Korea Peace Now! Statement on Nobel Women’s Initiative

The members of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War are saddened and dismayed by the recent mass resignation of staff at the Nobel Women’s Initiative. We are especially concerned given that the majority of resignations were by women of color, including several Korea Peace Now! consultants.

The Nobel Women’s Initiative has been one of the four pillars of Korea Peace Now! and a key supporter of women’s peacebuilding on the Korean Peninsula and around the world. Their significant contributions have advanced our efforts to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula.

In response to the resigned staff’s call for an investigation, the Nobel Women’s Initiative has begun the process of an independent external review “to examine the issues and concerns raised by staff.” In light of this and the need to devote fully to their internal process, the Nobel Women’s Initiative has withdrawn from the Korea Peace Now! campaign and its Co-Executive Director Liz Bernstein has stepped down as Co-Coordinator. Christine Ahn will reassume the role as International Coordinator of Korea Peace Now!

The remaining core partners of Korea Peace Now! — the Korean Women’s Movement for Peace, Women Cross DMZ, and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) — will continue to carry on the work of the campaign.

In our work to transform the world to be more peaceful, just, equitable and inclusive, we must embody and practice these very values in our own organizations. We sincerely hope that the Nobel Women’s Initiative will undergo the necessary work so that it can live up to its principles as a fully committed feminist peace organization and emerges better and stronger in order to help address the extraordinary challenges facing our world.

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WATCH: Korea: The Unknown War webinar

On June 25, 2020, the 70th anniversary of what is officially known as the start of the Korean War, preeminent Korea historian Bruce Cumings discussed the neglected history of the unresolved war and how it continues to haunt the present.

This webinar was organized by Korea Peace Network, Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network, Peace Treaty Now, and Re’Generation Movement.

Watch Gloria Steinem, Jody Williams, & Rep. Barbara Lee Discuss Peace in Korea

Last week, we had the opportunity to gather with Gloria Steinem, Jody Williams, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and others to celebrate the 5th anniversary of our historic DMZ crossing to call for peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

We came together to reflect on and celebrate our achievements in the last five years, but also to gather and renew our strength for the path forward.

Among some of the highlights:

Ann Wright, a former US Army colonel and diplomat, recounted the experience of meeting a North Korean general during a quilt-stitching ceremony in Pyongyang and realizing that they had both been preparing for war with each other’s countries but had now come together for the cause of peace.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, whose father fought in the Korean War, described what it was like to watch the 2015 crossing when she was in Ghana. She likened the criticisms of our calls for peace to her lone vote against the Iraq war in 2001.

“What is taking place is as a result of your bravery and your work, and you’re really a true testament to what power can do if women organize around peace, around justice, around humanity.”

— Rep. Barbara Lee

Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams recalled her experience traveling to the DMZ and meeting South Korean soldiers who worked with North Korean soldiers on de-mining portions of the DMZ and realized their shared humanity.

Women Cross DMZ Co-founder Gloria Steinem reflected on how much progress the women’s movement for peace in Korea has made since 2015, as evidenced by the resolution in Congress calling for an official end to the Korean War.

Also discussed: the impact of our report on “The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea” and the Congressional resolution calling for an end to the Korean War with a peace agreement.

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Press Conference Statement on the Occasion of May 24 International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament

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May 24 is International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. On May 24, 1981, 49 women from 11 European countries gathered to proclaim the day “International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament,” and on May 24, 1983, about 1 million women gathered to speak out against nuclear weapons and the arms race and to call for peace. Since then, May 24 has been observed as a day when women convey their collective desire for peace and disarmament.

In Korea, Women Making Peace marked the day for the first time in 1997, and has consistently made demands for peace and disarmament from the perspective of women. On May 24, 2015, a group of 30 international women peace activists staged a historic crossing of the DMZ on the divided peninsula from North to South. Since then, the global women’s peace movement has made ending the Korean War and the signing of a peace agreement a key part of their agenda, which has led to the launch of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War.

This year, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament comes amid an unprecedented global pandemic, creating huge challenges to Korea’s women, peace and civic movements. COVID-19 exacerbates conditions for the most vulnerable among us, with women often in charge of caring and nurturing, and part-time workers and those exposed to violence further subjected to harm. Due to gender discrimination structure, women face challenges in various sectors such as labor, social security, and health care, but the government does not consider gender in its response to COVID-19.

However, we welcome the positive changes that have been made as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The concept of “human security” that women, peace and civic movements has continuously urged for was reflected in the special address by President Moon Jae-in to mark three years in office. At the same time, the government also reduced the national defense budget by 1.46 trillion won in the process of supplementing the nation’s finances to provide emergency disaster support and to revitalize the economy. Although this is not a real cut in the arms acquisition budget because the schedule for payments, such as F-35 payments, has been postponed and the costs of overseas test evaluations is expected to be canceled, this could be a very meaningful start.

In order to improve human security and civil safety, we must create concrete changes in policy, especially toward peaceful disarmament.

