VIDEO: How Sanctions Harm Civilians in North Korea, Especially Women

A report commissioned by Korea Peace Now! shows that sanctions imposed on North Korea are having adverse consequences on humanitarian aid and economic development in the country, with a disproportionate impact on women. Read “The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea.”

Join the National Grassroots Gathering for Peace in Korea in March 2020

2020 marks the 70th year of the Korean War. It’s time to end the war and make it year one of peace.

Join the Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network, Peace Treaty Now and the Korea Peace Network in Washington DC to raise a unified voice for an end to the Korean War and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

What: 70 Years Too Long: National Action to End the Korean War

Where: Washington, DC

When: March 15-17, 2020

3/15: March and rally at the White House

3/16: Annual Korea Peace Network Conference

3/17: Korea peace advocacy on the Hill

For more info: contact US National Organizer Hyun Lee.

Letter to President Trump and Chairman Kim from the Korea Peace Now! Campaign

December 16, 2019

Dear President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un:

We are representatives of Korea Peace Now!, a women-led global campaign to end the Korean War. Our coalition includes Nobel Peace laureates, activists, professors, human rights lawyers, a retired Army colonel, and a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We are writing to respectfully urge you to find a peaceful settlement while the window of diplomatic opportunity is still open.

Christmas has been an occasion to call for peace on earth and goodwill to all people. During World War I, there were spontaneous truces in which soldiers would cast aside their guns, crawl out of the trenches, and embrace their enemies. We appeal to you to demonstrate the same magnanimous spirit.

A return to escalation would not only reignite the danger of nuclear war, but also seriously set back the political momentum for peace painstakingly built over the past two years. Ever since the Singapore Declaration called for “new U.S.-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity,” we have seen growing and unprecedented support for normalization.  A recent poll conducted by YouGov and Data for Progress shows that 67 percent of Americans now support negotiating a peace agreement with the DPRK, and support is even higher among registered Republican voters, at 76 percent.

As a global movement dedicated to ending the Korean War, we have consistently advocated that a durable resolution of the conflict requires a peace agreement, sanctions relief, women’s participation in the peace process, and the right of all to live without fear of nuclear war. Any delay prolongs the suffering of those who wish to live in peace.

Next June, the Korean War will have languished for 70 years. We must all push back against the forces, habits, and structures that perpetuate it.

As peace activists, we are doing our utmost to educate the public, organize peace-loving people everywhere, and encourage all sides to find a resolution. Thanks to the bold steps you have taken to meet and engage with each other, the historic resolution we helped introduce in the US Congress this year to formally end the Korean War with a peace agreement now has over 40 co-sponsors, and the list is growing.

There can be no progress or resolution, however, without meaningful talks. Too often, one step forward in diplomacy is followed by two steps back in opposition. This Christmas, we urge you to finish what you started and do what no other US and DPRK leaders have succeeded in doing: end the Korean War.

You have the power to heal millions of hearts broken by three generations of war. We are counting on you to implement the vision of peace that Koreans, Americans, and all citizens of the world wish for.

May peace prevail on the Korean Peninsula and around the world.

Sincerely,

Korean Women’s Movement for Peace (Korea Women’s Association United, Women Making Peace, National YWCA of Korea, and Korea Women’s Alliance)

Nobel Women’s Initiative

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Women Cross DMZ

Liz Bernstein Announced as Co-Coordinator of Korea Peace Now!

Effective immediately, Liz Bernstein has been named Co-Coordinator of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War.

Bernstein is the founding Director and Executive Director of the Ottawa-based Nobel Women’s Initiative, one of four organizations — including Women Cross DMZ, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and the Korean Women’s Movement for Peace — that launched the Korea Peace Now! campaign in March. She brings with her decades of experience in growing the global women’s peace movement and amplifying the messages of grassroots activists from conflict countries. She is a master campaigner and has led many successful global campaigns, including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Bernstein joins Christine Ahn, Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ, as Co-Coordinator of Korea Peace Now!

