Mother of Peace: Episode 34

Mother of Peace: And God Shall Wipe Away All Tears from Their Eyes
A Memoir by Hak Ja Han Moon
Chapter 5: The Emblem of the Kingdom of Heaven, pg 158-163

Among the most meaningful of the Little Angels’ tours was when they visited each of the 22 nations that participated in the United Nations’ response during the Korean War. In 2010, to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, we sent the Little Angels to perform for the war veterans of the 22 nations that had sent troops or humanitarian and medical aid. It was among the most meaningful of the Little Angels’ tours. Over a period of three years, they visited each nation, offering a “performance of gratitude” in honor of the veterans. We in Korea had received extraordinary assistance from these nations in our hour of need, and we declared that it was time to give something back. Those whom we met still remembered Korea vividly, and many said they had never ceased loving our country.

Some Koreans at home criticized the tour because we were a private group and did not officially represent the government. But we represented the heart of the Korean people, as well as God’s heart. In every country, war veterans proudly came on stage in our performances wearing their faded uniforms and showcasing their medals. This brings up one uplifting story.

Ethiopia and the Republic of South Africa were the two African nations that sent troops. In the 1980s, when communists took power in Ethiopia, they displaced all the Korean War veterans to a camp on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. In reality, that place was like a concentration camp. The veterans shared painful memories of how the regime had persecuted them, and how they had to sell their medals to provide for their families. When they saw the Little Angels, they were moved to tears as they realized that the poor, ragged, divided nation of Korea was now a developed nation ready to thank them. The happy ending is that the Little Angels’ concert brought the veterans’ plight to the attention of the present government, which is now making up for past mistreatment.

At the tour’s concert in Washington, D.C., Korean War veterans in their eighties wept when the Little Angels sang “Arirang” and “God Bless America.” In Copenhagen, Denmark, Princess Elisabeth joined some 30 veterans of the war effort to watch the performance.

In 2016, also, the Little Angels were welcomed by Nepalese students and citizens upon their arrival in Kathmandu. They performed brilliantly at the inauguration of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace. The Nepalese were deeply moved by the concert held at the presidential palace as well as in other performance halls, and their media gave the Little Angels high praise: “The Little Angels are representatives who are answering God’s call; they are guardian angels, spreading peace worldwide.” 

A child alone may not make much impact but when a group of children come together and sing with pure hearts, their voices can melt hardened hearts and dispel war and conflict. People often think that politics moves the world, but that is not the case. It is culture and art that move the world. It is affection, not reason, that touches people in their innermost being. When hearts become receptive, ideologies and political regimes can change.

Half a century ago, the Little Angels set out to bring Korean culture to the world. They were a harbinger of the Korean wave, including K-Pop, that is currently sweeping the world. Wherever you go in the world, cheers and applause for Korean culture abound. The beginning point of this phenomenon was the Little Angels’ concert at Gettysburg in 1965. The children’s innocent performances continue to captivate audiences and remind skeptics of the truth that we can become one.

Artistry that enriches the world

In 1984 several talented graduates from the Little Angels Performing Arts School, now the Sunhwa Arts Middle and High School, had returned from their study at schools such as the Princess Grace Academy in Monaco and the Royal Ballet School in the United Kingdom. Recognizing their great potential, we created a professional ballet company, the Universal Ballet, to provide an opportunity for these talented youth to display their skills, delight the public and impact our nation.

At that time, my husband conveyed the internal value of ballet in these words:

“When a ballerina stands on the tips of her toes with her head raised toward Heaven, her posture represents reverence for God. It is an expression of ardent longing. Ballet dancers use the beautiful body given to them by God to express their love for Him. It is the highest form of art.”

Adrienne Dellas was the company’s artistic director. Moon Hoonsook, my daughter-in-law, a Little Angels alumna who studied ballet at the Princess Grace Academy and was a principal dancer in the Washington Ballet Company in Washington, D.C., was a founding member. In the summer of 1984, the Universal Ballet gave its first performance, “Cinderella,” at the Little Angels Performing Arts Center in Seoul.

At that time, the National Ballet Company was the sole ballet company in Korea. It performed only within the country, and this put Korea on the fringe of the ballet world. The Universal Ballet Company brought Korean ballet to the world stage. The troupe has toured 21 nations and presented some 100 different ballets in 1,800 performances, reflecting its motto, “Heavenly Art Creating a World of Beauty.” Among its many honors, the company has received the Republic of Korea Culture and Arts Award.

Until the early 2000s, the Universal Ballet featured the Russian classical ballet style. After that, it expanded its repertoire to include European romantic ballets and modern ballets. It now performs ballets from Korea and other nations and creates its own innovative and original performances. It was the first Korean ballet company, and the second in Asia, to perform John Cranko’s masterpiece of dramatic ballet, “Onegin.” Furthermore, it was the first Korean company to perform Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet,” a masterpiece in the repertoire of the UK Royal Ballet Company.

The company also created unique ballets based on Korean folk tales and traditions. One of its most famous works, “Shim Chung,” created in 1986, is a tale of filial love. It has been performed 200 times in 10 countries, touching the hearts of people all over the world. During its world tour in 2012, the company was invited to showcase the beauty of Korean ballet in the global centers of ballet, Moscow and Paris. “Chunhyang,” an original ballet based on an ancient story of pure love, and the ballet musical “Shim Chung,” recast for children, were both very well received.

Years ago, when Korea had nothing to offer the global culture, the Universal Ballet Company stood like a lonely crane. By overcoming many difficulties and touring every continent, it has shown all people Korea’s high artistic standard. It will continue to go forward, guided by the love of God.

Media expressing universal values

The year 1975 was a time when a shadow of gloom hung over the world. The United States pulled out of Vietnam that April, leaving the country in the hands of the communists. People were shocked and horrified as the communists in Vietnam and its neighbor Cambodia slaughtered entire populations. Across the globe, communism was gaining in strength.

I was born in North Korea, and I experienced firsthand the cruelty of communism and the wretchedness of war, so I knew very well that when Vietnam fell, it would lead to bloody massacres and the spread of its harsh ideology to neighboring countries.

In Japan of the 1970s, the Unification movement was growing, but communism was also gaining power. The Korean residents in Japan created separate pro-Seoul and pro-Pyongyang groups and they often engaged in confrontation. My husband and I decided that the most effective way to influence Japan as a free society, and protect it from communism, would be to create a newspaper.

In democratic countries, the media is more often one-sided than balanced. Trying to gain market share, editors pander to forces that persecute those who aren’t politically correct or who practice a minority religion. My husband and I imagined a different kind of media, one that is constructive and represents fairness and absolute values. With this in mind, in January 1975 we founded the Sekai Nippo newspaper in Tokyo.

Our Japanese members had great expectations for the paper but found that maintaining a newspaper is like climbing a hill carrying a heavy load on a dark night. Left-wing groups opposed us in every conceivable way. At the same time, however, Sekai Nippo gained support from law-abiding citizens and anti-communist organizations. It became a newspaper loved by the Japanese people. The power of truth protected Japan from communism. To this day, Sekai Nippo fearlessly reports the objective truth.

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