| By Moon Gwang-lip|
A nonprofit center will be set up in Washington, D.C., in 2007 to link the 7 million overseas Koreans and help them have a better future.
Rev. Moon Tong-hwan and other members of the foundation committee of the Overseas Pan-Korean Center gathered yesterday in Chongdong, central Seoul, for its inauguration ceremony, starting fundraising activities to set up the center in the U.S. capital by June 2007.
``Most Koreans face many difficulties settling down in other countries because there is not a single organization to help all of them in a systematic way,’’ Moon, chairman of the committee, said.
``Also, many of them are living there without any organization helping them to maintain their patriotic spirit and providing them with a map for the future of the Korean race. The idea of establishing this center began for these reasons,’’ he said.
He added his hope for the center, saying, ``We want the center to serve as a headquarters to help all Korean descendants. Further, we want the center to be a place to organize Korean descendants to help Korea and contribute to the world.’’
Moon and another 70 people who share his vision conceived the project of a pan-Korean center back in 1998 and purchased 15 acres of land in Washington the same year.
They created the committee and have mobilized resources to lay the foundation of the project for the past seven years.
``The Korean government has tried to organize overseas Korean descendants and utilize them as potential human resources for the country. But we thought voluntary efforts from the private sector were also needed at this point,’’ said Lee Jung-woo, president of the committee.
On the location of the center, Lee said: ``We wanted to establish the center in Washington because the capital of the powerful U.S. will be the best place for the international community to hear the autonomous voices of Koreans and consider them in setting out policies that impact us.’’
``Also, Washington is a good place to center the huge network of all Korean descendants living scattered across the world,’’ he added.
Lee hopes the center will act as a think tank to research ways to improve the future of Koreans.
``There are more than 40,000 Koreans or their descendants working for American universities and institutes. We want to attract those people to our center and encourage them to work for prosperity and peace on the Korean peninsula as well as promoting the interests of Koreans overseas,’’ Lee said.
According to the committee, the center will provide a series of programs such as a monthly youth seminar, education for parents and classes teaching general knowledge about Korea to Korean descendants and other interested parties. It will also conduct research on Korean culture and history.
The projected building will include such facilities as an auditorium, a performing arts center, a retreat, a youth training camp, classrooms, an out-door forum and a weekend farm.
The committee, which plans to spend around $6 million building the center, will meet with representatives of Korean companies to appeal for sponsorship.
Moon met President Roh Moo-hyun on Thursday and talked about the project in the presidential office Chong Wa Dae to ask for government support for the center.