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 »

The End (of CanKor) is at Hand

[In order to bring up-to-date our website readers who are not CanKor Report subscribers, we are posting the introductions of the last three issues for your information. Here follows the introduction to CanKor Report #348.  –CanKor]

All good things must come to an end. But it seems that bad things tend to stick around a lot longer. Sixty years after the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, the Korean War still claims victims to this very day. Divided families, escalating militarism, regional insecurities and violence in word and deed have become a generational legacy, perpetuating human suffering and casting a dark shadow on the future of Korea, the region and the wider world community.

Flag-Pins-Canada-North-KoreaDespite its modest capacities, Canada has played a significant role in Korea for more than a century. Canadian missionaries built schools and hospitals and participated in struggles against Japanese occupation and annexation in the first half of the 20th century. Canadian soldiers participated in the Korean War. Canadian activists supported the democratization movement in South Korea. Canadian humanitarians continue to provide assistance for food security and capacity-building in North Korea. In recent years Canadian teachers have taught the English language in both North and South Korea. Canadian human rights activists have provided assistance to displaced North Korean migrants and refugees. Canadians have been active in exchange programmes for professionals and students on both sides of the Korean divide.

The 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea are being celebrated this year. Less celebrated are the dozen years of diplomatic relations with North Korea. CanKor was born as an information mechanism to accompany the establishment of Canada-DPRK diplomatic relations. The last 12-plus years have been a roller-coaster ride. Our finances have dwindled even as public interest in CanKor has grown internationally. 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 »

Swiss mark 60 years of military presence in Korea

[The most sober account of the 60th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement that we have found comes – appropriately – from the International Service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. We include here three items from their “neutral” point of view. –CanKor]

A Swiss officer monitors the border between the two Koreas in 1977 (RDB)

A Swiss officer monitors the border between the two Koreas in 1977 (RDB)

Flexible neutrality on the DMZ

The Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) was created by the armistice accord signed on July 27, 1953, in the town of Panmunjom. The armistice text ended the armed conflict but stopped short of being a peace treaty. It was signed by the armed forces present and not by the governments of the two sides.

The signatories were the Korean People’s Army (North Korea), the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and the United Nations Command. The South Korean army was not a signatory, which is why the North has never considered it as a party in the context of eventual peace negotiations.

The NNSC was stationed on each side of the border within the demilitarised zone and was made up of military personnel from Switzerland and Sweden at the bequest of the South, and of Polish and Czechoslovak troops at the bequest of the North. The four delegations carried out the mission jointly.

The criteria for neutrality were relatively flexible as it was enough to not have participated in the Korean War to be considered neutral. In the first instance, the North proposed the Soviet Union as a neutral party. After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1993, the country’s delegation was withdrawn and not replaced.

The Polish delegation, stationed on the north side of the border was asked to leave in 1994 when North Korea declared that the NNCS no longer existed. Poland no longer has a permanent presence in the demilitarised zone but remains a member of the NNSC and sends delegates several times a year to participate in activities in Panmunjom. Read the rest of this entry »

Ending the Korean War: conference report by Peggy McInerny

[CanKor editor Erich Weingartner spoke at a recent UCLA Center for Korean Studies conference, which brought together a wide range of speakers to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Peggy McInerny, the author of the article which follows, is Director of Communications at the UCLA International Institute. A full conference summary may be read here: The Heartbreak of a Divided Nation by Peggy McInerny. –CanKor]

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartener, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

Podium and first row, left to right: Paul Liem, Korea Policy Institute; Dorothy Ogle, former Methodist missionary to South Korea; Pilju Kim Joo, Agglobe Services International; Indong Oh, M.D.; Jeong Young-Hee, farmer and peace activist from Gangjeong, Jeju Island; Christine Ahn (back turned), Global Fund for Women and Oakland Institute, and daughter. Top row, left to right: Moon Jae Pak, M.D., U.S.-North Korea Medical Science Exchange Committee; historian Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago; Erich Weingartner, CanKor; Rev. Syngman Rhee; James Chun, One Korea Movement; Hosu Kim, City University of New York. (Photo by Peggy McInerny)

The UCLA Center for Korean Studies hosted a conference entitled “Ending the Korean War” on May 9, 2013. The meeting brought together a wide range of speakers — historians, sociologists, former missionaries, peace activists, Korean War survivors, and people currently engaged in humanitarian projects in North Korea — to reconsider how to end a war that never technically ended. Instead of a peace agreement, the United States and North Korea signed an armistice agreement in 1953 on behalf of their allies on each side.

Sixty years later, the Korean Peninsula remains heavily militarized, the United States has still not recognized North Korea, and acute tensions between the two states earlier in 2013 threatened to lead to military conflict.

Historian Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago, where he is Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor and chair of the history department, served as keynote speaker. In his view, U.S. policy toward North Korea over the past 60 years, which has consisted mostly of nuclear threats, has been a complete failure. Not only does North Korea now have nuclear weapons, as well as long- and medium-range missiles, the two nations are no nearer to a peace agreement than they were in 1953. 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 »

What Park Geun-hye should say about North Korea in Washington, by Victor Hsu

[From time to time we reproduce posts from our partner site 38North, for CanKor readers who may not receive 38North updates. In this case, CanKor Brain Trust member Prof. Victor Hsu offers his take on what should be South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s message to a joint meeting of the US Congress on Wednesday, 8 May 2013. –CanKor]

North Korea: Danger and Opportunity for Park Geun-hye’s Presidency

By Victor W.C. Hsu, 5 May 2013

President Park Geun-hye waves before leaving for the United States from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. During her first foreign trip after becoming president, Park is scheduled to have a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday. (Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon)

President Park Geun-hye waves before leaving for the United States from Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. During her first foreign trip after becoming president, Park is scheduled to have a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Tuesday. (Korea Times photo by Koh Young-kwon)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s speech to the Joint Session of the United States Congress will be a great opportunity to signal that the Korean peninsula is headed toward a new era of inter-Korean cooperation, test the rough waters with policies for a breakthrough on the North Korea policy conundrum and dispel much of the jitteriness that has surrounded Korea since the beginning of the year. More importantly, her message can be an invitation to North Korea to grasp her outstretched hand and prove to the international community that it’s not an empty gesture but that she means business.

I am not President Park’s advisor, nor am I her speechwriter, but as an American citizen living in South Korea, here is what I would like her to say in Washington: Read the rest of this entry »

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