The Role of Women for Creating Korean Peace Regime

                                                                                                                                      

 

                                                                                                                     Insoon NamYoon
                                          Standing Representative, the Korea Women's Associations United

 


Peace Crisis on the Korean Peninsula: Women, Let’s Put Ourselves Forward
Why is the women’s movement speaking out and acting on the topic of peace?

 

As the speaker of the 2010 Northeast Asia Women’s Peace Conference, I seek to discuss the most important topic on the Korean peninsula of ‘peace’, utilizing my experiences from student demonstrations, the labor movement and activities in the women’s movement,extending throughout the industrialization, democratization and globalization periods. I am deeply honored to have been given the opportunity to give a presentation at such a noteworthy event.

 

Although my identity was slight in the women’s movement during the period of resisting military dictatorship and labor suppression, my consciousness of gender issues was ignited as my life subsequent to marriage began to run parallel to the mainstream life of a woman, starting with pregnancy, infant care, housekeeping and work and became a full-fledged activist in the women’s movement beginning in 1988.

 

As an activist in the women’s movement, I have extended my efforts to reform gender discriminatory legislation, institutions and culture, end discrimination and violence towards women and expand women’s participation in all sectors. However, the quality of women’s life in Korea remains exceedingly low on international indices. Based on studies in 2009, Korean women ranked 61 among 109 countries in policy-making authority, 115thin the Gender Gap Index according to the World Economic Forum, and women’s labor-force participation rate was at 49.2% (2009) and the gender pay gap was at 38% (2009). The fact that the burden of childcare still being shouldered to women, resulting in either abandoning childbirth or completely giving up employment, should be taken note of. Furthermore, Korea holds the dishonor of third place globally for the incidences of sexual assault and the colossal and covert sex industry continues to mass produce female victims of sex trade.

 

Thus, while Korean society seems to display progress in gender equality institutionally, in practice, the fundamental reason hindering the development gender equality is the internalized culture of militarism which fixates a patriarchal authoritarianism and gender division (a phenomenon of career discontinuation due to pregnancy and childbirth) as well as producing a culture of tolerating violence. We are experiencing the painful realities from the dominating cultures in our society of division, military and militarism seen through the recent revival of the point system in companies awarding men who have served in the military, ruled unconstitutional by the Ministry of National Defense in 1999 resulting in the increase of discrimination towards women and the disabled, a rise in sexual crimes against children, and the taking for granted an increase in defense spending subsequent to the Cheonan sinking.

 

The Korean ideology of patriarchy has been fused with militarism culture and acts as a mechanism for discrimination and violence towards women and minority. It is based on the fact that the discrimination women deal with daily is intimately related to the fixation of this structural violence and division and the reproduction of the militarism culture, that the women’s movement have come to possess an active purpose to set ‘peace’ into practice. The long running efforts of the women’s movement ofcampaigns for anti-discrimination and anti-violence against women must be saturated with the intrinsic value of peace which inevitably results in a high level of sensitivity regarding peace among women activists and the women’s movement. Development of the women’s peace movement follows this context and can be seen in activities such as the inter-Korean exchanges for women at the civil society level initiated by the progressive women’s movement in South Korea which continues to take place today, campaigns to reduce defense spending, anti-war demonstrations, conflict mediation and more.

 

Moreover, this year is the 10-year anniversary celebrating the unanimous vote which passed the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 dealing with women, peace and security issues. Ten years to this date, the number of countries who currently possess a National Action Plan for the implementation of Resolution 1325 remains at a mere 18 nations. Additionally, while South Korea is a member of the Resolution 1325, a report on the progress of implementation does not exist. Although women’s organizations in Korea are expanding activities to publicize, educate and demand for the draw up of a National Action Plan for Resolution 1325, the interest in this resolution remains relatively low within the Korean government and civil society.

 

The reunification movement that has been led by the Korean progressive powers has a low viewpoint of gender issues which is due in part to the inability to establish an inter-complementary relationship with the peace movement. As much as the division was unilaterally decided by a superpower, which caused militarism to lead the Korean society down an aimless path, the women’s movement has participated in the reunification movement as a critical member, working to mitigate the suffering and conflict from division. However, in the recent years, as practices of the gender reunification movement and the women’s peace movement became weakened, voices from the women’s movement subsequently followed.

 

The progressive women’s movement in Korea must utilize Resolution 1325 as an opportunity to reflect a gender perspective into the arenas of security, national defense and reunification, to actively advance the individualistic women’s peace movement and the women’s reunification movement by executing a peace regime and participating vigorously as a leader in the reunification process.

