Peace for Life: Peace Building

International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea

Struggle for Peace Building on Korean Peninsula
(Toward the Ecumenical Vision)
Prof. Dr. PARK Kyung-Seo


I, as Ambassador at large for Human Rights of ROK as well as former Asia Secretary of World Council of Churches (1982-1999), a Professor of Sociology, have always thought that the objective of the study is to analyze social development from an objective perspective and with candid voice. Therefore, we all, should be always proud of our capacity and mission to constructively criticize and evaluate society. as whole, where we are now. In this respect, Today we shall move to far east Asia, particularly Korean Peninsula for our discussion and reflection..

On 26 March 2004, the National Human Rights Commission of the Republic of Korea (NHRC), where I was serving as Senior Commissioner from 2001-2004, had released an anti-war statement against Iraqi war started by USA without UN resolution. The anti-war position of the NHRC, unconventional for a national institution, brought Korea international attention. The anti-war declaration was a reflection of a general national consensus in Korea. According to many surveys, more than 70% of the Korean public, They have opposed the Iraqi war, in order to avoid eventual war on Korean Peninsular and reconfirmed peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The Declaration stated, “The National Human Rights Commission has been entrusted by the people of South Korea with the duty to protect and advance the cause of human rights, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, 'recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.'”

It continues to state, “As a national institution, we further have a responsibility our Constitution, which promotes world peace and renounces wars of aggression.” Accordingly, the NHRC has contended, “As the history of humankind shows, peace without human rights and human rights without peace is a groundless illusion.” Human rights and pursuit for justice will pave the way for world peace. Wars pose serious obstacles to the realization of true peace. Peace can only be achieved through peaceful methods, not armed conflicts.

Second, the extent to which peace can be achieved is directly related to the struggles and efforts put by the peace movement. Peace and action are always proportional. Therefore, we, as peace-makers, have a responsibility to make every effort to achieve peace under the circumstances presented to us. Peace is a supreme value which no one should deny and every human being deserves.

PAX Romana, PAX Americana, and Peace Makers

According to historians, of the 3,521-year period of written human history, 92% of time, or 3,235 years, has been spent in war. Only 8% of the period has been peaceful. We may say that war has lived with us throughout history. However, we should not disregard the efforts made by peace-makers or activists for peace, who have tried to prevent wars and end them. In one sense, the history of human beings has been a tug of war between those who invoke wars in order to achieve peace, and those who believe that true peace can only be achieved by peaceful means, arguing that war begets war. The latter argues that waging war has limits because peace can only be true peace when it is accompanied by justice, not war.

A typical example of the pro-war position is Pax Romana, which came after the Roman conquest of the world. In pursuit of their own peace objectives, the Romans conquered the world with armed forces. Justice for the conquered peoples of neighboring countries was compromised for the Romans’ quest for peace. Thus, we must remember that PAX Romana was destroyed because of its limits. Similar to PAX Romana, today we experience PAX Americana. Peace in America means safety for only Americans, without consideration for international solidarity. To the United States, globalization functions as an engine for facilitating commerce. The United States imposes the notion of ‘Americanized’ globalization on the nations of the world. If ‘Americanized peace’ or ‘Americanized globalization’ effectively improved the quality of life for all the peoples of the global community, or guaranteed better lives and happiness in the near future, then we would welcome ‘Americanized peace’ or ‘Americanized globalization’. However, current events suggest that this is not the case.

The world is divided by a few rich countries and a great number of poor countries. Even in the most affluent countries, only a small minority of the population holds the majority of the nation’s wealth. The gap between the rich and the poor continues to expand.

However, peace-makers around the world, including in the United States, have fought against the economic and social disparities between the rich and the poor. I would like to review a few peace movements led by several of the world’s churches two years back, when Iraqi war started by USA.
It is extremely meaningful also to look back those days Today, as a reflection for all of us, as Iraqi situation is still in uncertain remains. Following stories will be a lesson for all of us.

