A Direction for International Women Coalition for Peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia

 

 

Hyun Back Chung

Co-Representative of Organizing Committee

The Chief Director of Women Making Peace

 

1. Background and Status of the Six-Party Talks

 

It was in early 1990 when North Korea began playing the nuclear card to confront the United States. The collapse of the socialist bloc, the unification of Germany and South Korea’s normalization of diplomatic relations with China and the Soviet Union were all taking place at that time. Meanwhile, North Korea suffered economic hardship. All of these factors caused North Korea to feel threatened about its national security. As a result, North Korea sought to establish diplomatic relations with the United States and pursued prime minister-level meetings with the South. However, while the North failed to receive a positive response from the United States, suspicions about North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons arose. At that time, the two Koreas were seeking to maintain bilateral dialogue and ink a number of agreements, including the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the 1991 South-North Basic Agreement. With North Korea’s application for UN membership filed in September 1991, the two Koreas joined the international body together. The North’s accession to the UN demonstrated that it had given up its tenacious "One Korea" policy to accept a "Two Korea" policy, aiming to ensure its security.

 

Although the two Koreas strove to continue their bilateral dialogue, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) was increasingly pushing to inspect the North’s nuclear facilities, and Team Spirit operations, joint military training exercises held by the U.S. and South Korean militaries, were about to resume. The North viewed these moves as strategies against them and criticized the United States for applying pressure on the regime. On March 12, 1993, right after the Clinton Administration’s inauguration, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Non-nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), heralding a tug-of-war between the North and the United States. The North’s strategy worked well enough to bring about bilateral working-level contact and, in turn, the conclusion of an agreement in Berlin in June 1993 between the United States and North Korea. The explosion scheme set up by the United States in September 1994 deepened the crisis in the region again, but former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s engagement resulted in the reopening of negotiations. On December 21, 1994, U.S. and North Korean negotiators finally signed the U.S.-North Korea Basic Agreement in Geneva. In the agreement, North Korea promised to freeze test reactors and halt construction of nuclear power plants in return for two one-million-kilowatt light water reactor power plants and the start of negotiations for normalization of its relations with the United States. North Korea resolved the energy crisis and secured improved U.S.-North Korea relations by capitalizing on the nuclear card. The North’s nuclear issue didn’t resurface during the Clinton Administration. The cost for light water reactor power plants was borne primarily by South Korea and Japan, with the South paying 70% and Japan paying approximately 20% of the total construction cost. Japan-North Korea relations were not bad at all.

 

The Kim Dae-Jung Administration was inaugurated in 1998 and its "sunshine policy" of rapprochement with the North alleviated tension and facilitated exchange between the two Koreas. In 2000, the historic inter-Korean summit led to the June 15 Joint Declaration and subsequent October 4 Joint Declaration. The declarations were critical in moving away from confrontation and toward reconciliation and cooperation and realizing the peaceful reunification of the two Koreas. This was also a valuable move toward ending conflict on the Korean Peninsula through the efforts of Koreans rather than the neighboring powers. However, the United States raised suspicions about the North’s underground nuclear facilities in August 1998, which was soon followed by the North’s Taepo Dong-I missile test. The test triggered negative public opinion in Japan toward North Korea and increased tension in the region. The Clinton Administration, however, was quick to address the issue by arranging the visit to North Korea of the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry. The following on-site inspection revealed that the suspicious possible underground nuclear facilities turned out to be nothing but an empty cave. As for the missile launch, North Korea agreed to postpone the plan. What is called "the Perry Process" facilitated negotiations that made headway on the nuclear issue.

 

However, when President Bush took office, he was explicit in taking a negative stance toward the North. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States took a harder line toward the North and labeled it as a member of an "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq. In October 2002, the Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs raised suspicions about the North’s seeking highly enriched uranium (HEU) on his visit to the nation. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Gang Seok-Ju responded by saying, "We can obtain more than HEU," a remark which prompted the United States to put pressure on the North, claiming that what Minister Gang had said was a manifestation of the North’s seeking HEU. Shortly thereafter, Japan joined the United States in pressuring North Korea.

