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October / November 2009

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Ten years, Ten memories

In the first years, Nodutdol didn’t have a beautiful, spacey office that we have now. So the co-founders roamed around different locations in Manhattan and Queens – my work conference room, members’ houses, bars, etc. to have meetings. Even though our bodies wandered around, our hearts were focused on one thought– building a sustainable infrastructure for Reunification and social justice movements within Korean community. Instead of spending our time talking, Nodutdol preferred to implement what we envisioned. In 2001, Nodutdol organized the first delegation of DEEP (DPRK Experience and Education Program) to demystify north Korea and bridge younger generations between north Korea and the U.S. The seven participants of the delegation, which consisted of the members of Nodutdol were nervous and excited for the historic trip which would lay a foundation for following delegations. Through the experience, I gained a wonderful younger brother and friends in north Korea, with whom I still keep in touch. There is a lot of other work that Nodutdol has continued to initiate and contribute to and all these things were possible because Nodutdol preferred “practicing” what we believed instead of wasting time just endlessly “talking” about it. -by Hye-Jung Park

Nodutdol is a...
A meeting of people with a shared vision: All we needed was a shared vision (a dream and passion for reunification) and our hearts in the same place (shared love for people, booze, and movement songs) to make a decision. Decide what? The name “Nodutdol” was suggested by Professor Song, a respected reunification movement leader exiled in Germany. We only met him twice but realized we shared the same vision and understood each other heart to heart, so we immediately agreed on his suggestion. It was a time when comradeship was more valued than process. A meeting of honest people: I remember a workshop to discuss our “class privilege”. When the facilitator said “Stand up if you believe you are someone with class privilege,” we all stood up. The privilege of being highly-educated, the privilege of speaking English, the privilege of having a professional job… From that moment forward, we became always conscious of our social privilege and to make sure it doesn’t become abusive power, we gave each other honest critiques and encouragement. The Nodutdol family is guided by a shared vision, honesty, and are simply good people. I don’t need to provide proof. You just need to look into their faces. Congratulations on Nodutdol’s ten year anniversary. Onward for another ten years! -Kisuk Yom

I remember when Nodutdol was part of a progressive people of color coalition, Third World Within (TWW). We sponsored forums ranging from “ Race, Color, Caste, Class and Nation” to “Progressive Media Movement in South Korea” and “Korean Stores and Worker Unionization”, which was an ongoing conflict in NY at the time. Nodutdol also participated in organizing June 15th Summit events, as a part of Corean Action Network for Unification, CANDU. The main goal of CANDU was to create a unified movement among organizations of younger generations for the actualization of the June 15th North-South Declaration for Reunification. It was a 4-day event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Korean armistice treaty “Korean Armistice to Peace Treaty Action” in Washington D.C. That was the first event in the U.S., where over 200 first, second, and third generations of Korean activists and non-Koreans gathered to call for a Peace Treaty. -by JT Takagi & Hye-Jung Park

Between 2003 and 2006, Nodutdol operated a health clinic and English language classes to the Korean community free of charge. With the dedication of volunteers which included medical providers, administrative coordinators, outreach people, translators and interpreters, English class teachers and assistants, we provided concrete and necessary services to the Korean immigrant community. From our office on 61st Street in Woodside to our current office on Roosevelt Ave and 53rd, health clinic clients and English class students joined us on Tuesday evenings and Saturday and Sundays for health screenings and the ABCs of English sentence structure. We learned a lot during these years, mainly that affordable health services and English classes are not as accessible to Korean immigrants as they should be. Access to free or low-cost linguistically and culturally appropriate healthcare is almost non-existent in New York City. If you are not a member of a Korean church there may not be access to free English classes taught by fellow Korean language speakers. Nodutdol members and volunteers understood the importance of making these services more accessible to our community and we worked hard to make this happen. -by Lilian Lee

When I was asked to write about one of Nodutdol's past activities, I thought it would be a simple exercise in inspiration and motivation. It was not that simple. There were countless rallies and marches I attended as a member of Nodutdol that achieved nothing. No peace. No justice. We met and hosted many guests from Korea who came to the U.S. seeking justice. I learned from and was inspired by these guests. But I was saddened that these people, our people had to travel thousands of miles to the U.S., spending money they lacked, to seek justice in Korea. I realized Korea is another colonial-client state beholden to the whims of the U.S. Through it all, I realize much of Nodutdol's work is an uphill battle. We may never see any resolution to anything during our life time but we go on because we believe we make a difference. -by Youngsoon Hwang