On 5 February 2003, church leaders from ten countries from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East gathered in Berlin, Germany. To pray for world peace, the meeting was held at the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis-Kirche, a building which was largely destroyed during World War II. The meeting was sponsored by the World Council of Churches and the Council of European Churches. The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was to address the United Nations Security Council about the U.S. plan to wage war on Iraq. After the meeting, the church leaders forwarded their statement to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

I would like to introduce some of statements adopted in the conference.

- As European church leaders, we remain extremely concerned with the continued calls for military action against Iraq by the US. We appeal to the Security Council to uphold the principles of the UN Charter which strictly limit the legitimate use of military force because war accompanies unbearable casualties.

- We deplore the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.

- All UN member states have to comply with binding UN resolutions and resolve conflicts by peaceful means. Iraq can be no exception. The people in Iraq must be given hope that there are alternatives to both dictatorship and war.

- Pope in Rome declared that the war against Iraq would end human kinds.

Church leaders from Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, and the Middle East Council of Churches were present at this meeting. Dr. Rowan Williams, that time the newly-appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, strongly opposed to the war on Iraq, in contrast to Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Swedish Archbishop K. G. Hammar also contended that the war against Iraq is immoral and unwise. In 2003 January, Bishop Margot Kässmann, who attended the World Social Forum in Brazil, made the following statement which generated supportive applause, “I completely agree with the Iraqi disarmament. However, one step further I claim that every country in the world including the United States should disarm its weapons.”

On 15 January 2003, the National Council of Churches USA has arranged on program through the United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, 68 that time, who was President of NCC USA to advocate Peace Initiatives. Bishop Talbert appeared on CNN, spoke on a local cable TV station, and starred in a new anti-war advertisement, in which he declared that initiating war against Iraq "violate[d] God's law as well as violates the teachings of our Jesus Christ." The NCC produced and sponsored the 30-second advertisement which was shown several times a day in New York and Washington, DC. Bishop Talbert, well known peace advocator who has already opposed the 1991 Persian Gulf War waged by former President George Bush, is an influential figure in the United Methodist Church, to which President George W. Bush belongs. Bishop Talbert stated in an interview, “There are "more people openly opposed to this war than we had two years into the Vietnam War. I decided to make the commercial only after Methodist leaders failed in several attempts to obtain a private meeting with Bush.” In an official letter to President Bush on 30 January 2003, 46 U.S. religious leaders appealed, “As leaders of tens of millions of Protestant and Orthodox Christians across the United States, we believe that war is not only – or even primarily – a military matter. It is a moral and ethical matter of the highest order. The NCC recommends a peaceful solution rather than war to solve the Iraq crisis.” In addition, the Washington, DC street protests of 26 November 2002 and 15 January 2003, which brought together hundreds of thousands of peace-loving people from all over the country, clearly manifested the widespread opposition to the war.

All over the world, there are peace-makers who oppose war and people who support the objectives of war. In Korea, the people have voiced their support of peaceful resolutions by organizing candle-light vigils and staging protests against war in those days. I was in Chiang mai Thailand from 31 March to 4 April this year 2005, where the 12th General Assembly of Christian Conference of Asia was held, I was invited in Chiang Mai as a special Guest to CCA. Around 400 Church leaders of Asia and other continents gathered and declared “ Building Peace in the World” committed each other to be Peace Maker. Bob Edgar NCC USA General Secretary has declared strongly in his congratulatory Speech that Churches USA will march continuously for peace making instead of war by USA.

Peace and Justice

Effective peaceful communication is based on mutual understanding and trust, and thus, requires time and patience. Peace achieved through a deep-rooted and extensive process is true peace. A respect for peace and justice instills in people a sense of confidence in the political process and reduces feelings of social alienation.

Freedom House international non-governmental organization based in New York, publishes an annual report, grading individual countries on their performance in protecting human rights, specifically, civil and political rights. The organization classified each country into three groups: free, partially free, and not free. Korea has been classified as ‘free’ for the past five years. In its 2003 report, Freedom House announced that 25 countries showed improvements in freedom and democracy despite the U.S war on terrorism, while 13 countries exhibited worsened conditions. Most of the 13 countries which suffered setbacks were countries of the Middle East and central Asia which were harmfully affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We clearly know that war restricts social development, democracy, and freedom of individuals. Having said above, let us visit to my country Korea, which is located North East Asia as center of political barometer in this region..

