The 19th Global Peace Convention (GPC) that ended in Seoul South Korea recently with a crescendo to mark the 100th anniversary of the Korean liberation movement climaxed with awards to honour six individuals singled out for their efforts to improve the lot of others.
Africa was proudly represented at the awards by Nigerian businesswoman and philanthropist Dr. Amina Namadi Sambo, a mother of six who was recognized for her leadership in strengthening families with her NGO christened “I care women and youth initiative”.
But it was the earth shaking narrative behind the Interfaith Leadership Award presented to Korean American evangelist Rev. Kenneth ‘Pae Jun Ho’ Bae that moved the delegates drawn from 50 countries across the globe to near tears. The man who caught world attention seven years ago with the loss of more than 50 pounds (23 kilograms) in a North Korean prison ploughed through his agonizing –ordeal with a cocktail of fortitude and velour behind a plump face that today belies his lurid experience.
He said: “I was on a free fall to the jaws of death with diabetes. High blood pressure and a seedy liver when I was released in 2014 after 735 days in detention. I had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for daring give Christian teachings in North Korea”.
Bae said his alleged crimes were trumped up and included allegedly working with his evangelical organization “youth with a mission” (YWAM) to preach against the North Korean Government in American and South Korean churches, pinning an anti-North Korean religious coup code named Operation Jericho after the biblical city by the name whose walls crumbled to the sound of Israeli trumpets, setting up bases in China for purposes of toppling the Kim regime in North Korea, encouraging North Korean citizens to bring down the government and conducting a malignant smear campaign.
He recalled how he was moved to a special prison on May 14, 2013 where he would do eight hours of rigorous farm labour per day, leaving him with excruciating back pains.
Upon his release and return to the United States in 2014, thanks to global intervention, Rev Bae founded the Nehemiah Global Initiative to remember, stand with and pray for the 25 million North Koreans to help them physically and spiritually start new lives in neighbouring South Korea.
Awarded alongside Rev Bae and Dr. Sambo were Philippino educator and development specialist Dr. Florida Labuguen for outstanding service, Mr. Hadeo Kawabata, the Chief Executive Officer of Fuji Suiso Kansha, a leading Japanese company specializing in hydrogen health enhancing supplements used extensively by professional athletes. He pocketed the philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship Award.
Mr. Hyung Suk Kim, an actor, singer, and television personality who in 2015 wrote the popular song “One Dream, One Korea” that coalesced wide support for the long-held dream of a united Korean nation. He walked away with Promoting a Culture of Peace Award.
Ambassador Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan an international lawyer and diplomat who served as the foreign policy advisor to the first democratically elected president of Mongolia in the 1990s and advanced the nation’s disarmament stance internationally bagged the Innovative Scholarship for Peace Award. Ambassador Enmkhsaikhan is today the chairman of Blue Banner, a Mongolian NGO that promotes the goals of nuclear nonproliferation and strengthens the county’s nuclear weapons-free status.
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