We Can Avoid War with North Korea -- If We Listen to Women Peacemakers
February 19, 2018 Erica Fein / Ms. Magazine Blog & Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box
The US and North Korea have been at war for 67 years. Since 1953, a united Korea -- that had existed for well over a thousand years -- has given way to a stark division. Conventional thinking isn't just continuing the status quo -- it's putting us on a path to renewed war. If we want to truly achieve peace, we must listen to the voices of those who have witnessed the human costs of war on the Korean Peninsula. And, on all sides of the negotiating table, women must be heard.
We Can Avoid War with North Korea
-- If We Listen to Women Peacemakers Erica Fein / Ms. Magazine Blog
(January 25, 2018) -- The US and North Korea have been at war for 67 years. Between 1950 and 1953, the Korean War killed over two million Koreans, 36,500 American troops and hundreds of thousands more from other countries on both sides.
Since then, a united Korea for well over a thousand years has given way to a stark division. Hundreds of thousands of family members physically torn apart by war and outside aggressors know that with each passing day, hope fades that they will reunite.
We don't talk about peace, reconciliation and reunification in these ways when we talk about the international crisis surrounding the Korean peninsula. It's easy to see why. North Korea is an odd, isolated nation with a devastating human rights record; South Korea is a flourishing democracy. American politicians and the foreign policy establishment see two vastly different Koreas, with little bridging the divide.
But now, conventional thinking isn't just continuing the status quo -- it's putting us on a path to renewed war. If we want to truly achieve peace, we must listen to the voices of those who have witnessed the human costs of war on the Korean Peninsula. And, on all sides of the negotiating table, women must be heard.
Photo Copyright Chelsea Brooke Roisum
The US/Canada Summit on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula in Vancouver last week included the countries that sent troops to fight in the Korean War. I was part of a delegation of women there to demand a seat at the negotiating table in order to influence the official policy statements coming out of the meeting.
Our reason was simple: when women influence the peacemaking process, studies show that agreements are almost always reached, are more likely to be implemented and are likely to last longer. In addition, war and violence disproportionatelyimpact women and girls worldwide. When women lead the peace process, they bring a commitment to avoid violence rooted in their own experience of its impacts.
Research finds that women are more likely to advocate for more inclusive and representative solutions, often because they understand the community on whose behalf they represent. Many of the Foreign Ministers represented in Vancouver had never been to North Korea.
By contrast, many of the participants in our group of 16 -- including women from South Korea, Canada, Japan, Guam, Sweden and the US -- had been to North Korea, and some had lived there extensively. Together, we could represent a human perspective on the ongoing costs of war.
Of course, we did not get a seat at the official table -- though we did use our time productively in less formal meetings with country representatives and a civil society roundtable. Had we been part of the official talks, we would have asked for a path forward to continue the unexpected, but welcome, pause in hostilities between the US and North Korea and a strong show of support for the inter-Korean dialogue.
We would have recommended that the US engage in direct talks with North Korea without pre-conditions, delay joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for North Korea's cessation of missile and nuclear weapons testing and facilitate the reunification of Korean-American families with North Korea.
Instead, the talks ended as expected in a world where Donald Trump's Twitter whims dictate US policy on Korea: The Foreign Ministers promised to enforce and tighten sanctions and adhere to his administration's pressure campaign on North Korea.
Thus, the two sides remain at an extreme impasse. The Trump administration continues to demand denuclearization as a pre-condition to even talk. North Korea has repeatedly stated it will never give up its nuclear weapons.
Trump's maximum pressure campaign will certainly not change Kim Jung Un's calculations about his nuclear weapons program, and the North Korean regime will not feel the sanctions, but ordinary people will. Further isolating North Korea will only drive it to continue strengthening its nuclear capabilities, heightening the threat.
The Trump administration is acting as though it doesn't really want to make a deal. Senior officials prefer to dangle the threat of a preventive attack, and the chances of miscalculation are too high for comfort.
If a war starts, the Pentagon estimates that upwards of 25 million people could be at risk -- and that's if the killing is contained (if we can use such a word) to the Korean peninsula.
War is not inevitable. By luck, we may even muddle through and avoid conflict with North Korea while Trump is in office. But it will take a fundamentally different approach to get true peace and security.
Many of us, including women peacemakers, are ready to provide solutions, but we need our voices heard by those making decisions. So far, they're not listening.
Erica Fein is the advocacy director at Win Without War, a national a national leader in the fight to promote a more progressive national security strategy.
(February 10, 2018) -- The International Peace Conference for a Peaceful Korean Peninsula and Olympic Peace was an important statement of civil society in South Korea and around the world for dialogue -- not war -- to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
150 persons attended the three-day, January 31-February 2, 2018, International Peace Conference for a Peaceful Korean Peninsula and Peace Olympics sponsored by the YMCA of South Korea. The conference was held in the DMZ border city of Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, South Korea, near infamous Tunnel #2. Cheorwon is one of two towns divided by the DMZ.
