▲ Kathleen Stephens, US ambassador to Korea from 2008 to 2011, said Jeju’s own history can help build peace in the region. Photo by Oh Ryong
At the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity on May 22, Kathleen Stephens, US ambassador to Korea from 2008 to 2011, said Jeju’s own history can help build peace in the region.
“I do think it is a reasonable goal. Jeju-do has the infrastructure, it is a lovely place, and also geographically it is an interesting place,” she said. “I am a big fan of this conference ... and my sense is over the 15 years it has gotten bigger and bigger.”
She was visiting the Jeju Forum for the third time and said participants, like herself, are crucial to ensure cooperation continues once the Forum closes.
“I think the challenge for conferences like this is to create an atmosphere where people feel they can first of all speak with some candour, and secondly a means of continuing the conversation and not having it as a one-off.”
Stephens first came to Korea as a Peace Corp volunteer (1975 to 1977) and she said that such people-to-people exchange is crucial for lasting, meaningful peace, the positive effects of which can still be seen in the extensive Fulbright Scholar Program and other initiatives.
She added that if Jeju is to become an “Island of World Peace,” as designated by the Korean government in 2005, it should build on improved transport links and local peace initiatives by providing more depth and sharing lessons from its own “painful history.”
“You have to work at it a bit so it is not purely a tourist experience ... [I]t can’t all be about how lovely this place is, it has to be some delving into the history of the place, the challenges that Jeju-do faces today.”
“Because, I think, it is not a matter of rhetoric to say we are at a beautiful place and it is a peaceful place — to say this place has suffered, that is also the context for it and I think it can play a role.”
Stephens added that diving with Jeju’s diving women, or haenyeo, in 2011 allowed her to experience firsthand the hard lives that many on the island continue to live.
“I really didn’t do that as a photo op — I certainly didn’t want a picture of me in a wetsuit — but to meet these women and see what they did was really quite extraordinary, and taught me a lot about challenging lives here and how they are approaching them.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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