To this end, we demand:

To South Korean Government

The South Korean government has set aside more than 50 trillion won in its defense budget in 2020, making South Korea the sixth-largest country in global military strength. However, the COVID-19 crisis shows us that military security does not protect the safety and livelihoods of citizens, and we should build society around a spirit of solidarity and cooperation, including strong quarantine measures, the protection of the vulnerable class, and the expansion of the economic safety net, while simultaneously managing and preventing the spread of the virus. Therefore, the South Korean government should make efforts to create a national financial structure that is suitable for the basic philosophy and values of human security mentioned by the president. The funding of the third supplementary budget to counter COVID-19 should be raised through drastic cuts in defense spending.

To the U.S. Government

Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. government has taken no action to lift sanctions on North Korea, exacerbating conditions that could lead to a humanitarian crisis. Also, the U.S. government is demanding the South Korean government pay an excessive share of U.S. military defense costs. The 6 trillion won allegedly demanded in the first place far exceeds the combined budget of 5.5 trillion won for the 2020 Ministry of Unification/Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the $1.3 billion recently demanded is also an excessive amount that is hard for the South Korean government to accommodate as we face a fiscal tightening due to COVID-19. Moreover, the U.S. has continued its reconnaissance flights with North Korea until recently, heightening tensions on the Peninsula. Therefore, the U.S. should stop its excessive demand for defense cost-sharing from South Korea while immediately halting military actions that create a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

To the international community, including the United Nations

The international community, including the United Nations, should strive to end the Korean War. At the same time, efforts should be made to lift sanctions on North Korea, which further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. In particular, in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations and the international community should focus on mutual support for human security and civil safety, not arms proliferation and competition. At the same time, Northeast Asian countries should overcome the current crisis together through solidarity and cooperation through human security and joint security beyond militarism.

We women, peace and civil society organizations, gathered on May 24 to commemorate International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, will work together for peace, unification and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we will join forces to ensure a formal end to the Korean War, the prevention of armed conflicts in the two Koreas and in Northeast Asia, the peaceful disarmament for this purpose, and sustainable peace through human security and common security. We will work to create peace not through military power but through the realization of citizens’ safety, women’s well-being, young people’s futures, and the transition of militarized areas to peace zones.

Organizations of the Press Conference on the occasion of May 24 International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament

Korean Women’s Movement for Peace (Korea Women’s Alliance, Women Making Peace, Korean Women’s Association United, National YWCA of Korea), Civil Peace Forum, Gangjung&Jeju Women Organizations, Gangjeong Peace Network, Jeju Women’s Association, Jeju Provincial Association of Korean Women Peasants’ Association(KWPA), Jeju Association for Women’s Rights, National Women’s Committee of PeaceRailWay, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Solidarity for Camptown Women’s Right in USAFIK, Teenager Movement Union Nalda, Women’s Division of The Southern Committee on June 15th Joint Declaration, Women Peace Readers

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WATCH: Pandemic, War and Sanctions in a Divided Korea Webinar

This webinar on April 16, 2020, examined how the un-ended Korean War, division, and sanctions impact North and South Korea’s efforts against coronavirus. Speakers included Dr. Kee Park, Harvard Neurosurgeon; Director of the North Korea Program of the Korean American Medical Association, and Ko You-kyoung, Consultant, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Korea Peace Now!

Co-hosted by Massachusetts Peace Action, Women Cross DMZ, and the Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network.

WATCH: COVID, Sanctions, and North Korea Virtual Hill Briefing

Humanitarian, medical, and policy experts weigh in on what we know and don’t know about COVID-19 in North Korea, how the US-led sanctions regime impacts regular people on the ground, and why we should be rethinking US-DPRK relations in light of the global pandemic.

Introduction: Rep. Ilhan Omar

Speakers:
Elizabeth Beavers, Women Cross DMZ (moderator)
Henri Feron, Center for International Policy
Kee Park, Harvard Medical Lecturer and DPRK Director of the Korean American Medical Association
Joy Yoon, co-founder Ignis Community
Dan Jasper, American Friends Service Committee

Hosted by Women Cross DMZ and Korea Peace Now!

Korea Peace Now! Events Impacted by COVID-19

Due to the emerging global health crisis posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, several Korea Peace Now! events have been canceled or postponed. This includes the Human Rights Council side event “Peace on the Korean Peninsula as a Human Rights Issue: War, Sanctions, and Women Peacebuilders” (scheduled for March 5, 2020 in Geneva), the Commission on the Status of Women side event “70 Years Is Enough: Transnational Feminist Movement to End the Korean War” (scheduled for March 13, 2020 in New York), and “70 Years Too Long: National Action to End the Korean War” (scheduled for March 15-17, 2020 in Washington, DC).

Although both the Human Rights Council and Commission on the Status of Women­ side event cancellations were beyond our control, the organizers of Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network, Korea Peace Network, and Peace Treaty Now agreed that in the interest of protecting everyone’s health it would be best to postpone the National Action to End the Korean War in Washington, DC. The convening is tentatively rescheduled for July 26-28, 2020.

