PEOPLE POWER!!!!! (and some terrific photos)
THANK YOU for coming to Washington, D.C., to join Korea Peace Action: National Mobilization to End the Korean War on the 70th anniversary of the Korean armistice. Together, we made history!!!
are still riding high from our time together (and recovering from the
scorching heat!). Like many of you have expressed in your beautiful
emails, text messages, and social media posts, we, too, are overcome
with emotion after the incredible experience of being among 500+ people
who gathered in the heart of U.S. government power to call for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Our action showcased the spectacular diversity of our movement: Korean Americans from divided families, Gen M/Z activists, elders who have dedicated their lives to the vision of peace in Korea, humanitarian aid workers, military experts and veterans, scholars, faith groups, writers, artists, filmmakers, and anti-war activists making important connections between our exorbitant defense budget and our urgent domestic human rights crises.
We are so grateful to you all for showing up as your full selves to connect and collaborate with other people, groups, and organizations. It was heartening to experience the vibrancy and range of strategies within our Korea peace ecosystem. Several veterans of the movement told us this historic convening made them feel hopeful about the possibility of achieving peace in our lifetime, for the first time in decades.
Here are some of the highlights, followed by some gorgeous photos by Constance Faulk. In addition, we encourage you to check out Korea Peace Now and Women Cross DMZ on Instagram for more photos, videos, and crowdsourced captures (in stories).
- We met with Congressional offices asking them to support — or thanking them for supporting — H.R.1369, the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act.
- We also met with State Department officials to urge them to lift the US travel ban to the DPRK to allow family reunions, humanitarian activities, the repatriation of US servicemember remains, and peace-building initiatives.
- We held a press conference in front of the Capitol building with Korea Peace Champions Representatives Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, and Delia Ramirez; Joy Gebhard, a member of a divided family; Rick Downes of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs; Dan Leaf, a retired three-star general and former acting commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command; Joyce Ajlouny, Secretary General of AFSC; and 14-year-old Hana de Vitton, a fifth-generation member of a divided family. Members of the media — including from the Washington Post and PBS Newshour — were in attendance. Watch the video of our press conference here.
- We held an event called Unbind Your Heart: Korean Han / Grief Transmutation Ceremony, in which we wailed, wept, and danced through our Han (generational grief/rage). It included an interfaith prayer by Sulkiro, pastor of Han Church; a participatory writing exercise led by acclaimed author Joseph Han; and traditional Korean grief rituals led by renowned multidisciplinary artist and shaman Dohee Lee. It was a moving and cathartic experience that transformed our collective grief and rage into strength and resilience.
- From there, our 500-strong group marched through a gentle summer rain shower to the Lincoln Memorial, led by the rousing rhythms of Baltimore Han Pan youth percussion group. There, we held an interfaith vigil that included prayers, a powerful chant for peace by a Buddhist monk, and an unforgettable gang gang sullae circle dance on the national mall.
- We wrapped up our three-day convening with an all-day conference at George Washington University to learn from experts and those with lived experience about the impact of the unresolved war and what’s at stake, and share strategies to move toward peace. Preeminent Korea historian Bruce Cumings gave the keynote address, followed by panel discussions: The Human Costs of Unending War and Peace to Prevent Nuclear War. Speakers included divided family member Joy Lee Gebhard; Rick Downes of the Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs; Dr. Kee Park, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Harvard University Department of Global Health and Social Medicine; Prof. Siegfried Hecker, former Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory; retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright; and Dan Leaf, retired Lieutenant General of the U.S. Air Force and former Acting Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. A few striking moments from the conference:
“The odds of North Korea’s denuclearization absent a peace treaty are zero. That’s why starting with denuclearization is such a nonstarter.”
— Dan Leaf
“Sanctions kill. We know it and we should not excuse it. We have allowed our leaders and our morals to deteriorate. We have become barbarians because we have accepted deaths of women and children in the name of national security.”
— Dr. Kee Park, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Harvard University Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, who has visited DPRK over 20 times
One of the most meaningful outcomes of this gathering was the opportunity to weave together an inter-generational, culturally grounded tapestry of resistance to the ongoing Korean War.
Our movement is powerful, and our voices are growing louder. Our calls are being heard. We know we’re making a difference because our action got plenty of media coverage, and we even got attacked by right-wing, pro-war media!
We want to extend our deepest gratitude to all our co-convenors: American Friends Service Committee, Korean American Peace Fund, Mennonite Central Committee, National Association of Korean Americans, The United Methodist Church (Global Ministries and Church & Societies), and Veterans for Peace — and all 27 co-sponsors, our fabulous 30 Under 30 cohort, Rep. Barbara Lee who hosted our press conference, and everyone who contributed to help make this action so successful and meaningful.
Together, we can and will see an end to the Korean War. To do this, we need YOU! There are so many ways to take action, following this historic gathering:
- Join your local chapter of the Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network
- Contact your local elected representative and urge them to sign onto the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act. We encourage you to email *and* call.
- Donate to WCDMZ: A recurring, monthly donation better sustains this work over the long term.
- Host a screening of Crossings, which is available for free streaming until August 21, 2023. This is a fantastic organizing tool to bring new people into this work!
Peace in Korea! Peace in our Lifetime!
In gratitude and solidarity,
The Korea Peace Action organizing team:
Cathi Choi, Christine Ahn, Echo, Jungwon Kim, Kathleen Richardson, Susan Yohn and Una Kim
Grassroots members and 30 Under 30 Activists thanking Rep. Judy Chu for being a Korea Peace Champion.
Meeting with the State Department: (l-r): AFSC’s Jennifer Deibert, Zachary Barter of State Dept., Rick Downes, Dan Leaf, Zachary Murray of Mennonite Central Committee, Christine Ahn, Alison Kahn of AFSC, Joy Lee Gebhard, Women Cross DMZ’s Cathi Choi, and Joy Lee Gebhard’s daughter, MiRan Powell.
“This legislation [H.R.1369] offers a transformative peace-first approach to ending the Korean War, finally. The Korean War is known as the forgotten war in the United States. Most people think the war officially has ended so this is unacceptable. It’s time that we wake up from our collective amnesia to remember the death and destruction that this war entailed and chart a new path forward, one based on global peace and security and rooted in human security.” — Rep. Barbara Lee
Dohee Lee, a Jeju Island-born and raised shaman and ritual performance artist, led a communal grief ritual along with Nuclear Family author Joseph Han.
Echo of Women Cross DMZ leads the rally in front of the White House on July 27, 2023.