 

Rising Military Tensions on the Korean Peninsula: Emphasizing the Necessity of a Peace Regime

 

The women’s movement has come to realize the necessitation peaceful activities upon observing the recent military tensions surrounding the Korean peninsula. Subsequent to the inauguration of the Lee Myung-bak administration, the North-South Reconciliation and Cooperation policy promoted by former presidents Kim Dae-Jung and Roh Moo-hyun have all but disappeared and replaced with a confrontational policy towards North Korea, exacerbating tension levels on the Korean peninsula. Moreover, President Obama’s statement expressing his willingness to meet bilaterally with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-il seemingly raised expectations for the possibility towards reconciliation but these hopes were dashed as the Cheonan incident began to be utilized as a lever to create foreign policy which fulfilled national US interests.

 

Today marks the 3rdNortheast Asia Women’s Peace Conference,which began in October of 2008, with a pressing situation calling for women to speak out on peaceunfolding on the Korean peninsula. Following the Cheonan incident, South Korea and the United States mobilized cutting-edge technological weapons such as the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and F-22 fighter planes and carried out large-scale war exercises in the northernmost part of South Korea. In response, North Korea publicly threatened a ‘strong physical retaliation’and proceeded to fire 120 round of artillery into the waters off the west coast of South Korea subsequent to the end of the US-Korea war exercises on August 9th. China too, regarding these military exercises as an armed provocation clearly expressed their objections and presented the start of a three-stage joint war exercises with Russia.

 

The Cheonan sinking was a tragic incident which snatched away the lives of our young ones. In a situation where inter-Korean dialogue was suspended, this incident elucidated the inability to prevent military tensions and discord between the involved authorities and the possibility of a limited or full-scale war breaking out on the Korean peninsula. Now, the west sea is like an explosive warehouse to the Korean citizens which led to the realization for the need to maintain this area as a peace zone. The Lee Myung-bak and Obama administrations should not expand the Cheonan incident politically or militarily but rather must adopt practical measures to preserve peace in this inter-Korean and Northeast Asian region. The path towards achieving this is promote in tandem a resumption of the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible and extending their efforts towards constructing a peace regime.


Stipulations and Plans for the Realization of Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula

 

The first step towards realizing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula: Starting with the Implementation of the June 15 Joint Declaration and the October 4 Summit Declaration

 

The content of the June 15 Joint Declaration, adopted subsequent to the 2000 North-South Joint Summit, stipulates the effort of the two Koreas to resolve the reunification issue, revitalization in economic cooperation and collaboration/exchanges in various sectors such as social, cultural, physical exercise, health & sanitation, environment and etc., and develop exchanges between families. Following this declaration, various exchanges were conducted at both the civil society and governmental levels and eventually this was used as a foundation to adopt the 2007 October North-South Summit Declaration. The Joint Declaration includes ten different mutually consented points of which a stipulation regarding peace declares the ‘promotion to mitigate military tensions, construction of a permanent peace regime and efforts towards resolving the nuclear issue, establishment of a west sea special peace and cooperation zone’. If both the June 15 Joint Declaration and October 15 Summit Declaration are properly put into practice, a reality of a peace regime can be brought into fruition.

 

However, without receiving a promise to uphold the implementation of the two declarations from the Lee Myung-bak administration, North Korea suspended the dialogue and interrupted access to the Mt. Geumgang tours and the Kaesong Industrial Complex. For the past two years, a buildup in military tensions have resulted subsequent to the North Korean nuclear testing (2009.5), North Korea’s declaration of absence from the Six-Party Talks (2009), UN Security Council’s resolution for sanctions against North Korea (2009) and the Cheonan sinking as a solution for the North Korean nuclear issue and peace in Northeast Asia have become more and more distant. Thus, effectively utilizing historical experiences of surrounding countries opting for dialogue and adopting a conciliatory posture when tensions rise between North and South Korea, the parties within the Six-Party framework must promote a multilateral dialogue with disregard to political and military advantages and disadvantages. The next North-South summit should be opened to confirm the intent to implement the June 15 Joint Declaration and the October 4 Summit Declaration while simultaneously exerting efforts towards finding a solution towards the North Korean nuclear issue and a peace agreement.

 

Simultaneous to restarting the Six-Party Talks, progress on denuclearization of Korean peninsular and negotiating the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum and, as implementation of the September 19 Joint Declaration, should be made.