“I’m honored to be named the co-coordinator of the women-led Korea Peace Now! campaign,” said Bernstein. “Ending the Korean War is one of the important pressing issues for global peace and security, and women’s leadership is key to ensuring a successful peace process. I look forward to working with our campaign partners to achieve these goals.”

Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War is a global campaign to educate, organize and advocate for a Korea peace agreement. It is a growing movement of civil society organizations working for an end to war, lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, and women’s inclusion in the peace process.

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Letter to UN Security Council Regarding Sanctions on North Korea

Members of the United Nations Security Council

December 11, 2019

Dear Ambassadors,

We are writing to you as members of the international women-led campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War.  

As you gather today to discuss the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula, we urge you to take a holistic approach considering the human costs of sanctions-based responses. The North Korean civilian population is caught in the crossfire of a geopolitical dispute they have little to no control over, perpetuated by the lack of resolution to the Korean War and made more acute by the imposition of sanctions so comprehensive they threaten their very existence. As it is part of the fundamental principles of the United Nations to settle disputes peacefully and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, we urge you to call for an end to the Korean War and to review the conformity of nonproliferation sanctions to international human rights and humanitarian law.

Recently, our campaign commissioned a panel of independent experts to produce a report, “The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea,” which highlighted the negative consequences of sanctions on the lives of the North Korean people. According to the report, the sanctions regime against North Korea has since 2016 grown from a “smart sanctions” model essentially targeting the military and the elite to an almost total embargo on North Korea-related trade, investments, and financial transactions. Drawing evidence from UN and nongovernmental organizations on the ground as well as other relevant datasets, the report found that sanctions are having humanitarian, developmental and gendered impacts and that existing sanctions exemption mechanisms are insufficient to prevent adverse consequences. It raised concerns that the sanctions in their current form may overstep what is permissible under international humanitarian and human rights law, highlighting the rights to life, food, health, an adequate standard of living, and development, as well as women’s rights.

While the Security Council has repeatedly stated that its sanctions are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences, in their current form, sanctions are interfering with the ability of both international aid organizations and of the North Korean government to address the urgent and long-standing humanitarian needs of the population. According to the UN Panel of Experts, a wide range of humanitarian-sensitive items are banned from entering the country, including agricultural material and medical equipment, and generally any items containing metal, such as scalpels or nails.

Sanctions are also impeding the economic development of the DPRK, reversing the country’s growing trade and engagement with the world. This undermines progress that North Korea made in overcoming the economic crisis and famine of the 1990s, particularly market activity led by grassroots women, a key engine of social change. Sanctions undermine women’s economic security and their livelihoods, perhaps most clearly with UNSC resolution 2375’s ban on textile exports, an industry in which 82 percent of workers are female. Increasing gender inequality is counterproductive to the stated aims of those advocating sanctions. Furthering a gender divide and marginalising women from any form of economic power and, hence, influence (even if limited) serves only to institutionalise the disparities that empirical research in various conflicts has shown is inimical to peace building.

As the crushing North Korean winter sets in and as expatriate North Korean workers are forced to give up their jobs by the end of the year and return to the DPRK, we urge you to urgently address the unfolding human tragedy by (1) opening the space for dialogue on the adverse consequences of sanctions and the question of their conformity to international human rights and humanitarian law, (2) establishing a process to assess the human impact of sanctions and take expedient action to mitigate and ultimately eliminate undue harm; and (3) calling on the relevant parties to the unresolved Korean War to formally end it by replacing the 1953 Armistice with a peace agreement.

We look forward to your response and constructive engagement.

Sincerely,

Korean Women’s Movement for Peace
Nobel Women’s Initiative
Women Cross DMZ
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

First Comprehensive Assessment of the Impact of Sanctions Against North Korea Shows Adverse Consequences for Civilians, Especially Women

NEW YORK—As talks between the United States and North Korea remain at an impasse, a new report shows that sanctions imposed on North Korea are having adverse consequences on humanitarian aid and economic development in the country, with a disproportionate impact on women.

