President Kim Calls for Inter-Religious Forgiveness

President Kim Dae-jung yesterday called for forgiveness and reconciliation to transcend ethnic, racial and religious lines in order to achieve world peace.

In his acceptance speech for the 2001 World Statesman Award that was read by Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Han Seung-soo in New York, President Kim, the Nobel Peace Prize winner last year, said, ``We have to reach out to different ethnic, racial and religious groups in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation.''

His message of inter-religious reconciliation came after heightened global tension in the aftermath of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Osama bin Laden, an ex-Saudi millionaire, is the prime suspect for the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history. The U.S. is preparing a counterattack on bin Laden and his protectors, the Taliban, a group of fundamentalist Muslims who rule Afghanistan.

The President couldn't attend the ceremony held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel because he canceled his scheduled trip to New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Kim commemorated the attacks, saying, ``Our prayers go out to those who have lost their lives and their families.''

He also promoted his ``sunshine policy'' of reconciliation and cooperation with the Stalinist North Korea.

``The `sunshine policy' is beneficial not only to South and North Korea but to other countries, including the United States and our neighbors, such as Japan, China and Russia,'' he said, citing its contribution to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and the world as a whole.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a nonprofit organization, designated President Kim as the recipient of this year's World Statesman Award for his contribution to democracy, peace and freedom.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who is the honorary chairman of this year's award ceremony, sent a congratulatory message, saying, ``President Kim's life is a testament to the cause of human rights.''

Bush said that as president, Kim displayed, ``the same vision, courage and commitment in pursuing peace and reconciliation with North Korea.''