By Lee Hyo-sik
A Korean-American teenager plans to visit North Korea and meet with its leader Kim Jong-il to propose the creation of a “peace forest” at the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjeom.
Jonathan Lee, 13, who is famous for his various environment conservation activities, departed Seoul Tuesday for Beijing then on to the reclusive communist state.
While staying in Beijing, he will try to deliver a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao, asking him to help build the envisioned forest at Panmunjeom. Lee has already sent a letter to President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. President Barack Obama, requesting their support in his project.
Lee told Yonhap News that he has obtained an entry permit from the North. “The proposed forest is the place in which children from both Koreas can meet freely, and talk and play with one another. For all the children of the Korean Peninsula, I have been asking leaders to build the peace forest at Panmunjeom and turn it into a symbol of peace,” he said.
It’s unclear whether he will actually be able to meet the North Korean leader.
Lee has attracted worldwide attention since 2007 when he created an environment-conscious cartoon called “Go Greenman” to stress the importance of environment protection. He and his work have been featured by CNN and other mainstream U.S. media outlets, drawing sensational responses from the public.
He has also launched a global campaign on the Internet to encourage children to plant one tree every year.
Lee has met with U.S. President Obama, former U.S. President George Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask them to do more to protect the environment.
The teenage environmentalist said he became interested in inter-Korean matters in 2007 when he met with the former late President Kim Dae-jung at a ceremony to mark the seventh anniversary of the June 15 Joint Inter-Korean Declaration.
“The creation of the peace forest is my idea to promote both inter-Korean peace and environment conservation. I am little bit nervous about going to North Korea. I would like to present my idea and persuade North Korean officials to support it. Even if the North is reluctant to do so at the moment, if we continue to work for it, one day there will be a place for peace at Panmunjeom,” Lee told Yonhap.