South Koreans press for peace treaty

By Deirdre Griswold
October 4, 2018

Members of South Korean Peace Delegation with International Action Center supporters.

New York — The Trump administration continues to evade the biggest question looming over Korean-U.S. relations: When will Washington sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War?

Any talk of normalization of relations between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is meaningless when Washington won’t even agree to discuss an end to a war that killed millions of Koreans and has lasted since 1950, despite an armistice agreement signed 65 years ago.

It is the continuation of this formal state of war and the U.S. military occupation of South Korea, along with annual war exercises that simulate an attack on the north, that have forced the DPRK to bolster its defense capabilities.

While Trump himself publicly blows hot and cold on the question of the DPRK, he has appointed some of the most vicious war hawks to top positions in his government.

John Bolton, who in February wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First,” was named Trump’s national security adviser in April.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who handles relations with the DPRK, recently spoke at the United Nations advocating harsher economic sanctions on that far-north country, which would deprive it of fuel this winter. Many such attempts in the past by the U.S. to starve and freeze the Korean people into submission have failed.

But the Cold War attitudes at the top don’t reflect the realities on the ground. The Korean people, divided since 1945, have been working toward peace and reunification for decades. This was made spectacularly clear to the world at this year’s winter Olympic games in South Korea, when athletes from the north received an ecstatic welcome as they joined their southern compatriots in a joint parade under one flag.

South Korean Peace Delegation in N.Y.

Representing this strong movement, a South Korean Peace Delegation recently visited New York City to attend the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. They called on the U.N. to help build permanent peace on the Korean peninsula by declaring an end to the Korean War and suspending the sanctions against the DPRK.

During their stay, members of the delegation spoke on Sept. 25 to a special forum at the city’s Solidarity Center. It was chaired by Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, who welcomed the delegation as representing “the hopes and aspirations of 60 million Korean people for peace and reunification.” She then explained that they spoke for “many groups who have united to end the war and sanctions, and sign the peace treaty.”

Members of the delegation, who ranged from young workers to veteran fighters against South Korean military dictatorships, have been key organizers of the massive movement, called the Candlelight Revolution, that swept the corrupt Park Geun-hye dictatorship out of power last year. They stressed that it was this mass, disciplined and militant resistance that had encouraged the current government of Moon Jae-in to move toward better relations with the north.

Moon’s efforts are very popular in the south. The delegation members pointed out that while his approval rating dipped somewhat because of the economy, “it rose again after the joint North-South declaration,” and that “Moon’s new economic policy is based on improving relations” with the DPRK.

The Korean War and the ongoing U.S. military occupation of South Korea have taken place in the name of the United Nations. But as one Peace Delegation speaker said: “The United Nations has no right to intervene in North-South issues. The U.N. is actually the U.S. in a different mask. The U.N. Command should be dissolved.”

Another member said the so-called U.N. command “is not a U.N. authority. It’s really a U.S. authority.”

When people in the audience congratulated the speakers’ courage in standing up to much repression over the years, one of the seasoned fighters replied: “It’s not important how much repression. What’s important is how much we can do to achieve peace and reunification.”