The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea (PDF), which was produced by an international and multidisciplinary panel of independent experts, is the first comprehensive assessment of the human impact of sanctions against North Korea. Drawing on often neglected information from UN agencies on the ground as well as the authors’ combined expertise in public health, law, economics, history, and gender studies, the report also shows that existing UN mechanisms to exempt humanitarian-related items are insufficient to prevent these negative impacts, and, in fact, delays and funding shortfalls may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

“As one of the few American physicians who has worked to deliver humanitarian aid and improve health care in North Korea, I have seen how sanctions have restricted the access to the most basic medicines and medical equipment in the isolated country,” said Kee Park, a lecturer at Harvard Medical School, the director of the DPRK Program at the Korean American Medical Association, and one of seven authors of the report. “This has made treating infectious diseases, chronic diseases, and injuries much more difficult.”

“Sanctions delayed the delivery of life-saving treatment for children with disabilities due to the ban on importing metal in medical and rehabilitation equipment,” added Joy Yoon, a co-author of the report and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Ignis Community, which treats children with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism at its Pyongyang Spine Rehabilitation Center. “Without immediate and timely medical intervention, many North Korean children with cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities do not survive.”

Henri Feron, a co-author of the report and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, said, “The findings in this report raise concerns that sanctions in their current form may be contrary to international law, in particular humanitarian and human rights norms. Sanctions also raise moral questions, as they effectively take the entire country’s population hostage.”

The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea was commissioned by Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War, a global campaign to educate, organize, and advocate for a Korea peace agreement, led by Women Cross DMZ, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and Korean Women’s Movement for Peace.

To schedule an in-person interview with report authors, or to get more information, contact Kathleen Richards.

WHAT: Press conference featuring several authors of The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, 10:30 a.m.-noon

WHERE: UN Church Center, 2nd Floor, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York

We Went to the DMZ with Gloria Steinem to Call for an End to the Korean War

Our delegation of women leaders from the United States, South Korea, and Japan — including feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem — just returned from South Korea, where we attended the DMZ peace forum, visited the DMZ, and demanded an end to the Korean War and women’s inclusion in the peace process outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.

We began our trip with a tour of the DMZ — the so-called “demilitarized zone” — that separates North and South Korea. In reality, this narrow strip of land has one of the highest concentrations of landmines on earth; is flanked by barbed wire, explosives, and armed soldiers on both sides; and divides tens of thousands of families. Among the attendees were Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and foremost expert on North Korea’s nuclear program. 

Christine Ahn, Gloria Steinem, and Siegfried Hecker meet with representatives of the local government at Imjingak near the DMZ. Photo by Jean Chung
Gyeonggi Province’s Vice Governor for Peace, Lee Hwa-young, speaks to the international attendees of the DMZ peace forum. To his right is Chung Dong Chae, chief executive officer of the Let’s DMZ organizing committee. Photo by Jean Chung

Our first stop was Imjingak Resort, located just 7 km from the Military Demarcation Line — the actual line dividing the two countries, which is surrounded by the DMZ — where we met with officials from the local government. A barbed-wire fence has become a living memorial to loved ones in North Korea. Christine Ahn, executive director of Women Cross DMZ and international coordinator of Korea Peace Now!, and Gloria Steinem wrote their own message of peace and tied it among the thousands of ribbons adorning the fence. Waving in the wind, the ribbons are a heartbreaking and sobering reminder of the painful division caused by the ongoing war. 

