Ven. Pomnyun is the founder and the guiding Dharma teacher of Jungto Society. A volunteer run organization modeled after the sangha, it was created to address problems and crises of today’s world based on a Buddhist world view that all beings are interconnected.
Ven. Pomnyun is also well known for his unique ways of engaging audiences in live Q&A talks. His talks occur in public places like community centers, libraries, universities, and churches, and are free of charge. This way, people from all walks of life, from different ages, and religious backgrounds can easily come.
He is also freer to use everyday language to engage with the audience than he would be in traditional Buddhist temple settings. Responding to a variety of questions that people ask, Ven. Pomnyun shows how we can apply the insights and wisdom of Buddhist teaching in tackling issues in our everyday lives, such as feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, as well as social issues.
Ramon Magsaysay Award received for Peace and International Understanding for Ven.
Pomnyun's ongoing advocacy for human rights and peace
Ven. Pomnyun seeks to spread the message of happiness and freedom. He firmly believes everyone can, and has the right to be happy and free. This is made possible by becoming free of suffering and worldly attachment.
To that end, he relies on Buddha’s teachings, which still resonate after more than 2500 years. He seeks enlightenment while saving sentient beings, makes himself happy and free, then uses his time and energy to help address the sources of sufferings of others, be it discrimination, poverty, or regional conflicts. He has peace in his mind, and he has compassion towards other people. This is the way of a Bodhisattva.
When he visited the Tumen river in China in the late 1990s, Ven. Pomnyun saw a starving child on the North Korean side of the river. He wanted to reach him to help, but he could not cross the border because South Koreans were not allowed to travel to North Korea. Birds could freely cross the border but humans could not. He found it absurd that he had no idea that hundreds of thousands of fellow Koreans were starving in the North, and he could not help them. After this incident, his organization Good Friends published a report on the North Korea famine after interviewing hundreds of North Korean refugees in China who fled from the famine. The report was one of the first documents through which the international community learned about the urgency of the hunger situations in North Korea.
He has since worked tirelessly to address conflicts of all sorts, especially those originating in the Korean peninsula and other Asian countries. His unconventional and insightful approach to solving conflicts have informed and inspired Korean watchers in Korea and the U.S., including government officials, members of the congress, think tanks and NGOs.
In Mindanao, in the Philippines, his school building projects have brought the local government and Muslim groups together in remote mountainous areas. Parents from both sides worked together towards a common goal. They wanted to provide proper basic education to their children that they previously could not receive. This has contributed to bringing peace to an area where people were leaving due to the conflicts.
HUMANITARIAN AID EXPERT
When Ven. Pomnyun went to India for a pilgrimage, he met a young lady begging for money to buy milk for her baby. In Dongheswari, he also witnessed hundreds of begging children and wondered why they were not in school but instead on the street. Later he learned that the milk that the woman asked for cost only about two dollars. He also found out that the school-aged children on the street could not go to school because there was no school in the village. This experience struck him deeply. Since then he has been vigorous in his efforts to eradicate starvation, diseases and illiteracy in the world.
As a part of such efforts, he has founded the Join Together Society, an international aid organization that operates under the motto: the hungry should be fed, the sick should be cured, children should be educated. For long-term aid projects, JTS has provided education, medical services and village development for areas such as Dongheswari in India and Mindanao in the Philippines. JTS has also been active in providing emergency aid relief in regions struck by natural disasters.
Ven. Pomnyun’s aid endeavor span across India, the Philippines and North Korea. JTS has also operated in other Asian countries including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Ven. Pomnyun stresses the dangers of environmental degradation and lifestyles infested with overconsumption. Instead, based on Buddha’s teaching to respect living beings, he promotes a simple lifestyle where people are eating and consuming less.
Through EcoBuddha, an environmental NGO he founded in 1994, he has also been hard at work increasing public awareness and knowledge about environmental issues. He has been leading the ‘Zero Food Waste’ campaign since 1999, and has popularized specific actions such as emptying one’s plate and worm composting.
Born to a farming family in rural South Korea.
Foundation of JTS
Founded Jungto Society, a Buddhist community with the aim of solving problems prevalent in a modern society such as greed, poverty, conflict, and environmental degradation based on the teachings of Buddha.
Humanitarian Aid Organization
Committed to working with people of developing countries in Asia to promote equality, development, and sustainable livelihoods.
Founded Good Friends, a humanitarian rights organization aimed at providing humanitarian aid, advocating for human rights, and helping refugees.
Ramon Magsaysay Award
Received Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding for Ven. Pomnyun’s ongoing advocacy for human rights and peace.
Founded Peace Foundation, a private research institute, to bring permanent peace, stability, and unification to the Korean Peninsula.
Toured 300 different locations in South Korea to give Dharma Q&A sessions.
Toured Americas, Asia, and Europe, holding 115 Dharma Q&A sessions around the world.