Ecumenical Accompaniment for Building Justice and Peace in Korea by Erich Weingartner

[This article was written for a discussion on “The Korean Peninsula: Towards an Ecumenical Accompaniment for Building Justice and Peace” at the 10th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which took place in Busan, Republic of Korea, from 30 October to 8 November 2013.]

Site of the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, ROK

Site of the 10th WCC Assembly in Busan, ROK (Photo by EW)

The Korean War claimed millions of lives between 1950 and 1953. Sixty years ago, that war paused with the signing of an armistice, marking the cessation of the hot war on the Korean Peninsula. But an armistice is not a peace, and the hostilities of the Cold War have not ceased to this very day. The world’s largest armies, with the most powerful weapons, still threaten each other across the so-called “demilitarized” zone that dissects this beautiful country. This seemingly endless confrontation continues to be used by those in power to prove that the price of security is readiness to resort to arms, and that justice is irrelevant to peace.

In the name of this false security, economic well-being continues to be sacrificed in favour of military prowess. But though the pain of this tragedy is borne primarily by Koreans, the illness that caused it is global. When the WCC thirty years ago embarked on a mission to forge lines of communication between North and South Korea, we could not help but challenge the sanity of the bi-polar world that was taken for granted as a necessity for the preservation of security in our World. We no longer have a bi-polar world, but we still have a bi-polar mentality. Bi-polar illness is what used to be called schizophrenia. The continued division of Korea is a clear symptom of our global schizophrenia. Read the rest of this entry »

What Works Best? by Erich Weingartner

There is a simple question I am often asked when speaking about humanitarian assistance: What works best with the DPRK?

Simple questions don’t always result in simple answers, and when it comes to the DPRK, simple answers don’t exist. Actually, even simple questions turn out to be more complex when applied to the DPRK: What do we mean by the words “works best”? Works best for whom? For what purpose? Under what circumstances? During what time period? And who or what determines what works best?

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

North Korean children consuming donated food (Picture by Erich Weingartner)

Works best for whom?

For the donors? For the implementing agencies? For the recipient country? For the intended beneficiaries?

What works best for international agencies may not work best for Korean organizations. What works best for resident NGOs may not work for non-resident NGOs. What works best for European NGOs under the umbrella of the EU or EC or ECHO may not work for American NGOs distributing the donations of US-AID. What works best for the Eugene Bell Foundation may not work at all for Doctors Without Borders (MSF). What works best for the elite in Pyongyang may not work well for the families of unemployed workers in Chongjin.

Works best for what purpose?

What may work best in the short term may not work best with a longer-term perspective in mind. When evaluating assistance programme models and strategies, we should consider what long-term objectives we are seeking to achieve:

  • When we intervene in the DPRK, is our only goal to feed the hungry?
  • Or are we also concerned about peace and security in the region? Read the rest of this entry »

CanKor Megaphone: Meet Seongmin Lee, HanVoice’s First Pioneer!

MegaphoneIN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: As many of you may know, I have been involved with North KoreaHV_Ignite_Poster_Image-1n human rights issues with an organization called HanVoice (www.hanvoice.ca), which I helped found in 2007. Since then, HanVoice has grown into the largest non-profit in Canada dedicated to North Korean human rights issues.

When it comes to North Korean refugees, one of the key areas of need that we have identified is leadership. This is especially true for the North Korean community in South Korea, where most of these refugees ultimately settle. Despite more than a fifteen year presence within South Korea, very few North Koreans have emerged as leaders of their own community.

With a first-of-its-kind program designed to address these challenges, HanVoice is pleased to announce the launch of the HanVoice Pioneers Project. Inviting a bright future leader to Canada, this program is designed to impart upon this candidate the tools necessary to speak on behalf of the North Korean refugee community worldwide. This will include not only learning English, but taking advocacy classes and “walking the halls of power” by interning at a Member of Parliament’s office. Read the rest of this entry »

DPRK Commemorates the 4 July 1972 Joint Statement of North and South

[CanKor has received an email signed by four DPRK organizations commemorating the first major North-South rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula. Of interest is the fact that the 1972 Joint Statement of North and South was issued during the reign of South Korea’s President Park Chung Hee, father of the current South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Ironically, only 4 years prior to this first North-South rapprochement, a North Korean death squad had attempted to assassinate Pres. Park Chung Hee. Perhaps irony is an underrated factor in understanding Korean peninsular politics. As usual, we post the following message as we received it. –CanKor]

Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, Pyongyang

Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification, Pyongyang

Dear friends

41 years have passed since the historic July 4 Joint Statement clarifying the three principles of Korea’s reunification was made public.