Christine Ahn and Gloria Steinem shared a message that read: “Women Cross the DMZ — for peace!!” Photo by Jean Chung

Next we traveled to Camp Greaves, a former U.S. military base that was turned over to the Korean government in 2007 and is now the site of a youth hostel and a museum. Displayed inside the Quonset huts dotting the hillsides are remnants and reminders of the human impact of this long war — for example, photos of thriving communities in Pyongyang before the war, portraits of Korean War orphans, recreated military quarters, and factoids on the legacy of the war: 

  • 25,288: Number of days since the outbreak of the Korean War, aka “The War That Never Ends”
  • 132,124: Number of separated family members in South Korea
  • 990,968: Number of South Korean civilian casualties during the Korean War
International attendees of the DMZ peace forum participate in a tour of the DMZ, arranged by conference organizers. Photo by Jean Chung

For our last stop, we traveled past the barbed wire to go inside the DMZ to Daeseong. As part of the Armistice Agreement that temporarily halted the Korean War, two villages — one in South Korea and one in North Korea — were allowed to remain inside this heavily fortified area. Fewer than 200 people live in Daeseong today, and they must pass through military checkpoints whenever they want to leave and return. They must also adhere to a strict curfew. At a lookout point inside this eerily peaceful village, binoculars allow visitors to look northward, where people can be seen riding bicycles and motorbikes through the fields. 

Members of the Korea Peace Now! delegation with Siegfried Hecker at Daeseong Village inside the DMZ. The flagpole behind them is in North Korea. Photo courtesy of Christine Ahn

The following day was the start of the DMZ peace forum organized by the Gyeonggi Research Institute in Goyang City. Hundreds of people attended the conference, and many more watched via ample coverage by the South Korean media. In the morning, Gloria Steinem delivered one of three keynote speeches. 

“The United States must respect the wishes of the Korean people and their governments by negotiating a peace agreement, which would take the threat of war off the table and improve the security of Koreans, Americans and the world. It’s time to declare an end to the Korean War and replace the temporary Armistice with a peace agreement.”

— Gloria Steinem at the DMZ peace forum
Gloria Steinem delivered her keynote speech to hundreds of participants at the DMZ peace forum. Photo by Jean Chung
Gloria Steinem and fellow keynote speakers Phan Thi Kim Phúc (“Napalm girl”) and Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung (이재명 경기도지사). Photo by Jean Chung

That afternoon, members of the Korea Peace Now! delegation participated in a session titled “Women Crossing Borders: From the DMZ to the women’s peace movement.” The speakers included Christine Ahn (Women Cross DMZ), Jung-soo Kim (Women Making Peace), Kozue Akibayashi (Doshisha University/WILPF), Gloria Steinem, Hyun Lee (Women Cross DMZ), and Jung-ah Lee (Gyeonggi Women’s Association). We discussed the gender implications of the unresolved war and how women’s inclusion is vital for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. We also shared the goals of our Korea Peace Now! campaign:

  • A formal ending of the Korean War, a Korea peace agreement, and normalized relations.
  • Tangible de-militarization: denuclearization, landmines, reduction of bases/troops.
  • Women’s leadership and gender-based analysis (government and civil society) in peace processes.
  • Lift sanctions against North Korea, especially those impacting humanitarian conditions.
  • Redefine security from national security based on war and militarism to a feminist understanding of security centered on basic human needs and ecological sustainability. 
Hyun Lee of Women Cross DMZ/Korea Peace Now! speaks about the campaign’s efforts to pass H.Res. 152, a U.S. Congressional resolution calling for an end to the Korean War. Photo by Jean Chung
Participants at Korea Peace Now!’s session on women’s involvement in the Korea peace process. Photo by Jean Chung

The next day we traveled to Seoul to deliver a message of peace across from the U.S. Embassy. We demanded that the United States must get out of the way of inter-Korean cooperation, move forward on ending the war, and work toward a peace agreement. And for the Korea peace process to be successful, women must be involved.

