Looking Back: Peace & Green Boat – A Peaceful and Sustainable East Asian Community
Neighbors are important! Partnerships across borders in Northeast Asia, a region still troubled by divisions and remnants of World War II and the Cold War, are crucial for achieving stability and a sustainable peace.
Peace Boat was delighted to launch the “Peace & Green Boat” regional voyages in 2005, together with the Korean Green Foundation. Bringing together 500 participants each from Japan and Korea on each voyage, this programme brings together organizations and individuals from Northeast Asia for cultural exchange, dialogue and joint initiatives for a peaceful and sustainable future for the region.
The Green Foundation is Korea’s largest environmental NGO. It was founded in 2002 as the first environmentally focused public organization in Korea, and utilises various cultural means and expertise to address the most urgent environmental and climate issues faced today.
Under the name “The Voyage for Peace & Future of Asia,” the first Peace & Green Boat set sail between August 13-27, 2005, with calls to the ports of Tokyo, Nagasaki and Naha, Okinawa (Japan), Busan and Incheon (Korea) and Dandong and Shanghai (China).
This unique voyage also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the end of Japan’s colonial rule, as well as the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan. It was also the year in which the Kyoto Protocol came into effect. Upon this historic timing, the voyage aimed to strengthen dialogue between Japanese and Korean participants on the yet unresolved issues of the war past, and to build new bridges between civil society in Japan and Korea for a peaceful and sustainable future for the whole of East Asia.
These voyages are run in complete cooperation between Peace Boat and the Green Foundation; bringing together not only participants from each of the countries, but also joint staff teams, volunteers, guest educators, study tours and onboard programmes organised in unprecented collaboration between Japan and Korea. A sample of activities onboard the inaugural voyage included the East Asian Peace Forum, an Eco-school, Asian Youth Forum, Peace & Green Film Festival, and many other cultural and sport activities.
Since 2005, over the course of the last 15 years, Peace Boat and the Green Foundation have together organized more than ten joint voyages, bringing together over 10,000 participants from Korea and Japan in journeys of dialogue, mutual understanding and trust, and joint action towards building an East Asian Community.
Participants from Japan, Korea, China and more together listen to testimoy from survivors of the Nanjing Massacre and Japanese imperial military sexual slavery at the a symposium at the Nanjing Massacre Museum
The most recent Peace & Green Boat voyage took place in April 2019, visiting the ports of Kobe, Nagasaki and Yokohama (Japan), Yeosu and Jeju Island (Korea) and Shanghai (China). Study tours in each port of call dealt with issues including the dangers of nuclear power, local civic opposition to dam construction, the unresolved history of the so-called “comfort women” and forced labour under the Japanese occupation of Korea, and the Jeju 4.3 memorial museum, to name but a few.
Onboard, dozens of cultural, sporting and educational events were held every day. One example is activities to support the Global Campaign on Military Spending, which raises awareness of the huge and excessive amounts of public money spent on the military system all over the world.
The Green Foundation’s founder and representative Choi Yul stated in 2017 on the occasion of the tenth Peace & Green Boat: “At the time we first set sail together in 2005, tensions between Korea and Japan were extremely heated. We have experienced various difficulties each and every year. However, we have continued to create these voyages together, making great efforts to overcome these difficulties. This is because we believe that the seeds for conflict resolution lie in people. I feel that finally, the fruits of our dialogue are starting to come to the surface. Even more because of the current climate, we must continue more and more exchange in order to nurture the tree of peace and sustainability in East Asia. Each and every one of us holds a great responsibility for the peace and environment of our region.”
Peace Boat is very much looking forward to organizing the next Peace & Green Boat once again with our partner, the Korean Green Foundation.
Choi Yul on the right, next to Peace Boat's Yoshioka Tatsuya (centre) and Kawasaki Akira