Peace Trails Initiative
At the close of the 7th World Trails Conference, WTN Honorary Patron Ms Myung Sook Suh announced the launch of an international Peace Trails Initiative. Here is the transcript of her presentation:
“Good afternoon everyone. Buenos Tardes, Santiago.
I am very glad to meet trail friends from all around the world. I am chairperson of Jeju Olle Foundation.
From now on, I will make my speech in my language.
I want to share story of my trail me who is appointed as Global Honorary Patron of WTN.
Some of you already know who I am, but a lot of you wonder what Jeju Olle Trail and who Suh Myung Sook is and what made her appointed as Global Honorary Patron of global organization.
I was born and grown in Jeju Island, the southernmost part of Korea. It is known as Hawaii of Korea and presents great scenery with beautiful ocean. The volcanic island was known to be mecca of tourism and best honeymoon site in Korea
Island has large volcano called Mt. Halla and more than 360 parasitic volcanoes are scattered all over the island. Magmas flooded from volcanic activity formed mystique rocks and it also created massive rock plantations. Over the centuries, unique forests were formed on the plantation with new life.
This unique and mysterious island has tragic history with suppression and genocide from foreign countries and central government.
In my childhood, I have never liked this island. I did not even recognize the value of the nature that the island possesses. Rather, I admired industrialization and hot trends. It made me went to college in big city and become a journalist, the fastest person announcing the most recent news to the public. And I had a dream of moving abroad in the future.
For 25 years as a journalist, I worked day and night without weekends. I achieved successful career by creating exclusive coverages. Too much enthusiasm caused bad health. I felt burn out. I started walking for health. No. Only to survive.
Rather than staying indoor, I chose outdoor. That’s why started walking. Beyond the habit, I wanted to spend more time in walking and dreamed of going on Camino de Santiago. I had that dream for three days. However, it wasn’t easy decision to make as a chief editor in successful media. I had to make a choice. Career or dream. I chose the yellow arrow.
Back then, I was 50. While walking on Camino de Santiago I had time cleansing body and mind.
Until now, I am keeping gratitude toward Santiago.
On the trail, I realized that trail is just like a general hospital only without surgery or prescription buy provides magic to self-remedy. Trail cured exhausted mind and body, refreshed them, and taught me power of happiness.
Maybe it was because being in the nature for such long time was my first experience.
Camino de Santiago reminded me of beauty of my hometown, Jeju where I’ve always wanted to flee from.
Back then, tourism in Jeju was way too saturated. The province wanted to construct things such as casino and hotel to bring people into the island. They considered applying new tourism contents.
I, myself found the solution to the issue. The trail. I thought, maybe I could make a trail half the length of Camino de Santiago by connecting the coastline of Jeju.
I came back to Korea and wrapped up 30 years of city life and came back to Jeju. I shared by story and idea to my family. My mom said, “Are you INSANE?”
However, my brothers who were fascinated by my plan supported me and we started discovering path to hike on. My journalist colleagues moved to Jeju to help and a lot of people started to donate or support us in someway. The miracle began.
I never thought the trail will become so sensational. I only thought and wished, ‘It could be something similar to Camino Santiago 100 years after….’
Within a year, we received unbelievable reactions. Numerous numbers of people visited our trail. People started thank me for the experience and emotions they had on trail.
Jeju Olle became a trend and OLLE EFFECT on economics the island started to get attention. Previously, tourism industry in Korea made numerous problem by hurting the nature through construction and deconstruction. Jeju Olle was the first content introducing travel culture without harming the nature but harmonizing the nature.
Studies on positive effect on local economics were published.
Regardless of the success of trail, indiscriminate development continued and we had struggles with local government and developers to keep the nature and trail. We wanted to keep the nature as it is and we wanted to learn how to protect it from trails with long history. We wanted to come up with the good solutions together. So, we started to seek relevant organizations and people.
We did not want to limit ourselves in Korea. We wanted to introduce our trail to bigger world. Just like Camino de Santiago.
We wanted to share our experience to Asian countries and developing countries that are facing same problems with us. The unnecessary development. We looked for organizations to learn from and teach.
Korean government and Jeju province were amazed by our work. Especially because it was achievement made by private sector. We persuaded government to hold the international event to host trail experts from other countries. We were poor and we needed funding.
With the visible result of the trail, request has accepted. Rather than receiving funding for operation and management, the only request we made to government was having a world trails conference in the island. That is how we started gather trails from all around the world and we’ve pulled it off for 5 years in the island.
Maybe that is why Galeo, Chair of WTN mentioned our contribution to global trail networking in his opening address. Appointing me as a Honorary Patron might have come from our efforts and processes.
I never had ambitions for politics or economics when I left city and position of chief editor of my paper. Time and freedom to walk became most valuable and important.
So, I rejected appointment of advisory positions in various sectors and organizations.
However, the position of WTN hononary patron is different as it is connected to the trail.
And I could support and be part of keeping the nature by opposing the unnecessary development and persuade governments in various regions with people who are managing the trails in this position.
Thus, I accept the position of Honarary patron with a big honor.
WTN is not limited to trails experts and trails industry. But it plays a central role in guaranteeing the happiness of hikers, sustainability, conservations, and preservation of the world, and bringing solution to the environmental problems in the era of global warming.
Let’s hold our hands and achieve it together.
Beyond the country and continent, the global networking will ensure sustainable future to next generation by suggesting the right direction.
My and Jeju Olle Foundation will support WTN and networking of world trails in our very best capability.
As WTN’s first Honorary Patron, today, I am excited to announce a new international program for collaboration between trails. Korea is the only country in separation of two. North and South.
We were in a state of armistice for 65 years. However, through two summits leaders of both country announced the end of war recently.
I was born in the island in the southernmost part of South Korea. My father came from North Korea. Personally, I wanted to walk from my mother’s land to father’s land. I want to cross the boarder from Halla to Baekdoo with two feet. With recent summits and rising discussion on armistice, denuclearization, and peace agreement, I am suggesting finding of Peace Olle, the trail from South to North in various routes.
Together with WTN International Board, I am privileged to announce the launch of a World Trails Network program to develop and champion the support international peace trails. Our first project which I will champion during my term as Honorary Patron is the creation of the Peace Olle Trail in Korea. To begin, we will champion and motivate for the partial opening of demilitarization zone for the possibilities of development a trail route.
Thus, I wish everyone here at the conference could walk the Peace Olle trail together with its opening. Let us prove existence and value of WTN as well as power of trail in healing mind and body of individuals, enhancing understanding between nations, bringing peace, and environmental conservation. Trail is the silliest but smartest, slowest but fastest tool to bring all things together.
Please support and help us in realization of my dream in Peace Olle