Members of Korea Peace Now! demand that the U.S. end the Korean War outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Photo by Jean Chung

“Seventy years later, the Korean War has not ended, and despite the efforts of Korean peoples’ movements and our governments — including two signed agreements in Panmunjom and Pyongyang declaring an end to the Korean War — we still do not have peace,” said Mimi Han, an Executive Board Member of The National YWCA of Korea. “We want peace but we cannot do it. We need approval. We are here to say, enough is enough.” 

“I am one of the many Japanese people who hope for amicable relations between Japan and the Koreas,” said Kozue Akibayashi, the former international president of WILPF and a professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. “The ongoing Korean War is used by the Japanese government to justify militarization of Okinawa, in Japan, and other places. I am here to say, no more.”

Kozue Akibayashi discusses the need for Japan to be active in ending the Korean War. Photo by Jean Chung

“Women are disproportionately impacted by war,” said Christine Ahn, executive director of Women Cross DMZ. “Women have endured sexual violence at the hands of soldiers, including in South Korea around U.S. military ‘camptowns.’ And due to crushing sanctions, North Korean women are unable to access the healthcare, food, and jobs they need to survive…. We can’t on one hand call for greater economic freedom for women as key to advancing human rights, while also supporting policies that directly harm North Korean women.” 

“…[R]ight now, there are very few women involved in the official Korea peace process,” said Gloria Steinem. “Yet there are tens of thousands of women — here on the peninsula and around the world — who are already working together to support this historic peace process. We know that unless we act, from taking to the streets to lobbying members of Congress and ourselves crossing the DMZ, there will be no durable, lasting peace. Peace is like a tree. It does not grow from the top down, it grows from the bottom up.”

We ended the day with a sit-down dinner featuring a who’s-who of South Korean women leaders who have long been active in calling for peace. Among the attendees were:

  • Han Young Soo (President of the National YWCA of Korea)
  • Lee Hyun Sook (Chairperson of Central Committee, National Council of Unification Education)
  • Chung Hyun Baek (Former Minister, Ministry of Gender Equality and Family)
  • Moon Mi Ran (Assistant Mayor, Women and Family Affairs, Seoul Metropolitan Government)
  • Kwon In Sook (Director, Korea Women’s Development Institute)
  • Lee Jae Jung (Member of National Assembly, Democratic Party of Korea)
  • Chang Young Hee (Democratic Party of Korea)
  • Choi Susannah (Director, National YWCA of Korea)
Members of Korea Peace Now! and some of the inspiring leaders of the peace movement in South Korea. Photo courtesy of Christine Ahn

It was an evening of celebration and solidarity, as well as a recognition of how far we’ve come and how much more we still need to accomplish. But together, it felt like we could take on the world.

Gloria Steinem being interviewed by CNN. Photo by Jean Chung

Here is some media coverage of our trip:

CNN: Gloria Steinem and her push to end the Korean War

CNN.com: Feminist icon Gloria Steinem urges United States to end Korean War

YTN News:

Hankyoreh: DMZ Forum 2019 kicks off in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province

Yonhap News: 여성평화운동네트워크 “美, 남북협력 막지말고 평화협정 해야”

Tongil News: “여성이 참여할 때 평화협정 가능성 높아질 것”

WomanEconomy.kr: “미국, 한국 국민과 정부의 염원 존중해 평화협정 협상에 나서야”

WomenNews.co.kr: 글로리아 스타이넘 등 세계 여성 평화활동가들, 한반도 평화 위해 한국 찾는다 ; 한·미·일 여성 평화운동가들 “미국, 남북 협력 막지 말고 평화협정 해야”

Women’s Media Center: From Korea, Steinem calls for women to be central to peace talks

Medium: A Feminist Path to Peace on the Korean Peninsula

Nikkei Asian Review: Korean peace process must include women to be truly sustainable

Prominent Feminist Gloria Steinem and Women Leaders to Call for an End to the Korean War at the DMZ and Near U.S. Embassy in Seoul

For immediate release
September 16, 2019

Seoul, South Korea — Feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem and a delegation of women leaders from the United States, South Korea, and Japan will deliver a message of peace across from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Their demands are that the U.S. must get out of the way of inter-Korean economic cooperation, move forward on ending the war, and work toward a peace agreement. And for the Korea peace process to be successful, women must be involved.