 

The ‘Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’published on January 20, 1992, the ‘Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks’ on September 19, 2005, the ‘Joint Declaration on the ROK-U.S Alliance and Peace on the Korean Peninsula’ on November 17, 2005 and etc., are significant declarations pertaining to a peace regime on the Korean peninsula. The September 19 Joint Statementrecognizing the ‘Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’, connects the two issues of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula and a peace regime.

 

The first clausestipulates the roles of South Korea, North Korea and the US regarding the Korean peninsula nuclear issue.

 

The fourth clausecontains content related to the peace regime: The six parties publicly pledged to extend joint efforts towards establishing lasting peace and security in Northeast Asia. The parties directly involved will hold negotiations in a fitting and separate forum to discuss a permanent and lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula. The six parties agreed to seek measures and tools for the advancement of security cooperation in Northeast Asia. (Koo, Kab-Woo 2010)

 

Following the September 19 Joint Statement and undergoing the February 13 and the October 3 Agreements, the issue of nuclear weapons and the normalization of US-DPRK relations was seemingly achieved. Nevertheless, after the emergence of the Lee Myung-bak administration and the establishment of a precondition for North Korea to abandon their nuclear weapons, exchanges and dialogue between North and South Korea have virtually been terminated. Even if the Six Party Talks are restarted, if the Lee Myung-bak administration continues to adhere to the precondition of North Korea’s nuclear weapons abandonment, it will be difficult to bring into discussion denuclearization and the peace regime.

Resolving the North Korea nuclear weapons issue will only be possible when the fundamental reason as to why North Korea is clinging to nuclear weapons development is addressed. The foundation for mutual trust between North and South Korea as well as the US and DPRK is weak in the current ceasefire framework on the Korean peninsula. In this situation where the content agreed upon between the US-DPRK and through the Six Party Talks is not being upheld, dialogue and cooperation has discontinued and confrontation and sanctions being repeated has deepened the mistrust between US-DPRK and North-South Korea. The fundamental solution to the nuclear issue lies not in mutual hostility but a conversion to a reciprocated win-win relationship through shared trust of the two Koreas as well as the US and DPRK while concurrently building a solution for the nuclear weapons issue and a peace regime.

 

If the US and China manage the crisis situation on the Korean peninsula by regulating and suppressing North Korean nuclear weapons, the position of resolving the reunification issue independently between the two Koreas confirmed in the June 15 Joint Declaration disappears and will continue to only sever inter-Korean relations.

 

As the inter-Korean relations rupture, we are forfeiting the method for which can be utilized to have North Korea abandon their nuclear weapons program. The Lee Myung-bak administration is making full use of the ‘waiting’ strategy, while the Obama administration advocates the North Korea policy of ‘strategic patience.’ If we wait without any real method to promote nuclear weapons abandonment, it will only incur a strengthening of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability and result in the intensification of tensions on the Korean peninsula. When that time comes, attempting to dismantle a North Korea with strengthened nuclear capability will be that much more difficult.

 

The current South Korean government’s judgment and posture can be a significant variable in this equation. In the face of a North Korean nuclear crisis, the Roh Moo-hyun administration adopted a flexible posture, fostering a phase of dialogue and holding a significant status within the Six-Party framework. However, the attitude of the South Korean government changed. Due to the static fundamentalism being advocated rather than a flexible yet realistic countermeasure, it is exceedingly difficult for the current administration to play a leading role in fostering dialogue and negotiations to break the deadlock. We, participating in the Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference today, deeply desire change in the way of thinking and policies of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

 

Rather than a confrontational North Korea policy, a policy promoting reconciliation and cooperation is an excellent plan which will reduce defense spending and will present an opportunity to enhance welfare spending while dissolving uncertainties regarding the South Korean economy. The women from the nations participating in the Six-Party Talks calls for the restarting of the Six-Party Talks in tandem to the formation of a ‘Korea Peninsula Peace Forum’to discuss and realize the goal of a peace regime on the Korean peninsula.

 

What is the process and contents for a peace regime on the Korean peninsula?


- Declaration of the War’s End
I believe that in order to realize a peace regime on the Korean peninsula, the parties involved including North and South Korea should start by opening a summit meeting to declare an end to the Korean War and conclude a peace agreement. Although a declaration of the war’s end will carry no legal efficacy, it will hold significance in declaring an end to the current situation of a ceasefire. Henceforth, the parties who were involved in declaring the ceasefire should recognize and support this move.