 

Against this backdrop, the Kim Dae-Jung Administration, under the principles of the "sunshine policy," pursued a policy in which addressing nuclear issues and improving bilateral relations with the North went hand in hand to avoid past mistakes. During the first North Korean nuclear crisis (1993-1994), the South attempted to link bilateral relations with nuclear issues and ended up being isolated because of this strategy. The "sunshine policy" intensified the conflicts between the South and the United States. The Bush Administration’s cutting off of heavy fuel oils and halting construction of the light water reactors provoked strong opposition from the North, and, in 2002, the North expelled IAEA inspectors residing in Pyongyang and resumed the process of withdrawing from the NPT, an act that had been put on hold because of negotiations with the Clinton Administration. The North also reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods, which were under the control of the IAEA, and started test reactors with the capacity to produce plutonium.

 

The North requested bilateral talks with the United States, but the United States insisted on going through the six-party talks. The Bush Administration reiterated that negotiations should begin with North Korea’s abandoning its nuclear program. The six-party talks, which had begun in 2003, were suspended with no agreement for two years.

 

On Feb. 10, 2005, the North announced that it was in possession of nuclear arms. Meanwhile, the United States had been receiving intelligence about the North’s nuclear activity. The United States began to relax its attitude toward the North and, with China and the South in the lead, the September 19 Joint Statement was produced. By ensuring the North its regime and economic aid in return for the North’s abandoning its nuclear program, the Joint Statement, the key elements of which are the principle of action-for-action and following a step-by-step process, formed the road map by which peace on the Korean Peninsula would be achieved

 

However, just a few days after the statement was announced, the United States froze the North’s accounts in Macau’s Banco Delta Asia, saying that the bank had helped the North launder counterfeit funds. The six-party talks again went idle for more than one year, during which time the North was able to make nuclear bombs with plutonium made from eight thousand spent fuel rods. In the end the North carried out a nuclear test.

 

The six-party talks reached another dramatic agreement, the North Korea-Denuclearization Action Plan, in Beijing on Feb. 13, 2007. The Action Plan outlined a three-step process by which the North would abandon its nuclear program. First, the North’s nuclear facilities would be shut down; second, the facilities would be disabled; third, all nuclear facilities and materials would be abandoned. According to the plan, the North would provide a declaration of its nuclear activities and blow up nuclear facilities at its Yongbyon reactor. In return, the United States informed the North that it would lift sanctions against the North, such as its embargo on trade with the North. However, because of a tug of war regarding the North’s declaration, the process was again postponed. The North announced August 26 that it had halted the disablement step on August 14, saying that the United States had not kept its promise to remove the North from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

 

The September 19 Joint Statement and the Feb. 13 agreement say that "the directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate, separate forum". But it seems that it will take much more time before a permanent peace regime for the peninsula is realized. This is because the related countries are not yet willing to engage in the process. Given the circumstances, it is important that NGOs keep asking the related countries to push the process forward.

 

2. The Need for Renewed International Solidarity amid Today’s Rapidly Changing Situation

 

Relations between South and North Korea have changed a great deal since the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak Administration on Feb. 25, 2008. The new administration’s policy toward the North, the so-called "Vision 3000, Denucelarization and Openness"proclaims that the South will help the North to attain a per capita income of US$ 3,000 if the North abandons its nuclear program and opens its doors. It shows the new administration’s confidence and its different attitude toward the North.

 

But the new administration has also expressed hostility toward the North. President Lee emphasized that he would say what should be said about the North’s human rights situation. The minister of unification said that it will be difficult to expand the industrial complex at Gaeseong (Kaesong), which is located in the north and sponsored by the South, if the issue of the North’s nuclear program is not resolved. The new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff even warned that the South could launch a pre-emptive strike against the North’s nuclear facilities. In retaliation, the North kicked South Korean staff members out of the Gaeseong industrial complex, tested short-range missiles, and cut off dialogue with the South. It is likely that relations between South and North Korea will be frozen for a while.

 

Now, the framework of the six-party talks is the only remaining mechanism by which it will be possible to realize peace in Northeast Asia. Given that relations between South and North have been at a standstill since the inauguration of the new administration in the South, [[we cannot but rely on // there is no choice but to rely on]] relations between North Korea and the United States.