“As one of the thirty women from around the world who defied naysayers by crossing the DMZ in 2015, I witnessed the impact of this unresolved war on Korean lives,” said Gloria Steinem. “We need a peace process to end this longest war, and we know from every example that peace is more likely and lasting if women are at the table.”

“As talks appear to advance between the United States and North Korea, it’s crucial that women play a central role in the peace process,” said Christine Ahn, Executive Director of U.S.-based Women Cross DMZ. “Women are disproportionately impacted by this ongoing conflict — from sanctions that harm North Korean women’s health and livelihoods to sexual violence against South Korean women around U.S. military bases. Women must have a say in how to end it.” In 2015, Women Cross DMZ organized a crossing of the DMZ with 30 women peacemakers, including Steinem and two Nobel Peace laureates. 

“It is well substantiated that women’s participation leads to more durable peace agreements,” said Mimi Han, an Executive Board Member of The National YWCA of Korea. “The United States and South Korea have national laws committing to women’s inclusion in conflict management and resolution. Now is the time for implementation and action.”

“What’s at stake is the security of those living on the Korean Peninsula and all of Northeast Asia,” said Kozue Akibayashi, the former international President of WILPF and a researcher and activist who specializes in a feminist analysis of peace and security. “The current tensions between Japan and South Korea are rooted in Japanese colonial rule, so a peace agreement will go a long way toward healing decades of pain and mistrust.”

The delegation of women leaders will be in South Korea for “Let’s DMZ,” a peace forum in Gyeonggi, South Korea to commemorate the first anniversary of the Pyongyang Joint Statement between North Korea and South Korea. Steinem will deliver one of three keynote speeches.

In a session titled “Women Crossing Borders: From the DMZ to the women’s peace movement,” Steinem and leaders from Korea Peace Now! — a global campaign of women mobilizing end the Korean War — will discuss the gender implications of the unresolved war and how women’s inclusion is vital for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

This delegation of women is part of Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War, a global campaign to educate, organize, and advocate for a Korea peace agreement by 2020. Women Cross DMZNobel Women’s InitiativeWomen’s International League for Peace and Freedom(WILPF), and Korean Women’s Movement for Peacelaunched the campaign in March 2019.

Schedule of events:

To schedule an in-person interview and/or obtain photos, please contact Kathleen Richards.

WHAT: Press conference featuring women leaders calling for an end to the Korean War and the creation of a peace process that includes women

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, 11:30 a.m.

WHERE: Across the street from the U.S. Embassy in Gwanghwamun Plaza, 172 Sejong-daero, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea

SPEAKERS:

  • Christine Ahn (Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ)
  • Kozue Akibayashi (Doshisha University/Former President of WILPF)
  • Mimi Han (Executive Board Member, The National YWCA of Korea; Vice President, World YWCA)
  • Gloria Steinem (Feminist scholar activist)
  • Moderated by Mi-kyung Han (Standing Representative, Korea Women’s Alliance)

WHAT: Gloria Steinem Keynote Speech at Let’s DMZ

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, from 11 a.m.-noon

WHERE: KINTEX Exhibition Center, 217-60, Kintex-ro, Ilsanseo-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea

WHAT: “Women Crossing Borders: From the DMZ to the women’s peace movement”

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, from 3:10-4:30 p.m.