History of Division of Korean Peninsula (a Focus of Tension and Conflict.)

Throughout our long history, we have been blessed with cultural, linguistic and ethnic unity, and a beautiful land, rich in resources and in productive agricultural areas which for millennia have been sufficient to support its population. The land is small, roughly the size of the state of Minnesota. An estimated seventy two million persons live there, one-third north, two-thirds south of the Demarcation Line.

Korea has never posed a threat to its powerful neighbors: China, Russia, or Japan. But its key strategic position bridging Asia and the Pacific made these often aggressive Powers anxious to dominate the peninsula. Japan's main islands are located a scant 120 miles to the southeast. About the same distance to the west lies China's Shantung Peninsula. Korea shares its northern border for about 150 miles with China, and for eleven miles in the northeast with the Russia. Seventy-five miles further north is Vladivostok, one of the Soviet Union's principal naval bases, and a vital outlet to the Pacific.

Korea has for ages been a focus of contention among North East Asian powers eager to shore up their strategic defenses or to have a base from which to launch attacks against others. It is not surprising therefore that when the United States pursued its "Manifest Destiny" into Asia and the Pacific in the late nineteenth century, it also viewed Korea as a pawn to be conquered, controlled, neutralized, or traded in order to attain or preserve control over other territories. Since 1945 it has become an indicator of the state of peace and security in the world. It was over control of this land that the Cold War produced its first hot regional war which claimed about four million casualties. Since then the "Korean conflict" has time and again reverberated beyond the borders of the peninsula and of the region.

Across the De-militarized Zone today are faced off, at the ready, two of the world's largest standing armies, each backed by superpower military forces which in case of any major contingency would almost certainly get involved directly or indirectly. The South's armed forces plus 27.000 U.S. troops are under direct U.S. command in the R.O.K.-U.S. weaponry, including nuclear arms. The U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S, bases in Japan, as well as logistic support from Japan's Self Defense Forces, add to the South's military reserve. The North's armed forces, of a size comparable to the South's despite its smaller population, are neighbored directly by Chinese and Soviet allies with nuclear weapons based nearby in the eastern part of the Soviet Union. Up to 15 June 2000, North South Summit, frequent military incidents along the Demarcation Line between tense military forces on both sides threaten to explode into broader warfare. A build-up of tension has the potential to provoke global nuclear war.

Current issues related to Peninsula.

2005 is the Year of the Rooster. For many reasons, the rooster is popularly known to bring pleasure and luck to people. In this promising year, I sincerely pray for a peaceful Korean Reunification that all Korean people have been wishing for years and years. On the other hand, 2005 has been a hundred years since the shameful Eulsa Protective Treaty between Korea and Japan was forcefully signed to become Korea under the Japanese colonial rule and the Taft-Katsura Treaty was clandestinely signed between Japan and the United States (US) in 1905. It is not fair to say the Taft-Katsura Treaty was irrelevant to the Korean Division since it had approved the Philippines under the US colonial rule and Korea under the Japanese colonial rule. Furthermore, since this year becomes the 60th Anniversary of the Korean Liberation, 60 years since the Korean Division, and also the 5th Anniversary of the Inter-Korean Summit, it would be meaningful for all of us to reconfirm and reflect on the peaceful settlement in the Korean peninsula in which we all live. In doing so, there could be an answer for what each of us as a member of peace loving citizen should be responsible for a peaceful Korean Reunification and genuine peace in North East Asia.

Lessons from Germany

At the 15th Anniversary of the German Unification, a huge volume of formal and informal documents, reminiscing and analyzing the past 14 years, have been released to the public. In the discourse of these documents, the subject matter was that “we still remain in one country and two nations.” Ossi, which you will never find in a German dictionary, is the word that the former West Germans use to look down the East and—I hope not every Germans would use this—Trotzidentitaet is a word whose hidden meaning is “shameless and disgraceful East blighter” for the same purpose. 

