Young Seek Choue

Magna Carta of Global Common Society

Dr. Young Seek Choue (1921 - 2016) founded Kyung Hee University in South Korea in 1949. He offered these remarks at the Center's 4th Annual Global Citizen Awards ceremony (1998). His co-recipient that year was Vito Perrone of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Choue was introduced by Hazel Henderson, futurist, economist, and author of Building a Win-Win World. (Photographs by Jonathan Wislon)

Hazel Henderson

I am deeply honored by this opportunity to reflect on the work of Young Seek Choue, global citizen par excellence. His life has been difficult, fraught with many dangers and imprisonment. Yet, Dr. Choue has always been an activist for world peace.

I was fortunate to visit Korea last month and to give a paper at a conference at Kyung Hee University, an impressive institute of higher learning founded in 1949 by Dr. Choue, who serves as its chancellor. Kyung Hee University offers a truly humanistic curriculum, focused on the whole person so as to develop the highest moral standards and skills of global citizenship as well as sound academic scholarship. I wish I had been able to attend such a university and its Graduate Institute of Peace Studies.

The conference, opened by former U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, and guided by Dr. Choue, focused on "New Visions for the Next Millennium." There was an array of papers that set the stage for three days of intense debate and dialogue on the current state of humanity, the global economy, the relationships between governments and markets, the need for new global agreements and governance structures, reform of existing institutions, and revitalizing the United Nations.

I saw that South Korea was addressing the current hardships imposed by the daily waves of unregulated $1.5 trillions of "hot money," which have de-stabilized their economy and others in Asia, Latin America, and worldwide. Korea's economic pain has been exacerbated by the economic contraction imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

What I found in Seoul and at Kyung Hee University was the strength and cohesiveness of Koreans, their pride in their evolving democracy and President Kim Dae-Jung. I relished the very open debates about how to restructure their major corporations and break their links with entrenched politicians. All this bodes well for Korea's future and is a testament to Dr. Choue's tireless work and inspiration, which has set a national example to all Koreans of personal development, civic involvement, and thinking globally while acting locally.

I met with a group of Kyung Hee students, all of whom were committed to careers in the voluntary, civic sector. Many were already active in voluntary organizations to assist recently unemployed workers, to send food packages to hungry children in North Korea, and many other international peace activities. All had their own websites to reach out to others.

These students reflect Dr. Choue's teaching, his deep spiritual qualities, and his pragmatism and sense of balance between the material and spiritual; between the individual and the community; between human rights and responsibilities; between love of country and international cooperation. Dr. Choue's message for the future is that we humans can develop, as individuals and as societies, toward a spiritually beautiful, materially affluent, and humanly rewarding way of life for all.

Indeed, as Dr. Choue teaches, we are all one human family and we can develop ourselves and our countries toward a Global Common Society and pursue global peace through a revitalized United Nations.

Young Seek Choue is a stellar example of the new scientific view: that each human being is a potential "fluctuation" able to effect change in our complex, dynamic socio-economic-cultural systems--now interlinked globally and nested among all other species in a living planetary biosphere.

Young Seek Choue at podium

Young Seek Choue: Magna Carta of Global Common Society

Real human-like life began only 10,000 years ago, and studies show that our cultural life started only about 5,000-6,000 years ago. Thenceforth, the division of labor, social stratification, graphic symbols for writing, open markets, and primitive religions began to appear. Temple building for gods stimulated the development of architectural skills. In due course, humans gradually established theocratic political systems, which laid an incipient foundation for the modern civilized society of today.

What should we ponder when we reflect on the long course of human history? We come to this world empty-handed, live briefly, and leave this world empty-handed again. Should we not continue cultivating a brighter cultural legacy for our neighbors, fellow countrymen, the entire humanity, and its posterity?

What are the characteristics of modern human society? It is a human society where people are spiritually poor in the midst of affluence. First, there is the omnipotence of materialism. It prefers pragmatic values such as profitability, efficiency, utility, and pleasure to ethical and moral values such as benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, decency, wisdom, and faithfulness.

Second, there are the abuses of the information science society and the supremacy of science-technology. Science and technology are today controlling man who is increasingly alienated and losing his humanity.

Third, there is the possibility of the degeneration of democracy.

I welcome the emergence of a genuine civil society as well as of a participatory democracy. But in light of the worrisome trend of mass society today, we must guard against the possibility of democracy and the rule of law degenerating into a dictatorial society governed by public opinion.

Clearly, the spirit of our time has changed. It is no longer the era of monarchs or kings nor of exclusive nationalism; it is the era of universal democracy founded on the principle of people's rule. That is why it is time for us to come together as a single human family under the banner of "Pax U.N." and to construct what I call global common society (GCS) as we live in the era of humanization and globalization. Only when we are rational and able to discern right from wrong and good from evil, live a cooperative life, construct a human community, and create cultural values can we be true human beings.

If we are to be reborn and reconstruct our human society as a worthy one, we must reform our hearts and minds first.Economic globalization led by the development of the multinational corporations, the growth of trade volume, the opening of labor markets, and the increase of cultural exchange is making the world a truly cross-cultural society which will make all the people of the world global citizens with one single unified culture and sentiment. We can easily sense that a borderless world society, no longer requiring national boundaries, is changing the world into a place where there is no longer a need for an arms race or for hegemonic struggles, (GCS) as we live in the era of humanization and globalization. Only when we are rational and able to discern right from wrong and good from evil, live a cooperative life, construct a human community, and create cultural values can we be true human beings.

We must establish ethical values and norms suitable to the new era. Man has aspired for peace ever since ancient times. Nonetheless, human history has constantly been stained with blood in the name of national interests and justice. And nations caught in the endless cycle of rise and fall have eventually ended up incurring only self-injury.

How do we achieve our long-desired permanent world peace and attain a civilized society that will enable us to live a life that is worthy?

The EU is the outcome of a successful economic cooperation among West European countries within the framework of the EEC and the EC. With the deepening of mutual economic relationships, the political picture of Europe has changed radically. Eventually reorganized into the expanded EU, the solidarity of European states is stronger than ever before. The emergence of the EU is an example of the sort of regional cooperation I have been advocating for a long time.

The nations of the world have crossed their own borders to organize, first, regional cooperation organizations such as EC, OAS, OAU, ASEAN, NAFTA, MERCOSUR, and the Arab Community. They are now undertaking reorganization of the existing regional organizations into larger organizations. For example, the EC has already expanded into the EU; NAFTA and ASEAN are expanding into APEC; and the EU and ASEAN are cooperating as the members of ASEM.

I see this phenomenon not as a simple expansion of regions, but as a progressive integration of regional organizations into a cooperative global society.

We must pay serious attention to the problems of arms control and collective security. We must reduce the stockpiles of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, forbid the development, transfer, and sale of new weapons and related technologies, and develop a viable U.N. collective security system with a strong standing U.N. force under the leadership of the major powers in order to deter or punish aggression. These security measures should be transitional measures until we have achieved "Pax U.N." We may then be able to stop the immense waste on military expenditures and to use those expenditures for human and national development.

We have a saying, "Where there is heart, there is action." If we are to be reborn and reconstruct our human society as a worthy one, we must reform our hearts and minds first.


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