 

- Peace Agreement
Lasting peace on the Korean peninsula in the long run can be firmly established by putting into effecta Korean peninsula denuclearization program, prohibiting both Koreas from meddling in each others’domestic affairs, banning threats and attacks stemming from military power, proclaiming a peace zone in the disputed territories, utilizing the DMZ for peaceful purposes, enforcing arms control and putting into effect a arms reduction program and etc., followed by gaining consent through each country’s domestic legal process and receiving international legal efficacy and recognition from the UN. Additionally,an international management body should be created in order to stably manage this process. However, diverse opinions and positions may exist in the methods and formalities surrounding the peace agreement. Nonetheless, if the intention to establish the peace regime is resolute, these differences in opinion can be dispersed through discussion and coordination.

 

-Formation of a Northeast Asia Security Cooperation Regime
Building security cooperation in Northeast Asia is an essential condition to maintaining the peace regime on the Korean peninsula. President Obama’s ‘a world without nuclear weapons’policy provides a condition for global confirmation of principle for peace. If the Six Party Talks are restarted, the possibility for discussions pertaining to the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the realization of non-aggression rules will be opened. Furthermore, in the process of dissolving international sanctions aimed at North Korea, amity will have to be established in phases for US-DPRK and DPRK-Japan relations.

 

In efforts to build a multilateral security cooperation regime in the Northeast Asia not only are the women from nations participating in the Six-Party Talks significant but international solidarity consisting of a wide breadth of women internationally is pertinent. Peace on the Korean peninsula is directly correlated to peace in Northeast Asia and peace in this region is also directly connected to the lives of women in the Western countries as well, starting with the United States.If the expenditure US pours into Afghanistan or Iraq or the expenditure of each nation spent to contribute to their armament is used for the welfare of women, the lives of women and children will improve remarkably. Moreover, imagine an arms race progressing in Northeast Asia and the military spending it would incur. Why do we women have to maintain our silence in the face of such a reality? We, women, must confront this reality and voice our indignation. In order to achieve this, we must be able to exchange information regarding this problem and develop a joint campaign to countermeasure this non-peaceful situation. The Northeast Asia Women’s Peace Conference must be utilized as the starting chapter in realizing this resolution and continue to maintain a collective network.

 

The Role of Women in the Realization of a Peace Regime

 

The progressive women’s movement in South Korea has operated under the slogan of ‘reunification through peace’. Reunification without peace has the potential to turn into a unilateral reunification that dominates with strength. This means women need to actively participate as women peacemakers in the process of constructing a peace regime. To facilitate the implementation of Resolution 1325, the South Korean women’s movement must demand an expansion of women’s participation in the security and reunification policy-making procedure, develop a campaign for the expansion of peace culture, inter-Korean exchanges for women as well as continue to advocate cooperation. We will continue to maintain these efforts.

 

Opening the third annual Northeast Asia Women’s Peace Conference, we seek to extend joint variegated efforts with the women from the Six-Party nations towards raising the role of women as peacemakers. We were able to observe and feel peace with our hearts through our encounters and dialogues at these three annual conferences and we were overwhelmingly touched by the individual country progress reports. Thus, the women from the Six Party nations as well as throughout the international society have discovered the potential of women’s role in constructing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia and share a bond for sisterhood and for humans worldwide. The Six-Party participants’demand for establishing a national implementation plan to carry out Resolution 1325, the peace regime for the Korean peninsula and the urging for a joint implementation plan for a multilateral Northeast Asia peace regime are examples of this.

 

The women’s movement in Korea must begin making more specific and detailed preparations to enter into the vast sea of peace advocating campaigns. New campaign methods should be developed to foster participation of the young generation in the women’s peace movement, continuous campaigns should be conducted to expand the culture of peace in our daily lives as well as continue training and educating women human rights groups to participate in the peace movement. Furthermore, these activities carried out by the women’s peace movement must exert political influence and progress to become a dynamic force in advancing politics from a gender perspective. Peace that excludes a gender perspective cannot be considered genuine peace.

 

As an activist in a progressive women’s organization representative of Korea, I believe that the leadership acquired by the women’s movement up to today stems from equality and peace. Due to the accumulation of this leadership within the Korean women’s movement, I believe that the future of a peace regime and the process of reunification, active participation of women as leaders in establishing peace with a gender perspective will become renowned.

 

References 
1. Kabwoo Koo, 2010. Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula and Reunification, Paper for Symposium on "the Reframing Discussion of Korean Reunification," Seoul
2. Gyunglan Jung, 2010, Meaning of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and Implementation Situation, Workshop Paper for 2010 Northeast Asian Women’s Peace Conference, Seoul
3. Sungryeol Cho, How to build Peace Regime on theKorean Peninsula, Korea National Strategy Institute Report, Seoul
4. Hyunback Cheong, 2003, Nation and Feminism, Dangdae Publisher, Seoul

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