Witnessing that the minority of the former East Germans—only 17 % of the population—call the West Wessi whose meaning is “rich shrewd chap,” we feel the 45 years of separation that German people have faced have made a deep sense of alienation to each other. West and East Germany already made an agreement in the early 1960s that citizens who were over 60 years old and had direct descendents in the other’s territory could stay in the other for more than 30 days and have implemented the agreement. Since then, touring, watching televisions, and letter exchanges between the two countries became possible. Since Germany that has implemented this kind of cooperative policy now faces such difficulties at this moment, I can’t imagine what two Koreas that have been separated for 60 years with far less mutual exchanges will be like. Germany regrets that they should have activated civil exchanges before its Unification.

The total amount of assistance from West Germany given to East Germany before the Unification was up to $ 48.1 billion. This is M 29.7 billion ($ 13.7 billion) from the government plus M 74.8 billion ($ 34.4 billion) from non-governmental level, which was equivalent to 2.5 times of the government amount, from 1972 through 1990. In Korea, the total amount from 1992 through June 2004 was $ 2,623.59 million ($ 1,150.54 million from private economic cooperation, $ 534.46 million from the government, $ 404.45 million from Mt. Kumgang Tour, $ 239.35 million from non-governmental assistance, and $ 56.87 million from social and cultural cooperation business investment).

In spite of the large amount of economic assistance from the West before the Unification and a $ 75.9 billion of annual financial transference from the West to the East after the Unification, the economic situation of the former East Germany is still far below that of West Germany and the gap between East and West becomes deeper and deeper. East Germans, who are only 17% of the population, occupy one third of the entire unemployment in Germany; manufacturing business occupy 8% of the entire business and its exports are only 6% of the country’s whole amount. Also, it was reported that a relative sense of deprivation East Germans feel is considerably serious.

There could be many reasons of these economic difficulties, but first of all that West Germany applied the ratio of 1:1 in trading with East Germany right after the Unification has resulted in a sudden rise of commodity price by 400%. East Germany’s infrastructure had been expected to be revived by 60%, but, in reality, 80% of them were unavailable. And the payment level of the former East German workers was too highly measured by 80% of that of the West. By the time of the Unification, I visited East Germany before Unification and it was the 10th biggest economy in the world and the level of infrastructure was about 70% of West Germany. What happened to East Germany? The answers that they suggested are as follows:

“For the past 14 years, we, West Germany, compared our brothers and sisters in East Germany with a child who falls down on her way and cries and, with our economic power and emotional sentiment, we hold the child in our back and run. We’d rather give this crying child milk and teach her how to stand up and walk although it takes more time, we regret. We regret that we overlooked her self-vitalization to walk by herself and ignored the importance,” said the former West Germans. Applying this to our case, problems with North Korea should be solved by themselves. South Korea cannot resolve North Korea’s problems. South Korea only supports North Korea to solve its own problems. 

From Disarmament Treaty to Peace Agreement

Although we have achieved considerable inter-Korean cooperation for the past years, the disarmament treaty signed on July 27, 1953 is still valid today. Therefore, South and North Korea should agree on a peace treaty or a non-aggression treaty, a sort of which East and West Germany signed in 1975 in Helsinki with a huge support by neighboring countries. The six-party talk is important in this respect. Within the six-party talk’s framework, South and North Korea should hold a lead and conclude a peace treaty with a support of four powerful neighboring countries. In doing so, a new framework would be set in a form of a joint security or joint prosperity within which mutual interests can be protected.

South and North Korea have made scores of efforts although they’re not sufficient yet. More than 9,000 separated families in South and North Korea have met together. Over 7 60,000 South Koreans and over 3,000 North Koreans have visited each other. More than 600,000 South Koreans have made the Mt. Kumgang tour. If the railroad is connected between South and North Korea, the Kaesung Industrial Park is expanded, and North Korea’s nuclear issues and the US sanctions against the North is resolved, North Korea would be released from an international isolation and become a member of the international community—it should become a part of the international community just as China went through its isolation. North Korea is deliberately preparing for this, said recent visitors.

