By Anne Casparsson*
A Declaration for the People’s Korea Peace Agreement was launched on 23 July at a global Zoom convention initiated by the National Council of Churches in Korea, along with civil organizations.
For the last six months, churches and civil society in Korea have worked on a draft of a Korea Peace Treaty which includes an end-of-war declaration, withdrawal of foreign troops, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The Korean War, which broke out on 25 June 1950, cost millions of lives and left the Korean Peninsula in ruins. The 1953 Armistice Agreement did not lead to a peace agreement.
Churches and people are seeking a new era through a peace agreement, campaigning not only in Korea but also in the US and other neighboring countries. People around the world have also sent support and pledged solidarity with this struggle. They believe people in Korea deserve an end to the years of excessive violence and hardship, and an end to the unending war.
“There need to be active participants in the campaign on ending the Korean War and signing the Peace Agreement. There are various prospects on the future of the Korean Peninsula but the best will be that which we create by ourselves, creating the future we want,” stated Rev. Dr Hong-Jung Lee, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Korea.
The purpose of this virtual convocation was to solidify the ecumenical bond in supporting a peace agreement which replaces the Armistice Agreement. A suggestion from the meeting was that women should be included in every peace negotiation, which was accepted by the convention.
Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), gave his greetings.
“I am sure that this gathering for the declaration for the People´s Korea Peace Agreement, will make a tremendous contribution to peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
The contracting parties to the Peace Agreement should abide by the Charter of the United Nations, respect existing (inter-Korean) agreements on peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula, support efforts for peace and reunification between the South and the North, contribute to world peace, and faithfully implement the contents of the Peace Agreement. The Peace Agreement should be signed in accordance with the Panmunjom Declaration, the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, and the Singapore Joint Statement adopted between the leaders of the two Koreas and between the DPRK and USA. It should include the process of simultaneously implementing a step-by-step realization of a peace regime and complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula based on improved relations and trust between the parties.
Wooksik Cheong, director of Peace Network, gave a speech on both the the crises in the region as well as solutions. He stated that creating a Korean nuclear weapon-free zone is probably the best way for the two Koreas to solve the problem independently.
“The building of a peace regime necessitates the signing of a peace agreement. This can greatly promote security, of not only the two Koreas, but for the nearby countries, US, Russia and ultimately play a role in bringing world peace,” Cheong stated. “There needs to be an understanding that the peace agreement itself is the common goal that direct parties involved should pursue. This means that citizens who long for peace should take the front.”
The other key presentation was made by Oh Hye-ran, focusing on meaning and challenges of People’s Korea Peace Agreement.
“A peace agreement on the Korean Peninsula should serve as a stepping stone for overcoming division and that it is also in an alignment with the UN´s purpose for world peace,” she said.
Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, responded from a geo-political perspective.
“Obviously the 1953 Armistice Agreement, violated and abrogated by both sides, is a very shaky foundation on which to build peace, and a peace treaty is long overdue. And since the relevant political actors have failed for 67 years to fulfil this responsibility, the initiative for People´s Peace Agreement for the Korean Peninsula is very welcome,” Prove insisted.
Dr Christine Ahn, founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ, was very clear on the important role of women in peace work and negotiations for the future.
”Women are needed in the peace agreements, and have an important role to play for peace and peace processes,” she said.
Dr Bo Hyug Suh, director of the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) stated: “Since the actual peace agreements were often abrogated and violated after they were concluded, it is important to come up with measures to implement a non-reversible agreement when it is adopted, such as public opinion supporting the adoption of agreement and building trust between parties.”
Derek Dunkan, co-chairperson, Asia Pacific Forum Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific Executive for Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ in the US, was one of the international speakers.
“To educate our church members about the important issue related to Korean peace and reunification, and to press these concerns with US Congress, the State Department, and other policymakers, we both spoke up against Trump´s early threats of “fire and fury” against North Korea, and urged support for the historical Singapore Summit and Panmunjom Peace Declaration,” he said.
Discussion also concentrated on the action plan for the People’s Peace Agreement at local, regional and global levels.
“Now is the goal to globally move towards an implementation of the People´s Peace Agreement. It is essential that the civil society and those negotiating peace, will implement the document,” said Patti Talbot, United Church of Canada. “We all need to take up the call – this Peace Agreement is the first step to ending the war.”
The Peace Agreement will be shared and an important work is how to get UN and other international stakeholders involved.
“Thank you for joining us all around the world to declare a People´s Peace Agreement. Right now, it is our job to stand firm in this reality and to cultivate peace. I hope that, in this place declaring a Peoples Peace Agreement, the peace of the future that begins on the Korean Peninsula will be widely shared with all of you,” said Rev. Huh Won-bae, chair of the National Council of Churches in Korea Reconciliation Committee.
As the Peace Agreement reads: “A peace regime on the Korean Peninsula should be promoted based on the participation of the people."
* Anne Casparsson is a freelance journalist with focus on justice and peace.