Jeju Peace Island International Film Festival.
Wearne had earlier in the week explored the role of activism in film, to foster understanding and peace within and between communities. This was again the theme as the festival proposal was outlined for late-November.
The forum then moved into a lively session to end, as a panel debated the merits of peace education and its functional substance. Scepticism at Jeju’s self-styling as a “Peace Island” was expressed by high school student Kim Sunhi.
“Peace means many things so we must develop a deeper understanding of it before we label things as ‘peace’,” she said.
After a spirited debate, panellists agreed that true peace education must involve meaningful cultural dialogue and interchange, followed up with deep personal and historical reflection.
This year’s peace school didn’t set out to enlighten or influence policy change, but it was a small step forward and all attendees left feeling that Jeju was well on its way to justifying its Peace Island designation.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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