The Korean Unification should not be like the German Unification that one absorbs the other; it should be our own way and impose practical implications. South Korea should help the North work out its own problems so that the problems with human rights, economic development, and North Korean asylum seekers should be terminated by North Korea itself. If then, the 38 parallel will be a peaceful settlement line; South Koreans will get visas to enter North Korea and vice versa. South and North Korea will economically cooperate each other and mutually be prosperous, reduce arms through a peace treaty or a non-aggression treaty, and conclude in a joint security. And finally, Korea will accomplish naturally and smoothly the one-country and one-nation Korean Unification.

Human rights problems in North Korea should not be treated separately until a peace treaty will be agreed. It should be treated in a voiceless and silent manner. While the UN or a third county rather than South Korea deal with this issue, South and North Korea should put every ounce of their energies to agree to a peace treaty. This is the lesson Germany teaches us.

It goes without saying that human rights are universal values. But human rights should not be degraded as a political tool to target a particular regime. Human rights, by its given nature, should be won and fulfilled by its own people. Struggle for human rights must be processed by the concerned subject individuals or groups in a bottom-up method. Therefore, that South Korean deals with North Korea’s human rights problems has serious limitations. North Korea’s human rights issues should be resolved by North Koreans themselves and we, as South Koreans, can only play an assistant’s role. South Korea is only a “facilitator” who encourages the North to recognize the importance of human rights, not an “operator” who execute. In this respect, it is important for North Korea to be a member of the international community and for South Korea to support the North to open the eyes and learn by itself.

In recent years, there have been significant developments in this field. North Korea signed and ratified some of the UN human rights conventions; submitted its periodic state-party report to the UN on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and was reviewed by the Committee three years ago; submitted a report on implementation of the International Economic, Social and Cultural Rights two years ago and promised to follow the UN’s general comments and recommendations; and last year was reviewed its implementation of the International Convention of the Rights of the Child on June 1, 2004. So far, about 300 North Korean officials participated in human rights conferences or workshops in advanced countries and, especially for this purpose, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada invited North Korean officials to their countries and conducted programs—they are still in the process.

North Korean workers actively participated in international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This phenomenon is a proof that 8 the North attempted to flee from isolation and to prepare for its entry into the international community, which seems a very positive development.

Ecumenical Vision

(a) Healing Ministry of the hurt and wounds of our neighbors
There are our neighbors who have been unjustly accused of wrong doings for 60 years of division of Korea. We should comfort them with words of consolation. We should take part in the mission to treat the hurt of our neighbors, to wipe away tears of 7.7 million separated people and cure their bitter heart. The 60 year history of the division has brought us unbelievable absurdity, injustice and regret. The North and the South have imposed restraints on social life of the remaining family members of defectors to the other side. The social situation of enmity has not allowed our neighbors to retain their own integrity. We should endeavor further to heal the hurt of our neighbors. In this regard, the civilian organizations should make and carry out the education programs for national reunification, peace settlement and reconciliation, which government cannot manage to perform. The churches of the North and the South in particular have made steady efforts to bring reconciliation to the Korean peninsula, which should not be stopped at the moment.

(b) Declaration of Peace and Reconciliation

On our way to reunification, we should commit ourselves to working for peace and reconciliation. We should, first of all, declare peace and reconciliation, which should be done with the confession of our sin.

Peace Education and Creation of New Culture

Let's think about education for peace and reconciliation. North and South Koreans have been educated for the last 55 years until the Sunshine Policy to hate and despise each other. It is time we threw away the deceptive and misleading ideological education and reorganized national curriculum for peace and reconciliation education from nursery to secondary school.

Concluding Remarks

When North Korea can participate in the world affairs shoulder to shoulder with other countries, there will come peace to the Korean peninsula much earlier than expected otherwise. Therefore current 6 parties talk can bring a positive agreement and that agreement will serve the peaceful settlement on Korean peninsular.

The comprehensive reciprocity will be the guideline for marching toward peace settlement on the Korean peninsula. It means that the South and her allies will respect the political and social system of the North, promote economic exchanges and cooperation with the North, and help the North come forward to the international arena on one hand, the North will abide by all parties acceptable Agreement, give up missile development and arms sale, and stop its military provocation toward the South on the other hand, then peace prevail finally in Korean Peninsula.

Thanks for your attention.




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