The announcement of the statement was the brilliant fruition brought about thanks to the idea and line of the great President Kim Il Sung on the national reunification, his distinguished and experienced leadership.

President Kim Il Sung regarded the national reunification as the supreme task of the nation and led the cause of the national reunification to victory with his great idea and leadership from the first day after Korea was divided into the north and south.

In August, 1971, the President, seeing through the unanimous desire of the whole nation and the urgent requirement of the development of the reunification movement, proposed a proposal for wide-ranging negotiation clarifying that the north was willing to contact all political parties including “Democratic Republican Party”, the then ruling party of south Korea, social organizations and individuals at any time.

According to the broad-minded proposal set forth by him, a high-level political meeting between the north and south was held in Pyongyang, in May 1972, the first of its kind since its division into the north and south. Read the rest of this entry »

The Koreas resume talks, The Current on CBC Radio

[CanKor Human Factor editor Jack Kim was one of three guests interviewed on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s public affairs programme “The Current” this morning, 10 June 2013, on CBC Radio 1. The following text is from the CBC.ca website. The 22 minute segment can be listened to by clicking on the image of host Anna Maria Tremonti below. –CanKor]

North and South Korea have gone from a chilling standoff, to the start of talks that could mean a thaw with plans for the first senior government talks in six long years. All of this comes just as the Presidents of the United States and China wrapped up their own weekend meetings promising greater cooperation. Today, we’re asking about the future of the two Koreas when the biggest players outside their borders aren’t interested in a fight.

Listen to The Current segment on Korea by clicking the image of host Anna Maria Tremonti below:

TheCurrent-220x124

The Current: The Koreas resume talks

A Call for Peace and Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula

koreapeace[The Korean United Methodist Church of Atlanta was the site of an ecumenical Korea peace conference from 15 to 17 May 2013. Theme of the event was “Embrace Peace, Pursue It: From Armistice to Just Peace on the Korean Peninsula.” Keynote and plenary speakers included The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts-Schori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church USA, The Rev. Dr. Syngman Rhee, former president, National Council of Churches USA and a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, The Rev. Dr. Jaejung Lee, professor at the Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, former South Korean Minister of Unification, and Dr. Christine Ahn, Executive Director of the Korea Policy Institute. Sponsoring organizations were the United Methodist Korean American National Association; Committee on Korean Reunification & Reconciliation; General Board of Global Ministries; United Methodist Women; United Methodist Korean Ministry Plan; and the National Council of Churches, South Korea. Workshop theme were: Building a Case for Peace Treaty: Steps for Advocacy; Women & Militarism; Humanitarian Mission & Building Solidarity in North Korea; The suffering of North Korean defectors and their survival in the South Korean society and church; and Nuclear Armament & Peace in the Korean Peninsula. Following here is the statement issued by conference participants. –CanKor] Read the rest of this entry »

What Park Geun-hye actually said about North Korea in Washington

Remarks by President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea to a Joint Session of Congress

Location: House Chamber, The Capitol, Washington, D.C., Time: 10:39 a.m. EDT, Date: Wednesday, 8 May 2013

ROK President Park Geun-hye addresses a joint meeting of Congress in Washington 8 May 2013. (Photo from Ebru News)

ROK President Park Geun-hye addresses a joint meeting of Congress in Washington 8 May 2013. (Photo from Ebru News)

PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE:

Speaker Boehner, Vice President Biden, distinguished members of the House and the Senate, ladies and gentlemen, I’m privileged to stand in this chamber, this hallowed ground of freedom and democracy, to speak about our friendship and our future together.

After I arrived in Washington the day before yesterday, I went to the Korean War Memorial, near the banks of the Potomac. I read the words etched in granite. Our nation honors the sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met. Time and again, I’m moved when I read those familiar words. (Applause.)

Let me express on behalf of the people of the Republic of Korea our profound gratitude to America’s veterans. Their blood, sweat and tears helped safeguard freedom and democracy. (Applause.) Read the rest of this entry »

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