OSLO, Norway Last year's Nobel Peace laureate, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, warned of new global threats in a speech Thursday opening this year's celebration, which commemorates a century of honoring people working for peace in the world's trouble spots.
Kim said the divide between the rich and poor is widening.
"We have witnessed anger caused by the gap between rich and poor in a worldwide digital divide of the information era," he said at the three-day symposium that was to include the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Lech Walesa.
The 2001 Nobel Peace prize, worth $940,000, will be presented Monday to the United Nations and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Nobel laureates Kim Dae-jung, left, and Joseph Rotblat, right, at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel, in Oslo, Norway Thursday Dec. 6, 2001. Kim Dae-jung and Roblat will be participating in Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium Dec. 6 - 8. The 2001 Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony to United Nations and Kofi Annan will take place in Oslo Town Hall on Dec. 10. (AP Photo/Heiko Junge/SCANPIX)
Kim won the prize for his reconciliation efforts on the Korean peninsula, which has been divided since 1945.
"Peace on the Korean peninsula is not only the wish of the 70 million people there, it is the wish of the world," Kim said.
He conceded that relations between South and North Korea were at a "stalemate" but said he was confident that dialogue would continue.
The Norwegian Nobel Institute invited all 39 living peace laureates or representatives of winning organizations to its centenary celebrations.
But several, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, kept away for various reasons, such as illness or family tragedy.
F.W. de Klerk, the former South African president who shared the 1993 prize with Nelson Mandela for efforts to end apartheid, canceled after his ex-wife, Marike, was found strangled Tuesday at her Cape Town home.
Others who canceled included Betty Williams, who shared the 1976 Nobel prize for founding a mixed Protestant-Catholic peace movement in Northern Ireland, and the 1996 winner, Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of East Timor.
After recent suicide bombings by Palestinian groups and Israel's retaliatory attacks, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, now the Israeli foreign minister, also were not expected. They shared the 1994 prize with the late Yitzhak Rabin.
Geir Lundestad, the committee's nonvoting secretary of the Nobel Peace Prize committee, said rising Mideast violence "does not show that the peace prize of 1994 was wrong."
"It just shows the tremendous forces that are opposed to compromise," he said. "In a way it just underlines the courage of those three who tried to strike some sort of compromise."
Lundestad said the Mideast violence and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks prove the relevance of the prize.
"The Nobel Peace Prize cannot transform the world," he said, but he added, "It provides international laureates with a microphone."
The Nobel prizes, first awarded in 1901, are announced in the fall and always handed out on Dec. 10, the date their Swedish benefactor Alfred Nobel died in 1896.
The other Nobel Prizes literature, medicine, physics, chemistry and economics are presented the same day in Stockholm, Sweden, where more than 160 laureates are expected for a similar centennial celebration.
© 2001 The Associated Press