The Korea Peace Treaty Campaign
There is an exciting new campaign – and Nodutdol is a part of it. This is a new campaign, with a new network and coalition – to finally end the Korean War.
The Korean War, contrary to popular belief, never ended. Only an armistice, a temporary ceasefire is in place. The fact that North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. remain at war, we feel, is a major obstacle to achieving peace, normalized relations, reconciliation and the eventual reunification and demilitarization of the peninsula.
So we are building a campaign for a Korea Peace Treaty to end this war.
This is not a new concept, but this current effort began with the Activist Moim in Oakland that followed the Korea Policy Institute’s Reunification Conference in the fall of 2008. Koreans from across the U.S. and Canada gathered, along with allied activists and scholars, and out of this energizing meeting came an agreement to work together to launch a Korea Peace Treaty campaign.
Despite its characterization in America as the “forgotten war”, the Korean War is seared into the hearts and minds of generations of Koreans. The military conflict officially lasted from 1950 to 1953, and only an armistice was signed. The two Koreas, and the U.S. and North Korea, have remained in a mostly “cold war” ever since. Over a million troops - South Korean, North Korean and U.S. soldiers, are arrayed on the two sides of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), with hi-tech weaponry on numerous bases. The region is a military “flashpoint” because of the number of troops and weapons and their close proximity.
The danger of war is real - during both the Clinton and Bush administrations, U.S. pre-emptive strikes were threatened over the issue of North Korea’s potentially having nuclear weapons. Currently, the U.S. has been reconfiguring its presence in South Korea, increasing the size and capabilities of bases like Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek, south of Seoul, while the U.S., South Korea, and Japan have stepped up joint military exercises to “maintain regional stability”. The most recent just ended this March, as 26,000 U.S. forces joined the R.O.K. forces in an enormous war game, “Key Resolve/ Foal Eagle”, exercises aimed at North Korea, who condemned the actions as provocative. Then, North Korea launched a satellite in early April, which the U.S., South Korea and Japan denounced as provocative.
Aside from the fearsome threat of war – there’s the cost of this military standoff. The U.S. has spent billions to maintain its troops and bases in South Korea since the end of the Korean war, which has ranged from a high of 50,000 to the current level of 28,500 soldiers on numerous bases and posts. Both Koreas have also expended billions, which in this economic crisis – could be better spent.
Why does the time seem ripe for a renewed effort to end the Korean War?
Since the historic first summit meeting in 2000 and a second one in 2007 between the heads of North and South Korea, relations between the two Koreas have improved tremendously, ranging from people to people contact, sports and cultural exchanges, tours, and a large number of joint economic projects. While there have been glitches and some setbacks, especially with the present conservative Lee Myung Bak administration, there can be no denying that Koreans on both sides of the peninsula envision a future that reconciles the two halves of the peninsula.
For most of the past 60 years, the U.S. has been locked into a cold war mentality on the issue of North Korea. Solid steps towards improving relations occurred in 2000, when President Clinton met with North Korean Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a historic trip to meet North Korean President Kim Jong Il. But with the Bush administration, relations refroze and by 2002, President Bush had labeled North Korea part of an “axis of evil” and war threatened in 2006 over the nuclear weapons issue. Only in 2008, at the end of the Bush administration, were there signs of a new thaw. It was then revealed that Washington had been holding direct talks with North Korea (after years of only agreeing to multi-lateral talks) and President Bush finally removed North Korea from the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
With the historic election of President Obama, who backs diplomacy and direct negotiations, the opportunity to achieve real peace, and to develop a new U.S.-Korea relationship – is finally within reach. So the conditions are favorable - but it will still take our combined efforts to press him and Congress to ensure that a peace treaty happens. While Obama has stated that he would carry out “sustained, direct and aggressive diplomacy” with North Korea, this will be only one of many issues on his priority list. This past election serves to remind us of the power of grassroots organizing and coalitions and the need to harness that same power.
This general campaign is in line with what Nodutdol has been calling for in U.S. policy around the world - to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to end the threat of war against Iran. It is a first step towards reconciliation and reunification on the Korean peninsula, but it is also a first step towards what Nodutdol hopes are efforts to remove U.S. troops from Korea, the Philippines and other nations, to end the neoliberal economic and political attacks on workers throughout the world ¬ and to return peace and sovereignty to peoples across the world.