WHERE: KINTEX Exhibition Center, 217-60, Kintex-ro, Ilsanseo-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea

SPEAKERS: 

  • Christine Ahn (Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ)
  • Kozue Akibayashi (Doshisha University/Former President of WILPF)
  • Jung-soo Kim (Standing Representative, Women Making Peace)
  • Hyun Lee (US National Organizer, Women Cross DMZ)
  • Jung-ah Lee (Standing Representative, Gyeonggi Women’s Association)
  • Gloria Steinem (Feminist scholar activist)
  • Moderated by Young-mi Cho (Executive Director of Korean Women’s Movement for Peace, Chung-Ang University)

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Pro-Diplomacy, Pro-Peace Principles to Guide Presidential Campaigns on North Korea

This memo contains principles to guide presidential campaigns as they formulate pro-peace, pro-diplomacy policy on North Korea. Download this as a PDF here.

The current moment: Recent U.S.-North Korea relations have ranged from intense military tensions in 2017 to highly publicized summits in 2018. Looking forward to 2020 and beyond, the focus turns to the hard work of sustained diplomacy.

The first summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un in Singapore resulted in a joint declaration that constructively called for new relations based on peace, the establishment of a peace regime, and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But actually achieving those goals will require specific, concrete next steps.

The next administration will have to pick up where this one leaves off, and will have an urgent responsibility to make progress with North Korea. Make no mistake: the failure to find diplomatic solutions could result in an escalation (intentional or accidental) that triggers a full-scale — potentially nuclear — war, endangering us all.

With this in mind, the undersigned organizations urge all presidential candidates to embrace the following principles as they formulate policy on North Korea:

Agree to step-by-step, reciprocal, verifiable actions to advance denuclearization and peace. “All or nothing” demands are a recipe for failure. In other words, the United States cannot realistically expect North Korea to unilaterally disarm before providing any sanctions relief, security guarantees, or other incentives. The two sides should build trust and work jointly toward shared goals.

Build confidence and reduce tensions. There are many interim steps that the United States and North Korea can take to shore up the potential for successful peace and denuclearization. These steps include, but are not limited to:

End the Korean War. Even though active hostilities between the United States and North Korea ended 66 years ago with an Armistice Agreement, there was never a formal end of the war with a peace agreement. This continued state of war is not a mere technicality — it’s the root cause of militarism and tensions that must be resolved if there is to be real progress with North Korea. Formally ending the Korean War is the most effective trust-building mechanism available. It costs zero dollars, removes North Korea’s stated justification for nuclear weapons, and does not undermine the U.S.-South Korea alliance. This is an essential element of the next administration’s success on the Korean Peninsula.

Support our ally South Korea: South Korean President Moon Jae-In has used the mandate from the South Korean people who elected him in 2017 to conduct diplomacy that lays the foundation for new relations with North Korea. His meeting with Kim Jong Un in April 2018 produced the Panmunjom Declaration, which calls for, among other things, inter-Korean economic and civic projects, and replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement. The United States should stop impeding inter-Korean cooperation, and should instead support the South Korean government in working toward these goals.

Make the negotiating table more inclusive. It is imperative that those impacted by current policies have a seat at the table. Including the views and recommendations of women, youth, and other members of civil society will improve the chances that a peace agreement lasts longer and is more durable.

Reject the framing that diplomacy is a gift to North Korea. Too often, we see public figures suggest that talking to North Korea in some way disproportionately benefits Kim Jong UnBy definition, diplomacy involves talking to, meeting with, and making deals with friends and adversarial actors alike. In this way, talking and negotiating with North Korea should not be viewed differently than doing so with any other authoritarian powers — which the United States does regularly. Additionally, ignoring North Korea will just leave it a hostile and growing nuclear power with acute risk of arms proliferation. The status quo means more nuclear weapons, more human rights violations, more separated families, more suffering from sanctions, and, at worst, nuclear war. It is in everyone’s interest to change course with a concrete plan toward peace and denuclearization.

Signatories:

American Friends Service Committee
About Face: Veterans Against the War
Arms Control Association
Beyond the Bomb
Center for International Policy
Foreign Policy For America
Franciscan Action Network
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Just Foreign Policy
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Peace Action
WAND (Women’s Action for New Directions)
Win Without War
Women Cross DMZ