Remembrance Day is held in Canada every November 11th to pay homage to the sacrifices made by war veterans. Often forgotten is the Korean War, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Canadian soldiers. Overshadowed by both World Wars and the Vietnam War, Canada’s and Canadian’s role in the Korean War is often misunderstood and under-appreciated at Remembrance ceremonies. This article, published by Metro News Canada, tells the story of one Korean War veteran who’s personal path to peace involved a pen pal relationship with a Korean woman. The article gives a glimpse into the lives of Canadian Korean War veterans, and is a reminder that the effects of the Korean War are still felt by Canadians and Koreans alike. To read the article, please download here.
By Taryn Assaf
On Friday, July 26th 2013, the ISC team participated in the International Symposium on Concluding a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul Women’s Plaza, organized by the People’s Movement for Opposing War and Achieving Peace. The conference was attended by a number of scholars, journalists, politicians and activists from Korea, Canada, Japan, the United States and China, as well as a number of veterans of the Korean peace movement, some of whom had spent over 30 years as political prisoners. The conference addressed key issues on the topic of peace on the Peninsula and reunification of the two Koreas. Speakers investigated the “threat” of North Korea, obstacles to peace (including United States militarism and imperialism, state nationalism, and the relationships between the countries of Northeast Asia) and recommendations for peace (including reunification, normalization of relations between the two Koreas, denuclearization of Northeast Asia, and independence from the United States).
The special session, “US Hegemony and the Globalization of War” was presented by Michel Chossudovsky, a professor at
Ottawa University, an international authority on anti-globalization issues and leader in the pro-peace movement. His talk focused on the role of the US in blocking peace on the Korean Peninsula, arguing that the US has formed a neo-colonial relationship with South Korea through direct military control and indirect political control. He argued that the US-ROK alliance is not an alliance at all, rather, South Korea is under US military occupation. On the issue of denuclearization, Chossudovsky questioned “who the real threat is” to peace. He examined this in the context of North Korea’s relationship to the US, and concluded that the real threat is the US, who is unwilling to show any sort of reciprocity on the issue of nuclear disarmament. Faced with a hostile policy from the US — the number one global nuclear power with over 2000 deployed nuclear weapons currently targeted at various countries– Chossudovsky claimed that North Korea has good reason not to want to denuclearize, and that the US must take the first steps to denuclearization of the peninsula. Thus, an integral part of realizing peace on the Peninsula involves significant action on the part of the United States in ending its hostile policies and asymmetrical standpoint on the issue of nuclear disarmament toward North Korea. Chossudovsky further concluded that peace talks must encompass a repeal of the basic command structure of the military (in which the US military has de facto control of the Korean military), retreat of the 37,000 US troops in the South, and US nuclear disarmament- this would lead to military and economic liberation in the South and are preconditions for a peace treaty.
The speakers of the first session, “Ending the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Treaty in the Korean Peninsula”, included
Gregory Elich, author and anti-war activist from the United States; Lei Xiong, Professor at Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Renmin University of China (People’s University of China); Ryoichi Hattori, Member of Japan’s House of Representatives (Social Democratic Party); Gyungsoon Park, South Korean author and Vice-president of the Progressive Policy Research Institute; and Ik-pyo Hong, Member of the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly (Democratic Unified Party). Speakers analyzed the inter-relatedness of the countries in Northeast Asia and argued that a precondition for peace on the Korean Peninsula included improved relations between China, Japan and Korea and a nuclear free East Asia. For instance, Mr. Hattori spoke of the importance of a denuclearized Japan, stating that after World War 2, Japan reformed its constitution to give up wars and nuclear weapons forever. The Korean War, however, provided a reason for Japan to re-militarize and to be used as an anti-communist outpost for the US. Currently, the Abe government is seeking to repeal the anti-war and anti-nuclear weapons reforms and further re-militarize the country. He stated that no country can justify peace by militarism and that no peace can be achieved by the production of war machines, such as nuclear weapons. The re-nuclearization and re-militarization of Japan would thus be an obstacle to peace for the region. Speakers also investigated whether peace is possible without reunification, what the obstacles to this process include and how to best overcome them. Several speakers mentioned the value of creating a safe space for a grassroots path to peace pioneered by civic and citizens groups and the importance of protecting individual ideas from repression under the banners of nationalism and state.
The speakers of the second session, “Joint Action for Peace in Northeast Asia”, included Kenju Watanabe of Japan, President of the South Korea-Japan People’s Solidarity Network and permanent board member of the Japanese Committee for Asia-Africa People’s Solidarity; Tim Shorrock, an American author, journalist and member of the Working Group for Peace
and De-militarization in Asia-Pacific Region; Jejun Joo, Policy Chair of the Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements; and Byong-ryul Min, member of Unified Progressive Party’s supreme council and founding member of the Democratic Labor Party. This session addressed how concerted actions can promote peace in the region. For example, Tim Shorrock noted the large-scale ignorance of the United States public on the issue of peace and re-unification even among leading progressive groups. He urged those in attendance to help each other educate Americans about the truth of Korean history and current affairs as they relate to peace and reunification from a Korean perspective. He labeled this as a precondition for peace, stating that the fanaticism constructed by the American media toward North Korea prevents popular support for the country and, in the minds of Americans, legitimizes United States military presence in the South, further securing the US geopolitical agenda in the region. Increasing education would likely decrease the fanaticism directed towards the North among the American general public and would create international solidarity in Korea’s quest for peace and reunification. This session demonstrated that the task of establishing peace on the peninsula extends beyond the borders of Korea- it is an issue that affects the world over, especially one characterized by a globalized economy and increasing global relationships.
