Nobel laureates aim to bring 'hope for peaceful changes' to N. Korea

The Korea Times
April 28, 2016

Three Nobel laureates who will take part in a visit to North Korea later this week aim to share a voice of "hope for peaceful changes" to the isolated North's young generation, the head of the Vienna-based International Peace Foundation said Thursday.

Uwe Morawetz, founding chairman of the foundation that is organizing the eight-day trip to North Korea from Friday, also said he took note of concerns from the South Korean government about the visit that comes amid signs that Pyongyang might conduct its fifth nuclear test.

"Of course we watch closely what's happening, and it's a concerning development," Uwe said in an e-mail interview with Yonhap News Agency before departing for Pyongyang. "We listen closely to the South Korean concerns and take them seriously, without canceling or postponing the visit."

"To change the visit only out of fear that it could be misused by the DPRK (North Korea) government is not reason enough to cancel or postpone the visit which has been prepared extensively for more than 2 years," Uwe said.

"Fear can never be a justification for our actions or inactions, and force does not sustain peace. Fear can keep us apart; building bridges through dialogues can bring us closer together," he said.

Uwe said he hoped the visit could be used as a "tool for silent diplomacy to bring about positive change and further mutual understanding."

The foundation's Asian office is based in Bangkok and the South Korean Embassy in Thailand expressed concerns about the trip, according to Uwe.

Uwe said the trip focuses on academic and educational activities and "will not involve any political activities."

"We want to give the young generation in the DPRK a voice, a voice seldom heard of and listened to, a voice that could provide hope for peaceful changes, an opportunity not to be missed, because we change nothing by not going, we change nothing by not engaging," Uwe said.

The three Nobel laureates from Norway, Israel and Britain -- Finn E. Kydland, Aaron Ciechanover and Richard J. Roberts -- who won their Nobels for economics, chemistry and medicine, respectively, will give speeches at North Korea's Kim Il-sung University during the visit.

Workshops, seminars and dialogues with students, professors and doctors from different educational institutions will be held at Kim Chaek University of Technology and the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the foundation said in a statement.

Uwe said the visit by the Nobel laureates to North Korea could become a regular annual program by aiming to "inspire the young generation and to strengthen international understanding by building long-term bridges" between Nobel laureates and the North's young generation.

The visit also coincided with North Korea's rare ruling party congress that will start on May 6.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to use the rare congress as a venue to solidify his reign and take credit for his policy of simultaneously pursuing economic development and nuclear weapons.

North Korea has been slapped with tougher international sanctions since early last month over the January nuclear test and launch of a long-range rocket in February.

Many analysts suggest that North Korea could conduct another nuclear test to bolster domestic solidarity in time for the May party congress. (Yonhap)