The conference for peace was tied to the Winter Olympic Games which will be next week at PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, a two-hour drive from our conference site. The YMCA South Korea conference organizers have called for a second International Peace Conference of civil society to be held in Pyongyang, North Korea in July 2018.
The delegates at the conference agreed that they will: 1. Actively support North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the subsequent resumption of the inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges;
2. Strongly demand the commencement of unconditional dialogue and negotiations between the other countries involved, including bilateral talks between the US and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK);
3. Urge countries of the world including the US to lift economic sanctions on the DPRK immediately as such a measure only negatively affects ordinary people in North Korea;
4. Demand the replacement of the Armistice Agreement, which as signed 65 years ago, with a Peace Treaty;
5. Demand the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in line with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN);
6. Demand the resumption of inter-Korean families reunion and Mount Kumgang tourism and to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex, the operation of which has thus far has been halted by the South and North Korean governments.
Four themes were discussed at the conference: * The Role of Sports in Bringing Peace to the Region * Sustainable Peace Regime and Denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula * Women in the Peace Process * Cooperation between Peace and Cultural Movements
One of the highlights of the conference was going into the civilian controlled access area next to the South Korean DMZ embankments. Located in the DMZ controlled access area is the Border Peace School, a private initiative for international graduate students to study peacemaking for three years in the heart of an area needing peace.
The school currently has three students -- one each from Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States with more students arriving in the month. They study and do practical work in the area around the DMZ for three years.
Dr Jiseok Jung has been the school director for seven years after receiving his graduate degree from peace studies & conflict resolution from the University of Ireland in Dublin.
We joined the students and faculty of the Border Peace School in their daily walk up Pilgrimage hill just outside the DMZ control zone in a reflective spirit to overlook into North Korea and conduct a ceremony for peace on the Korean peninsula.
I brought our Veterans For Peace and Women Cross the DMZ "NO war on North Korea" banner from our actions in Honolulu! Holding the banner there with North Korea behind us -- in the extreme cold reminded me of the horrific three-year Korean war in which so many civilians and military of 20 countries were killed or froze to death.
The conference opened with Mimi Han of YWCA and Women Cross DMZ , Dan Jasper of American Friends Service Committee, Jeremy Courtney of Preemptive Love Coalition in Iraq and Wansang Han, former Deputy Prime Minister of South Korea and conference organizer at the International Peace Conference in Cheorwon, Gangwon Province, South Korea appealing for peace and dialogue on the Korean peninsula, not war.
Dan Jasper's excellent Opening Address for the Conference is here.
In the Women and Peacemaking panel Ahn Kim Jeong Ae of Women Making Peace told the history of meetings of North and South Korean women over the years when the political atmosphere permitted. I told of women at the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Vancouver and women in peacemaking around the world.
Panelists and moderator SungEun Kim of Women Making Peace and Mimi Han of YWCA were a part of the 2015 Women Cross DMZ. Our South Korean friends met our international group as we came across the DMZ into South Korea in May 2015.
We ended the three-day conference back in Seoul where our delegation conducted a press conference in the South Korean National Assembly press room.
Dan Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee spoke of the terrible effects of sanctions on humanitarian programs to North Korea, citing AFSC's 35-year agricultural program. He also spoke of the desire to have divided Korean families reunited including those of Korean Americans.
With 29 years in the US military, I spoke on the lack of necessity of massive US-ROK military exercises as the militaries have been practicing war for decades. Therefore, a continuation of suspension of these war games will cause no lessening of national security for either South Korea or the United States. Continuing military war games are solely for intimidation purposes.
I also asked South Korea to pressure its ally the US to send a letter to the DPRK to formally request the return of the remains of 124 US servicemen from the Korean War that the DPRK has ready to return on receipt of a letter for return on humanitarian grounds.
Retired Mongolian Ambassador to the United Nations Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, head of the international Blue Banner Initiative for a nuclear-free Mongolia, spoke of the important role of small and medium-sized states in challenging nuclear
The conference ended with our delegation meeting with two National Assembly members including Shim Jae Kwon, the deputy head of the Foreign Affairs committee who strongly supports dialogue with North Korea.
The International Peace Conference for a Peaceful Korean Peninsula and Olympic Peace was an important statement of civil society in South Korea and around the world for dialogue -- not war -- to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone.
In December, 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and publicly resigned in direct protest of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Wright has participated in several Gaza flotillas. She is the co-author of the book Dissent: Voices of Conscience. She has written frequently on rape in the military.
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