Peace in Korea and in Northeast Asia is a complicated issue involving many parties, many conditions and many potential obstacles. It may not be an issue quickly resolved, but it is encouraging and hopeful to know that so many people are aligned in its recognition and are so tirelessly working for its realization. Conferences such as these are necessary steps in initiating and engaging in constructive dialogue targeted towards constructive goals. These dialogues, actions and initiatives help to build solidarity in the cause and are integral to peace and reunification in Korea.
By Dae Han Song
The International Peace March started July 3rd at Gangjeong Village and continues until July 27th – the 60 year anniversary of the Armistice Agreement – when rallies will be held in front of the US Embassy and military bases in Seoul calling for a peace treaty to finally conclude the Korean War. Along the way, marchers will visit sites of the Korean War and ongoing struggles to reflect upon the connections between war, military spending, and division to militarization, social welfare, and political repression.
The cultural night before the start of the International Peace March. Melodies of struggle floated upon warm tropical breezes. (To watch and listen to the performances, click here)
The first day of marching starts at Gangjeong Village, currently a site of struggle against construction of a naval base. (Visit the Save Jeju Now site for more information). Villagers and peace activists in South Korea and around the world oppose the naval base construction not only due to the destruction of villager’s livelihoods and the environment, but also due to its potential use as the site of a missile defense system. Located approximately 300 miles from Shanghai, this future naval base would likely house a US missile defense system to neutralize China’s missile capabilities. Above, the President of the Task Force Against Construction of the Jeju Naval Base updated us on the struggle. Due to the various fines levied against the protesters by the government, villagers are considering selling their community building to pay for outstanding fines.
With construction taking place behind us across a body of water, a member of the Unified Progressive Party relates the current status of the naval base construction. As the budget balloons past the projected cost, only 30 percent of the naval base has been completed because typhoons continue to delay and destroy construction.
“Peace is the Way”
Protesters have created sites of occupation and art all across the construction site calling for peace
and a halt to the naval base.
After occupations and direct resistance, the construction company Samsung erected barriers all along the site. The press conference launching the march took place at the construction site entrance.
The mayor of Gangjeong Village calls for peace at the press conference, saying, “The struggle in Gangjeong is directly connected to the struggle for a peace treaty.” The marcher’s vest reads, “Walking Towards Peace: An International Peace March to end the 60-year armistice agreement and establish a peace treaty.”
Marching while some chat and others upload photos and updates on social networking sites.
A banner reads “Oppose the Naval Base to the Death”
A moment of silence and reflection in honor of those killed during the April 3rd Jeju Uprising. Protests had erupted in Jeju against the separate 1948 elections in North and South Korea. Subsequent police repression and torture, along with the deployment of the right-wing Northwest Youth Corps, later sparked a guerrilla uprising. The police and military suppressed the guerrillas in 1949, in the process killing 25,000 to 30,000 islanders (1 in every 5 islanders) and destroying 230 villages (more than half). While such momentous events are recorded in official history, they are mostly absent from the general public’s consciousness. Moments such as these are reminders of the tragedies and horrors of war and testimonies for the need for peace.
The Korea Committee for the Preparation of State Construction was an organic body established for creation of an independent state immediately following the end of Japanese occupation. However, these autonomous state-construction efforts were shunned by the US, whose separate state-formation process revolved around Syngman Rhee and former Japanese collaborators. The orange areas on the map indicate cities and villages governed by people’s committees.
The grave sites of those killed in the April 3rd Uprisings.
One of the delegation – a netizen who traversed South Korea multiple times – brings along Che’s spirit.
A cancelled rally offers the opportunity to practice our movement song and dance.
Marching in Changwon City.
Changwon City emerged and developed out of the surrounding industrial complexes and contains
a strong working class character.
Making new friends along the way
Members of local branches of Korea Woman Solidarity pump their fists while chanting for a peace treaty.
Two surviving family members of guerrilla fighters pay their respects.
The letters above the altar read, “Prayer Ceremony for Peace.”
The ceremony was held at the base of Jiri Mountain to honor the guerrillas who fought against Japanese colonialism, and the Synghman Rhee government thereafter.
Family members of the deceased, peace marchers, and participants hold up a cloth path as a shaman
sends off the spirits of those killed in the Jiri mountains.
A Korean masked dancer plays a villager snatched from an idyllic existence and thrown into war.
The guerrilla stronghold of Jiri Mountain looms behind the ceremony site.
Nourishing our bodies with vitamin C tablets to stay healthy.
Clearly still healthy and full of energy, but still only the 4th day out of 21.
The grave site of the victims of the Sancheong-Hamyang Massacre in 1951. Seven hundred and five innocent villagers were killed as part of the army’s 11th division, 9th regiment, 3rd battalion’s efforts to liquidate communist guerrillas
on Jiri Mountain.
The author participated in the 21 day march for 4 days and 3 nights.
by Taryn Assaf
June 6th marks the 58th Memorial Day in commemoration of the sacrifices made during the Korean War and others. In Busan, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, some well into their eighth decade, gathered just inside the entrance of the UN Memorial Cemetery, greeting visitors, answering questions and re-telling their stories of sacrifice, hardship and honor in their involvement as soldiers. The cemetery is decorated with the altars of hundreds of young men not only from Korea, but from other United Nations countries such as Canada, the United States and Australia, among many others. Despite the intense heat, veterans and visitors payed their respects, offering moments of silence with their heads bowed as the ceremony took place.
As the last standing city during the Korean War, the UN Memorial Cemetery in Busan is a significant site to hold such ceremonies, explained one veteran. Due to its location in the south-east of the country, many civilians fled to Busan to escape violence elsewhere in the country.
An official ceremony was also held at the National Cemetery in Seoul.