While we regret these cancellations and postponements, the members of Korea Peace Now! will announce alternative actions in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.

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The Korea Peace Now! Campaign Urges Increased Humanitarian Aid to DPRK and Sanctions Relief for Coronavirus Prevention

In light of growing concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and the vulnerability of the civilian population in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea) while under crippling sanctions and forced isolation, the members of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War urge governments around the world to take every step available to increase humanitarian and medical assistance to the DPRK. That includes increasing contributions to the UN, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and other humanitarian organizations providing aid in the DPRK, working with the UN Security Council and the US government to ensure unhindered delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid, and offering direct assistance to North Korea. The campaign also urges the UN Security Council and governments imposing sanctions on the DPRK to lift or reform those undermining the capacity of the government to respond to the humanitarian crises as found in the October 2019 Korea Peace Now-commissioned independent report “The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea.”

With an impending pandemic, now is the time for all countries to work together for the health and safety of everyone.

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CANCELED: Human Rights Council Side Event Panel to Address the Link Between Peace and Human Rights on the Korean Peninsula

UPDATE, MARCH 2, 2020: Due to the global COVID-19 situation, all side events at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva have been canceled. (effective 3 March 2020 until the end of the session)

For immediate release:

February 24, 2020

Panel to Address the Link Between Peace and Human Rights on the Korean Peninsula

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DPRK will be among the speakers

Geneva, Switzerland—As the unresolved Korean War enters its 70th year, a panel discussion will explore the connection between peace and human rights, the impact of sanctions on human rights, and the role of women peacebuilders in resolving the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Tomás Ojea Quintana, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), will be among the speakers.

Peace on the Korean Peninsula as a Human Rights Issue: War, Sanctions, and Women Peacebuilders,” a side event to the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, will also include several co-authors of the Oct. 2019 report The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea, the first comprehensive assessment of the adverse consequences of sanctions for ordinary North Koreans. The panel is being organized by the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches, and will take place ahead of an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the DPRK and an oral update on the DPRK at the Human Rights Council.

“A declaration on peace and development in the Korean Peninsula, and a swift resolution of the armistice status, would create the atmosphere and space needed for further discussions on denuclearization, less isolation, more access, and respect for human rights,” said Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The unresolved Korean War has perpetuated a worsening security and human rights crisis on the Korean Peninsula,” said Ko YouKyoung, a consultant for Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), one of four women’s peace groups that launched the Korea Peace Now! global campaign in 2019. “But in order to get to peace, women must be included in the process.”

“Sanctions have not only been ineffective at convincing the DPRK to denuclearize, but in their current form may be in violation of international law, in particular humanitarian and human rights norms,” said Henri Feron, a co-author of The Human Costs and Gendered Impact of Sanctions on North Korea and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Nina Maria Hansen, Communications Manager, WILPF, nina[dot]hansen[at]wilpf[dot]org.

What: Panel discussion on“Peace on the Korean Peninsula as a Human Rights Issue: War, Sanctions, and Women Peacebuilders”

Where: Room VII, Palais Des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland

When: 5 March 2020, 11:00 a.m.-12:00pm

Speakers:

  • Peter Prove, Director, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, World Council of Churches (moderator)
  • Ewa Eriksson, former Head of Country Delegation in the DPRK for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (retired)
  • Kevin Gray, Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex
  • Youkyoung Ko, Consultant, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
  • Henri Feron, Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy
  • Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK

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Korean Women’s Movement for Peace Wins Women Have Wings Award

The Korean Women’s Movement for Peace — the South Korean partners of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! — have been named one of the 2019 recipients of the Women Have Wings Award.

The award, which was started in 2012, “honors women of courage who have taken bold risks to ensure a more just and peaceful future for us all.” About the Korean Women’s Movement for Peace, the judges wrote:

This alliance is the product of tireless efforts from its members, in a dangerous and complex context of US-North Korea relations, and is a testament to their courageous and powerful commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula…

These visionary women have not hesitated to make courageous calls for humanitarian assistance to North Korea to address chronic food shortages — free from U.S. constraints and influence — at a time when it is risky and controversial for the government to do so without aligning closely with the Trump administration. They have been instrumental in breaking the war narrative in the Korean Peninsula, broadening the vision of peace beyond national borders, and building bridges between women in Seoul, Pyongyang and Tokyo who would never have been together in the previous years. Despite years of threats, harassment and accusations of violating security laws while working for peace, they immediately seized the window of democratic political space that opened to make the most of it, without fear of consequences should it turn out to be shortlived.

The Korean Women’s Movement for Peace is a coalition of four South Korean women’s organizations — Korean Women’s Association United, Women Making Peace, National YWCA of Korea and Korea Women’s Alliance — and launched the Korea Peace Now! campaign in South Korea on May 24, 2019, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The goals of the Korea Peace Now! campaign — which also includes the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Women Cross DMZ — include ending the 70-years-long Korean War with a peace agreement, and making sure women are included in the peace process.

Read the full announcement here.