Supporting the peace in Korea remains one of the most exciting and difficult organizing efforts. The work remains exciting and dynamic because of its potential for world peace and due to the issues confronted by this long-standing conflict. While often viewed as a conflict between the North and South, in reality it is the United States that has remained the major obstacle for peace in Korea. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), in coalition with other groups, can play a key role in working toward a permanent peace treaty on the Korean peninsula and in shifting the language and efforts of our policymakers from demonization to dialogue.
Struggle for Peace and Unification in Korea
In order to demonstrate the importance of continuing work in this important part of the world, various factors central to the struggle for peace and unification in Korea are helpful:
A. Despite the signing of an armistice agreement in 1953, a state of war still exists, as the parties have never signed a permanent peace treaty.
B. The United States has never had an effective exit strategy from Korea and continues to occupy South Korea with over 26,000 US troops.
C. The United States spends nearly $30 billion a year to maintain its bases in South Korea, despite extensive reunification efforts of the North and South, including over $800 million in trade and the efforts of full-time reunification ministers on both sides to work on ways in which to unify the country.
D. Diplomatic relations exist between the DPRK and over 155 other nations, but the US has never normalized diplomatic relations.
E. Many peace groups and some government officials in South Korea seek to close the United States military facilities and remove US troops from Korea.
F. The draconian Security Act in South Korea still makes it illegal for South Korean’s to meet with North Koreans without government approval, speak positively about the DPRK or even to read North Korean (DPRK) books or websites. This act, passed after the armistice agreement and during the height of McCarthyism in the United States, has helped maintain separation of the two nations and is still utilized today to attack labor unions, professors, and activists.
G. Few Americans understand the barbaric history of the Korean War, the extensive war crimes committed by the United States and South Korea during the war, and the feelings and motivations of the DPRK that resulted.
H. The United States and South Korea have recently been negotiating new security agreements to extend US involvement on the peninsula and to secure the assistance of South Korean troops in US incursions into other disputes around the world.
I. The recently convened South Korean Truth and Reconciliation Commission has unraveled many examples of war massacres and crimes against humanity committed by South Korea forces during the Korean War with a full eight and knowledge of the United States CIA and/or military.
1. Normalization of relationships between the United States and DPRK (North Korea) similar to those maintaining between the DPRK and over 156 other countries. Recognize the existence of the nation and have regular lines of communication through an embassy and ambassador.
2. Enter a peace treaty to end the Korean War. The US and UN Forces never entered into a peace treaty to end the Korean War and the South never signed the armistice agreement that halted the shooting.
3. Support for the reunification efforts of both the South and North and to guarantee the autonomy of both sides to reach their own Korean agreement.
4. End the provocative “war games” conducted by the South and the United States along the DMZ.
5. Support a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
6. Return of the 26,000 U.S. troops from South Korea and closing of US bases in Korea.
7. Restoration of the sovereign jurisdiction of South Korea to try any crimes committed by US soldiers off base on Korean soil.
8. Convene a full government supported Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including and with the support of the U.S., to expand listening and healing opportunities and help assure that the factors that contributed to the Korean War not occur again.
RECENT ACTIVITIES IN 2008
1. Discussions with Veterans for Peace Korea Peace Treaty Project toward holding a conference on the 55th anniversary of the armistice agreement in order to raise awareness and work toward a peace treaty in Korea. However, there were insufficient resources and time to hold the event and it was postponed to 2009.
2. Completion of the Forgotten Faces of North Korea photo exhibit. See http://www.ubuntuworks.com/ubuntuworks/_Photo_Exhibit.html to view the photos. This exhibit of up to 20 large photos is now available for galleries universities and libraries and aims to put a human face on the DPRK. so that the dehumanizing that takes place prior to war is alleviated. Also see the attached flyer on the exhibit. While currently designed to self-fund through royalties and sales, additional funding is needed for out reach and in order to provide the exhibits more universally and in a lower income communities. We hope that this may come from the Korean Community.
3. Chair Eric Sirotkin attended the Korean Policy Institute’s Reunification: Building Permanent Peace in Korea conference held in Berkeley California on October 10, 2008. This conference brought together academics, policy experts, community members, and advocates for a lively, focused, and informed discussion on peace and unification in Korea and what US policy makers and communities can do to support and engage in this process. Important contacts and renewed friendships were made and the photo exhibit was made available for viewing. Informational pamphlets on the committee and the exhibit were also distributed. Nearly 200 people attended.
4. Eric also attended on October 11, 2008 a strategy session led by about 70 young Korean activists on effective ways to reach out to the Korean community and to begin a national movement for a peace treaty in Korea. As a result of the meeting, commitments were made to work closer in coalition and to take action to share resources and materials nationally. Helpful support was provided by the Guild on legal treaty approval processes and community organizing strategies. Representatives were present from Seattle, Toronto, Oregon, California, and New York. The event ended that evening at the Korean American Cultural Center with a live hip-hop/poetry and cultural event.
5. Eric is currently working on the outline for a TV length film tentatively called desperately seeking peace that would briefly tell the story of the division of Korea and serve as a testament to the power of dialogue and engagement over demonization. Anticipated interviewees include Jimmy Carter, Bill Richardson, Desmond Tutu, and many individuals who have written or been activists around the Korean issue. Currently a proposal has been drafted to the DPRK mission seeking permission to return to the DPRK with a professional cameraperson to secure additional footage for the documentary. This might be combined with a new NLG delegation to the DPRK. GET INVOLVED There are plenty of ways to bring this campaign to your Law School or Chapter. Sponsor the Photo Exhibit, help with film production, download our petitions and fact sheets, or bring a speaker, or help write a paper on issues related to the right to peace for the IADL Congress. For further information contact: Eric Sirotkin firstname.lastname@example.org