At three stories high, the HWPL Peace Institute in Gapyeong, South Korea, seems like a well-kept museum or cultural attraction on the outside. Lakeside, the institute gives an aura of peace and tranquility as visitors walk up to its main doors. Outside the building on the front lawn, there is a monument entitled “the Declaration of Unification Monument” and “the HWPL Peace Monumentstand”. They are monuments set up, not merely for show or to commemorate something in the past, but a lasting reminder of the international peace advocacy work that HWPL is currently doing and plans to do in the future.
“The true reward for me is peace,” says Lee, the Chairman of HWPL, a peace NGO that stands for Heavenly Culture World Peace Restoration of Light. HWPL is a UN-affiliated peace NGO with special consultative status at the UN ECOSOC and registered as a UN DGC-associated NGO. What’s surprising is that despite its long list of accolades, awards, and achievements in the field of peace work, not many know about HWPL or the Peace Institute that HWPL established.
When Man Hee Lee, a man nearing his 90s and an ordinary citizen and Korean War veteran, set out to travel around the world in order to promote and achieve the cessation of wars and global peace, no one believed in him. World peace is something that is considered impossible, a far fetched dream by many. Today, Lee has become a leading figure in peace promotion and advocacy, and is working with religious leaders, politicians, activities, community leaders, and members of the press to make this dream into a reality. His initiatives for writing peace and cessation into the law and bringing harmony among religions have inspired many and many activists have joined with Lee and HWPL, believing this to truly be the solution to war and conflict.
Supporters and participants of peace work have gathered here at the Peace Institute for various meetings, conferences, and events for the sake of peace promotion. The institute was built as an educational location and a venue where peace-related work can take place. The institute also has rooms for guests who are travelling internationally to Korea to be able to stay and rest in this tranquil environment.
The main halls are decorated from front to back with awards, gifts, and photographs that document the work of peace Lee has achieved in the past years. One can easily spot leaders of states, celebrities, peace activists, and other members of renown, as well as ordinary citizens of various locations that desperately desire for peace. One such place is Mindanao in the Philippines, which has been ravaged by war and conflict for several decades. Lee was a figurehead in creating a peaceful resolution dialogue between the two warring factions and inspiring a peace treaty to be signed between the two groups. This has led to the cessation of conflict between the two groups and a relinquishing of weapons from both sides.
It is clear that the Peace Institute in Gapyeong is the birthplace of the work for Peace and Cessation of War, where Lee and fellow supporters of world peace have begun a great work for international peace. The question that remains is how others can get involved and be inspired by this work. Not everyone can make a physical visit out to South Korea to see the Peace Institute, but the heart of all can be here by actively participating in peace work in their communities as well.