 

The framework of the six-party talks provides a ray of hope. Above all, it is important that the framework form the basis for development of multilateral relations among the related countries and their citizens. The framework of the six-party talks should encourage more equitable bilateral relations among the related countries, enhancing public opinion and recognition in each country. This is why we actually consider the Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference as the "Women’s Six-Party Talks" and have given the conference this nickname.

 

The reality confronting Northeast Asia highlights the importance of having an international regime for peace and human security, and the need for international solidarity to ensure the creation of such a regime. Peace in Northeast Asia cannot still be defined and realized within the framework of international relations as directed by powerful countries. Facing this reality, we women understand the desperate need for international solidarity.

 

What is the situation for activities undertaken by NGOs for international solidarity peace in Northeast Asia? What is the plan to contribute to the peace in the region through activating for solidarity? The countries participating in the six-party talks have not actively engaged in mutual exchanges, meetings and dialogue because of the vestiges of the Cold War. There are no real NGOs in some countries, so nongovernmental exchange has not been possible.

 

For the peace of Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula, the parliament and NGOs in the United States and Japan, and furthermore, the roles of China and Russia, are very important. Although the women’s movement in South Korea has made efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula, the destiny of the Korean Peninsula has primarily been determined by external factors involving powerful countries. The women’s movement in South Korea is making a case for peace in Northeast Asia in the international community, actively coming in contact with NGOs in the countries participating in the six-party talks as well as other international organizations. The Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference is hoping to work toward realization of these goals. We need extensive support and a united effort.

 

It is also a serious problem that President Lee thinks there is nothing unique about the South-North relationship. He alleges that the North Korean human rights issue be dealt with on the basis of international standards. His attitude has caused many problems for South-North relations. Applying the measuring stick used by the West to the South-North relationship doesn’t fit in the context of the relationship itself This is akin to unilateralism. The international community, particularly the West, has been inclined to apply the general principles of its process of modernization to inter-Korean relations without considering the history of the Korean Peninsula. It is important to make an effort to harmonize the special condition of the South-North relationship with the universal principles of international society.

 

3. The Background and Direction of the Northeast Asian Woman’s Peace Conference

 

1) The Background

The Conference has been nicknamed the "Women’s Six-Party Talks." Its mission is for women to participate in building a peace regime in Northeast Asia..

 

(1) Women are not seen as part of the process of building peace in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula

The six-party talks have a big impact on the denuclearization of Korean Peninsula, the peace structure of the peninsula, and the building of peace in northeast Asia. But women are not seen asbeing part of the process.

The unification of Germany shows that if women are not engaged in the establishment of a peace structure, the process produces a kind of "internal colony" based on gender. The realization of peace on the Korean Peninsula and inNortheast Asia is possible only with the participation of the voices of all of the women in the region. Giving consideration to the difference of men’s and women’s sensibilities about violence and peace, the engagement of women can make the peace more accountable. The insight and talents of women should be used in the peace process and the opportunity must be guaranteed. That is the process of actualizing the spirit of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

 

(2) The role of women is weak in the international cooperation for the realization of peace in Northeast Asia

The women’s movement is promoting international cooperation for the denuclearization and peace of the Korean Peninsula and realization of peace in Northeast Asia. In particular, Women Making Peace has sought the Northeast Asian Women’s Network for Peace for "Women’s Six-Party Conference."The NGO has traveled to China, Japan, North Korea, Russia and the United States to seek the cooperation of women. In Japan and the United States, the NGO lobbied NGOs on behalf of women as well as female lawmakers. However, the role of women is still weak in terms of international cooperation for the realization of peace in Northeast Asia. The discussions for peace are still biased toward man.

 

(3) There are no discussions on including women’s voices in the peace process

In Northeast Asia, the controversy on the issues of history, territory and ideology have not yet been dismantled. It is important that women have opportunities to understand their differences, accept the differences, build up trust, and seek the cooperation by listening to each other. Those opportunities have been rare. From this point of view, Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference is seeking the opportunity to discuss the role of women in building up the peace structure of the region and ensuring a place for women in the public discussion.