One high point for me came, sadly, when we held an event to commemorate the death of Lee Kyung Hae, a farmer from Korean Advanced Farmers Federation that passed away in September of 2003 in Cancun. We put on a short skit of about 30-45 minutes, a faux interrogation of sorts into the murder of Lee Kyung Hae. One member was taking a class at Columbia in film noir, so he played the investigator/interrogator. And we'd all played various corporate and state officials, including Pascual Ramy, and Michael Moore, (some WTO guy, not the socialist filmmaker) who would be brought to the smokey interrogation room. To this day, I have no idea why we had Condoleeza Rice as one of the suspects, (I mean, we could have had other better suspects) but the woman who played her killed the role. Me, I wasn't so hot, but it was a passable performance. (And, I don't mean to be biggin' up myself, ok, maybe a little- the skit was my idea.) Nothing brings harmony like success. And plenty of love there was. The 'after party' with Korean Chinese food was one of the happiest Nodutdol moments of an otherwise rough and tumultuous year. But when you nail an event, (and it was far from perfect, but we did get it right, given the capacity that we had.) it makes all the stressful debates and bureaucratic details, all the nondescript moments, worthwhile. -by Young Choe

One of Nodutdol’s campaigns I have the fondest memories of was a delegation trip to Montana, as part of our anti-Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA) struggle. About 16 of us left from New York to Montana, some of whom were our allies from the International Action Center, Justice Committee, and Audre Lorde Project. South Korean delegates and delegates from all over the country came and worked together. It was freezing- 10-12 degrees at night and we camped outside of the hotel where the official negotiations were being held. Local activists came out to help us “survive” in the cold weather – bringing extra coats and hot-pots so we could drink hot tea all night long. It was almost “suicidal,” as one of the locals put it, to stay outside all night long, but, there I experienced true comradeship. We shared our stories,sang and danced to fight the lethargically freezing weather, created snow people (whom we called our true white allies), and shared warmth. The anti-FTA struggle still continues and the warmth we shared in Big Sky, Montana still stays with me, with the concise slogan, “Not Free Trade, but Fair Trade!!” -by Juyeon Rhee

My most vivid Nodutdol memory is from April of 2006. We were out at a rally, and up until that point I had not participated so directly with other Nodutdol members. It was a warmish day for April, and we were on the streets with children along, protesting the Iraq War. This was my first time, holding the Nodutdol banner. Internally, it was a salient moment for me; the first time I actually allowed myself to feel like a integral member of the organization. The first time I realized that I was part of a movement that was active and vital and that I was proud to be a part of. Seeing all the other members around me and the incredible amount of support that was just an arms distance way, was an amazing feeling. Happy Anniversary Nodutdol. To ten more amazing years!!! -by Yun-hee Profitt

In the summer of 2007, I traveled to South Korea with a group of Korean American activists for Nodutdol's annual Korea Exposure and Education Program. I had learned so much about Korean left politics and history in study sessions and conversations with other members since I had joined Nodutdol the year before, and I was excited to go and see what was out there firsthand. Halfway through our trip, we joined a contingent of women, children, and elders from 반미여성회, Women Against US Imperialism, on their march along the DMZ commemorating Korea's liberation from colonial rule and the ongoing movement for unification. Before we arrived, I expected something desolate, sorrowful; what we found instead was lush, overgrown, wild beauty, cordoned off by lines of barbed wire warning of landmines. One of the elders traveling with us recognized a mountain from a battle he'd fought during the war; another drew our attention to flowers and plants she hadn't seen since leaving the north. It was a moment of memory, connection, and struggle across time and national borders that brought Nodutdol's unification work to life for me in an unforgettable way. -by Yumi Lee

As the newest member, it didn't take me long to realize how lucky I was to find Nodutdol. This became more apparent when we celebrated the recent homecoming of a Nodutdol family who moved back from Korea. Throughout the night I witnessed an outpouring of love and warmth. It was also matched by an overwhelming spirit for peace, justice and reunification. The evening only reaffirmed why I knew Nodutdol was right for me: I had found my community.
We tend to be discouraged by life when watching the news or reading the newspaper. Tragedy and conflict dominate the headlines. Most people put their heads down and and move on with their lives. But not Nodutdol. Every member has shown me what charisma and passion truly look like. Knowing that Nodutdol refuses to give up when the journey gets tough gives me the strength to persevere and move forward. I know we're on the right side of history and I am honored to be a part of it with Nodutdol. -by Andy Marra

This article originally appeared in the October / November 2009 issue of Nodutdol eNews.
View the complete issue »

About Nodutdol eNews

Nodutdol eNews is the monthly e-mail newsletter of Nodutdol.Through grassroots organization and community development, Nodutdol seeks to bridge divisions created by war, nation, gender, sexual orientation, language, classes and generation among Koreans and to empower our community to address the injustice we and other people of color face here and abroad. Nodutdol works in collaboration with other progressive organizations locally, nationally and internationally as part of a larger movement for peace and social change.

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