Korea Peace Now! Statement on Outcome of South Korea’s Presidential Election

For immediate release:

March 9, 2022

In response to the election of Yoon Seok-youl as the next president of the Republic of Korea (“South Korea”) today, members of the Korea Peace Now! campaign — an international coalition of women’s peace groups advocating for a formal end to the Korean War with a peace agreement — encourage President-elect Yoon to make meaningful progress toward lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Specifically, we urge him to take a peace-first approach with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) by, together with the United States, officially ending the Korean War with a peace agreement. This action must come at the beginning, not the end, of negotiations. A state of peace will benefit millions of people living on the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeast Asia region.

We also encourage President-elect Yoon to recognize the importance of the full, effective, and meaningful participation of women and civil society groups in the Korea peace process. Research shows this will contribute to a more durable peace, and international law and national laws and policies also mandate women’s participation in peace processes. We are deeply troubled by Yoon’s statements regarding abolishing the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and hope his administration will support the full equality and rights of women, which benefit everyone in society and strengthen democracy.

Regional cooperation amid rising tensions between the United States and China is also crucial to ensuring a peaceful outcome to the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula. Increasing sanctions, military exercises, and pressure will only exacerbate tensions, prolong the arms race, and raise the risk of renewed hot conflict in the region. Such a disastrous outcome must be prevented at all costs.

“I hope that Yoon recognizes that the military-first approach is counterproductive to building peace,” said YouKyoung Ko, the South Korea-based consultant for WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom). “The way to build peace and achieve goals such as denuclearization is by addressing the root cause of tensions, which is the unresolved Korean War.”

“Considering his hawkish stance against China and opposition to an end-of-war-declaration, Yoon’s election will unfortunately be a setback to building peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” said Christine Ahn, Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ. “Given conservative presidents’ past record of repressing South Korean peace and social justice activists, it will be ever more urgent for the international community to be vigilant and lend their solidarity.”

“Yoon’s election will likely have negative consequences for gender equality and women’s rights in South Korea,” said Youngmi Cho, Executive Director of Korean Women’s Movement for Peace. “If Yoon follows through on his promise to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, it will not only reverse important progress on gender discrimination and women’s rights, it will also have a chilling effect on the women’s peace movement.”