 

(4) It is necessary for women to boost the concern and promote participation in the process of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and peace in Northeast Asia

When the members of `Women Making Peace’traveled to China, Japan, the United States and Russia, they got to know that women working in NGOs, lawmakers, and government personnel are ignorant of the issue about peace in the region. We confirmedthat if they have visited the Korean Peninsula or heard about the situation in the region, they easily feel sympathy for the importance of peace it the region. In that context, this Conference will give participants opportunities to visit Gaesung Industrial Complex, which is located in North Korea. It will be the moment for the participants to see the reality of confrontation of two Koreas and the efforts of overcoming the confrontation.

 

2) The Direction

 

(1) Through Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference, women must meet each other and have opportunities for communication. By listening to each other’s experiences, women must recognize that the conflict in the region is directly connected to their lives

Women experienced the absence of communication, misunderstanding and mistrust through the period of colonization and the Cold War, the history of confrontation among countries. Women need to go through the process of listening to each other’s opinions and accepting their differences, facing the new multilateral cooperation frame of the six-party talks. This Conference will provide women the opportunities to talk about their pain and listen to each other.

 

(2) Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference should seek opportunities for women in the peace process

The Forth World Conference on Women, Beijing in 1995 adopted a declaration and platform of action. It states that "access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflicts is essential for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security."

Sustainable peace cannot be achieved with out the participation of women. The full participation of women in the peacemaking process will give more opportunities to participate in the decision-making process, leadership and education. By using women’s talents in the peace making process, women will become a stronger leading group. This North East Asian Women’s Peace Conference and the meeting of the six nations to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a peace structure and East Asian Peace will be a historical event that will realize the spirit of UN Security Council Statement 1325.

 

(3) This North East Asian Women’s Peace Conference must take the feminist perspective that women need to strengthen their role as mediators and peace makers.

This can be realized through the mutual understanding and communication among the groups participating in the North East Asian Women’s Peace Conference.

The realization of the peace on the Korean Peninsula and in North East Asia, will be possible if all the women in this region speak out loud in one voice and action. Women and men have very different experiences with peace and violence. Therefore women have move sensitivity, insight and wisdom with regard to peace making. The Council needs to discuss the common agendas of women. It should make demands to the six-party talks and take continuing actions to realize our demands.

This Council should also have a long-term objective. The women of the participating nations should learn to overcome conflict in non-violent ways, expand the peace areas, make a vision of peace and reconciliation of hostile countries, and find ways of implementing the vision of peace. Women can no longer remain as victims of war. Women should stand independently, form a new partnership of the peace of North East Asia, spread the culture of coexistence and peace, discuss women’s role in bringing about ‘Common house of North East Asia-North East Asian Peace Structure’. This process will be a long process that will need to change itself continuously. Through this process a new culture and methods of solidarity will be born.

 

(4). Method of Solidarity

The groups and individuals participating in the conference may have very different ideas about how to bring peace to this region. The proposal here is a rough sketch for our discussion.

 

1) Through this meeting the women’s peace network should continue and should meet regularly. The network should be continued and strengthened.

 

2) It was very difficult to contact each country when preparing for this conference. We should discuss having a organizing committee in each participating country.

The Korean women’s group tried to bring different organizations with different political views. It is time now that we bring together everyone who supports peace.

Also, we should discuss how to allow the participation of congresswomen on the local and national level. Should the council consist mainly of NGO groups? Should we allow the participation of congresswomen as equal participants? Should we form a separate framework for them? We have experienced in the past the importance of including members of congress for the advancement of the peace movement.

 

3) We need to discuss where, when and who will hold the next women’s peace conference. Should Korea continue to host the meeting? Should another country take a turn?

 

 

 

Reference

We have contacted these organizations and congresswomen’s groups:

(Please understand we were not able to put all the names of organizations in English.)

*China: All China Women’s Federation. Bejing Women’s Study team

*Japan: Japan Women’s Council, New Japan Women’s Association

* USA: WILPF Washington Branch, Peace X Peace,

* Russia: Women’s Union of Russia, Russian Peace Foundation

* North Korea: During the prior 6,15 and 8.15 meeting we have made contacts with the North Korean women leaders.

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