A Day in the Life of Sunim, Washington D.C., Day 5 (May 10, 2024)

May 10, 2024: Washington D.C., Day 5, Meetings in the U.S. Department of Defense and Press Conference with Washington Correspondents

Hello. Today is the fifth day of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s meetings in Washington D.C. with U.S. government, members of Congress, and think tank representatives for peace on the Korean peninsula. It is also the last day of his 12-day visit to the United States before returning to Korea.

Sunim began his day at the Washington Jungto Center in the U.S. with the 1000-Day Practice and meditation at 5 AM.

After the morning practice, Sunim conducted the live Friday Dharma Q&A starting at 6:30 AM local time, which is 7:30 PM in Korea.

Around 4,600 people joined the live broadcast, during which Sunim talked about his activities over the past week.

Sunim then conversed with those who had submitted questions in advance. One of the three questioners asked about the validity of marriage compatibility, expressing fear about a tough future with a boyfriend of four years, based on a fortune teller’s reading.

“I have a boyfriend I’ve been with for four years. I want to marry him, so I went to fortune tellers and got several readings about our compatibility. Some of them said our compatibility was poor, making me afraid of our future. My parents worry about it every day, which makes me feel guilty. I also fear, ‘What if our married life is as difficult as predicted?’ and this fear makes me want to die each day. I heard in one of Sunim’s sessions ‘You will be fine if you live with a strong faith in your love,’ which helps me calm down a bit, but I’m still very scared and struggling. Should I believe in fate and compatibility? How can I pray and practice to escape this foolishness?”

“My parents are also very troubled by my compatibility issue. Seeing them suffer makes it harder for me. How should I handle this?”

“Listening to Sunim, I realized my anxiety was foolish. I will try to maintain a peaceful mind, saying, ‘I am fine.’”

“I am already receiving psychological counseling.”

“Yes, thank you.”

The questions continued.

– I lack confidence and am passive. I can’t assert myself and I struggle to make a living. Can I change my passive personality?

– My 42-year-old son has suffered from severe epilepsy since childhood. He is often misunderstood due to his motor skills and is currently unemployed. How can I help my son?

After an hour of conversation, the live Q&A broadcast ended at 7:30 AM. Sunim had breakfast and left for Washington D.C. at 8:10 AM. He headed to the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to meet with some Pentagon officials.

Upon arriving at the Pentagon at 9:10 AM, Sunim went through security checks and had a 1.5-hour meeting starting at 10 AM with officials overseeing nuclear and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) policy.

At the entrance, Nina Sawyer Wagner, the Principal Director for Nuclear & Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Policy, welcomed Sunim. She has had a long-standing connection with Sunim.

“Hello! Last week, I saw a large poster with Sunim’s photo in Annandale, Virginia. What were you doing there?”

“I see. Your visit to the Department of Defense is very important, but next time you are in Washington, we would love for you to give a Dharma Q&A for our staff. They have a lot of work and stress.”

After exchanging greetings, Sunim arrived at the office where staff from departments dealing with nuclear non-proliferation and sanctions were present.

Sunim emphasized the changed international landscape due to the war in Ukraine, and he explained what military strategies the U.S. should adopt to stop the proliferation of North Korea’s nuclear and WMD programs.

He detailed North Korea’s economic structure and stressed that sanctions strategies should vary based on their goals, recommending that sanctions not worsen the lives of North Korean people.

After 1.5 hours, two officials thanked Sunim.

“Talking with you broadened our knowledge. Thank you for visiting the Department of Defense.”

With the end of this meeting, Sunim’s journey for peace on the Korean peninsula in Washington D.C. concluded. Over the past week, Sunim met many people, from think tank experts to U.S. government officials. Despite repeating the same message to everyone, he showed no signs of fatigue. We truly hope that through Sunim’s efforts, the suffering of North Korean people is alleviated, tensions on the Korean peninsula are reduced, and Northeast Asia can be peaceful.

Leaving the Pentagon, Sunim headed to Jason’s house. He expressed gratitude to Jason, who provided English interpretation throughout his U.S. visit.

The volunteers of Jungto Society bowed three times in farewell to Sunim before leaving Jason’s house.

At 1 PM, Sunim met with Washington correspondents at a Korean restaurant in Annandale, Virginia. The journalists greeted Sunim warmly.

They exchanged pleasantries and began their conversation over lunch. Each newspaper dispatches correspondents to Washington D.C. to cover various news topics. The correspondents were particularly interested in North Korea-U.S. relations and the U.S. presidential election.

Sunim shared his discussions with U.S. officials and experts over the past few days, particularly his emphasis on normalizing North Korea-U.S. relations to freeze North Korea’s nuclear program, and the reactions he received.

Hearing this, the correspondents asked what role the South Korean government should play.

What Policies Should the South Korean Government Pursue Now?

“I understand Sunim’s point. While it’s essential to see how the U.S. government responds to Sunim’s advice, will the South Korean government accept it? With three years left in the South Korean presidential term, what changes can be expected in handling the North Korean issue?”

Correspondents expressed doubt about the South Korean government’s ability to play a significant role given recent congressional election results.

“Judging by the results of the recent Korean congressional elections, the South Korean government seems unlikely to take meaningful action. Not only is there a lack of effort to improve relations with North Korea, but also no groundwork for policy flexibility.”

Sunim smiled and said,

“After the recent general elections, President Yoon Suk Yeol had an opportunity. Respecting the people’s wishes and forming a grand coalition with the opposition party could have regained public support. Even without amending the constitution, the government could have operated in a de facto semi-presidential system, leading to national unity.

There is always a way out in life. The problem is not taking it. Consequently, resistance from the opposition and the people who supported the opposition will intensify, making governance more difficult. However, there is always a way out. Even on the brink of death, there is a way out. Making such decisions early earns praise in history; delaying them requires paying a higher price.”

The questions continued.

“Do you think there will be progress in the dialogue between North Korea and Japan?”

“What is your assessment of the current economic situation in North Korea? Some say it’s dire, while others say it’s better than expected.”

After two hours of conversation, the meeting concluded. After taking a commemorative photo, the correspondents bid farewell to Sunim.

“We learned a great deal and had a good meal. Thank you, Sunim.”

Sunim then departed for the airport, arriving at Dulles International Airport at 4 PM. After check-in, he expressed gratitude to Dharma Teacher Bophae, Kim Ji-hyun, and Dharma Teacher Myeodeok for their efforts in organizing and supporting the visit with a handshake.

“Sunim, you worked very hard. Have a safe trip back to Korea!”

The flight departed Washington D.C. at 5:50 PM and arrived at Los Angeles Airport at 8:10 PM.

While waiting at the airport, Sunim spent time editing manuscripts and boarded the flight to Korea at 11 PM.

The flight departed Los Angeles at 11 PM, and, after a 12-hour flight, is scheduled to arrive at Incheon International Airport at 4:20 AM Korean time tomorrow. Sunim rested on the plane.

Thus concluded the North America East Coast Dharma Q&A tour and activities for peace on the Korean peninsula that began on April 29. This was all possible thanks to Jungto practitioners worldwide, volunteers who promoted and prepared the events, volunteers who provided transportation, meals, and accommodations, and many others who worked behind the scenes. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all.