Conflict over history Dispute over sovereignty Regional power struggle
These issues are creating a sharp conflict in Northeast Asia. Some describe the present time as “the New Cold War Era.”
Many are skeptical of the potential for Korea, China, and Japan to build cooperative relationships.
When looking at each country’s nationalism and historical tension, it is nearly impossible!
There was a man who achieved this dream nearly 1,200 years ago.
He was recorded in the history of all three countries.
He was a truly international figure who gained respect across borders.
“I have never had the honor of serving you, but I have long heard about your noble character. Over time, my admiration for you only grows bigger.” - From Japanese monk Ennin’s Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law
Du Mu, the most renowned poet of Tang China, also covered stories about this man in his work titled “The Literary Collection of Fanchuan.”
He described this man as being very bright and the most successful man in the East. As recorded, this man was widely admired in all three countries, Korea, China and Japan.
The King of the Ocean Jang Bogo (? ~ 846)
Have you heard about his love for the people?
Jang Bogo was born into a lower class family in Silla during the reign of King Wonseong. He was highly skilled in martial arts. At some point, he moved to Tang China with his friend.
At the age of 30, he became a junior general with a thousand soldiers under his command. He gained both fame and wealth in Tang China. But, he had no intention of being complacent.
Jang Bogo chose to look after the Silla residents of China.
In Tang China, there was an area referred to as the Silla Quarter. Many Silla merchants and Buddhist monks resided there.
Jang Bogo established a temple named “Beophwawon” in the Silla Quarter.
Japanese Chinese Korean
Everyone was welcome to the temple and free to share their knowledge.
In the temple, people could share their difficulties with others.
The temple was a place of harmony among Asians.
Silla people were able to gain support and find hope.
Beophwawon temple became a base for Silla’s maritime network.
Jang Bogo’s love for the people made Silla a kingdom of the Sea.
Have you heard about his love for the country?
Jang Bogo witnessed Silla people who had been kidnapped and brought to China by pirates. He was shocked by their suffering.
He decided to leave all his privileges behind and go back to his country.
The pirates were a great source of trouble for Silla.
Jang Bogo obtained the king’s approval to organize an army of ten thousand soldiers.
He established the Cheonghaejin garrison on Wando Island
As the commander of the garrison, he swept the pirates from the seas.
Merchants of Silla and other Asian kingdoms were finally freed from the threat of the pirates.
Maritime trade in Asia became more stable and active than ever before.
His patriotism made Silla the leading maritime power.
Have you heard about his contribution to promoting peace and cooperation in Asia?
Jang Bogo loved his country and the people.
However, they were not the only reason he protected the sea.
He dreamed of peaceful oceans where Asians could easily carry out cultural exchanges.
Jang Bogo was widely respected as a Korean national hero, a peace mediator, and the king of maritime trade. - From the epitaph of Jang Bogo on the Shandong Peninsula, China
For most people in Asia, the pirates seemed like an undefeatable challenge.
However, Jang Bogo’s patriotism and longing for peaceful cooperation made a difference.
He defeated the challenge and brought peace and prosperity to the sea.
Northeast Asia in 2012.
We now have different obstacles that block cooperation between Asian countries.
Japanese history textbooks still show no remorse for their imperialistic past. The Japanese government insists on their claim over Dokdo, showing their imperialistic ambition. The Chinese government tries to take away Korea’s 5000 years of history through the Northeast Project, revealing its expansionism.
There seems to be no resolution to historical conflicts in Northeast Asia.
Historical conflicts are making Asians resentful of each other, and are obstructing cooperation.
These conflicts are like invisible pirates.
These conflicts may seem irreconcilable for young people in Asia.
In Europe in January of 2003, a group of young people overcame a similar challenge.
They were French and German students.
France and Germany The two old foes of Europe
France and Germany confronted each other in four different wars over nearly 150 years from Napoleon’s invasion of Germany through the Second World War.
However, 550 high school students from the two countries formed an agreement on the need for cooperation.
They submitted a proposal to the German chancellor and French president, asking for the production of a joint history textbook.
Both leaders endorsed the proposal, and the first joint history textbook was created. When we look at each other with aggression, we inevitably move toward conflict.
However, when we look at each other with respect, we move toward peace.
These young students are great heroes like Jang Bogo, who lived almost 1,200 years ago. There are more disagreements regarding Northeast Asian history than there are agreements.
Now is the time to overcome historical conflicts.
We should all become 21st century Jang Bogos and pursue cooperation and peace in Asia.
VANK is looking for young Koreans who have passion and love for Korea.
Young Koreans will build peace in cooperation with other young Asians.
We will educate more young Koreans to become 21st century Jang Bogos.
21st century Jang Bogos will resolve the conflicts that obstruct cooperation between countries.
They will lead the constructive cooperation. They are the hope of Asia!
When we look at each other with respect, Asia will finally achieve a lasting peace.
Peace in Asia is in your hands.
With VANK, young Koreans will initiate various exchanges with other Asians.
Together, we will make the century of Asia.
We will make the future of Asia.