Working for Peace
The groups and individuals who gathered at the Oakland Moim in October have formed the North American Network for Peace in Korea. This grouping in turn, has joined in a new coalition, the National Coalition to End the Korean War, which includes the National Association of Korean Americans (NAKA), the National Committee for Peace in Korea (NCPK), the North American Network for Peace in Korea (NANPK), the National Lawyers Guild, Korean Peace Project and the Veterans for Peace, Korea Peace Campaign.
To date, the Coalition embarked on a letter campaign to President Obama, and took part in a Korea Peace Day on March 18th in Washington DC, meeting legislators with the letter (link to endtheokoreanwar.org website) as well as copies of the Korea Policy Institute’s brief on the need for peace in Korea. More work is needed on this legislative level, but in addition, grassroots outreach and education is necessary. The North American Network is in the process of creating a Korea Peace Treaty Campaign toolkit, an educational and outreach package of materials – a curriculum, fact sheets and talking points, along “how to’s” and suggestions for activities. One campaign concept under consideration is a “Passport to One Korea” project, which would involve physical “passports” that spark group discussions on what a unified Korea would or could look like and another is an effort to outreach to Korean American students, scholars and community members, through a “Korea Peace Treaty” cultural tour, with speakers and performers, a “De-Mine the DMZ” and a Korean War Memory project. Naturally, outreach and recruitment of local progressive and peace and justice groups is also key, but the hope is to make this a broad-based campaign, involving a range of groups, including Korean merchant associations, business associations and more.
This campaign has just begun, and updates from our efforts will be posted here and on the participating groups’ websites. We hope it will be a broad and diverse campaign and welcome all to join in. If you are located in NY, Toronto, Seattle, LA or the Bay Area, we can put you in contact with activists in your area, and if you are in other cities, we encourage you to contact us and create a “working group” of people interested in this campaign.
As Koreans living in the U.S., our history is intimately tied to war, occupation, and division, and feel it is our responsibility to protest against the unjust U.S.-led wars and occupations throughout the world, from Iraq to Afghanistan to our homeland Korea.
This campaign also encompasses the domestic impact on our own communities of the so-called “War on Terror,” and we join with our allies in calling for an end to the raiding and scapegoating of immigrants, the targeted military recruiting of working-class youth of color, and the state and police violence against people of color.
As progressive Koreans, we seek to contribute to the broader campaign to end the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq and the expansion of U.S. war and military bases in the Middle East. Nodutdol also seeks to target the U.S. government to end the Korean War by signing a Peace Treaty and withdrawing its troops from our homeland. Lastly, as people of color in the U.S., we want to stop the militarization of our communities – specifically, we want to mobilize young people to oppose military recruiters in their schools, and make connections between the “War on Terror” abroad and xenophobic attacks on immigrants at home.
This campaign is organized around three demands:
1. U.S. out of Middle East – End the war on Iraq and Afghanistan, No war on Iran, Stop funding Israel’s occupation of Palestine, Stop military base expansions in the Middle East
2. U.S. Troops out of Korea; Sign Peace Treaty to end Korean War; Peaceful national unification
3. Demilitarization of our communities – Military recruiters out of schools, No more ICE raids and scape-goating of immigrants, End police violence in our communities, No to Homeland Security’s infringement on civil liberties
Since January 2008, Nodutdol has been working on this anti-war, anti-militarization campaign through demonstrations and vigils, workshops, and outreach efforts.
From early 2006 through the end of 2007, Nodutdol led a campaign to educate and mobilize Americans against the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement which threatens the livelihoods of Koreans and Americans alike. Nodutdol was instrumental in the creation of Korean Americans Against War and Neoliberalism [KAWAN], a national coalition of progressive U.S.-based Korean organizations [from Seattle, Montana, Los Angeles, and DC]. For each of the eight rounds of negotiations between the U.S. and Korea, KAWAN organized protests, forums, direct actions, and civil disobedience with ally organizations from Korea as well as engaged in lobbying and advocacy efforts. Nodutdol also worked in coalition with grassroots organizations in New York opposing other bilateral FTAs. Collaborating with Colombian, Peruvian and other Latin American community groups, as well as the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, Nodutdol has become a potent voice in the grassroots struggle against neoliberal globalization. KorUS FTA negotiations were completed in 2007, but the fight against the FTA’s ratification continues.
For more information about KAWAN’s activities, see http://kawanlist.blogspot.com.