"War does not have a woman's face"--Svetlana Alexievich
"No more war on the Korean Peninsula"--Inter-Korean Summit Panmunjom Declaration, April 27, 2018
"There can be no peace without women"--Women's Peace Walk, International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament, Seoul, May 24, 2018
I HAVE BEEN CENTRALLY INVOLVED WITH WOMEN MAKING PEACE FOR many years. This is a South Korean women's peace organization, founded in 1997, that works toward the peaceful reunification of Korea through the empowerment of women. The impetus for its formation came in May 1991, when women from South Korea (officially known as the Republic of Korea, or ROK) and North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK) met with Japanese women in Tokyo to hold a conference on Peace in Asia and the Role of Women. It was the first such civic meeting between South and North Korean women since the division of Korea in 1945. The second conference was held in Seoul in November 1991, when 15 North Korean women leaders set foot on South Korean soil for the first time since the division. The third conference was held in Pyongyang, with 30 women leaders from South Korea visiting North Korea for the first time. In September 1992, executive committees in the two Koreas and Japan were formed to continue to organize such meetings. The fourth conference was held in Tokyo in April 1993. However, the fifth conference, which was scheduled for Seoul, did not take place due to the souring of relations between the two Korean governments in 1993. In 1996, in order to address this challenge and pursue alternatives, the South Korean executive committee decided to create a women's peace organization specifically to maintain and further the aspirations and activities of the previous conferences toward reunification and peace in Korea, Asia, and the world.
Since its inception, the organization has been committed to building a just and peaceful world free of gender discrimination by mobilizing the strength of women toward building a feminist paradigm of genuine security. For over 20 years, we have fostered women's participation in reunification efforts through exchanges and dialogues with North Korean women and women in the Korean diaspora; engaged in public education to raise awareness and facilitate a culture of peace; organized conflict resolution training programs; participated in international solidarity actions for the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts; and researched the conditions and policies necessary for the peaceful reunification of Korea.
After the first inter-Korean summit on June 15, 2000, there were many inter-Korean cooperation projects between women, but these ground to a halt under the conservative governments of Presidents Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) and Park Geun-hye (2013-2017). As a woman living in a divided country, I seek to reunify the Korean Peninsula and to stand up as a politically, economically, and socially independent human being. Toward this end, I see inter-Korean women's exchanges as a long-term project, rather than a one-time event or meeting.
Currently, the atmosphere is thawing on the Korean Peninsula. Spring is finally arriving in this Cold War vestige after over 70 years. Since the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula has endured a string of catastrophic upheavals. These include the 1945 division of the country by the global superpowers; the establishment of two separate states in 1948 despite domestic opposition--especially on Jeju Island, which led to the massacre of a third of its population with US complicity; and the Korean War (1950-1953), which was halted with the Armistice Agreement. Relations between the two Koreas have remained tense ever since despite periodic overtures. The recent thaw began with the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which set the stage for renewed dialog between North and South Korea, leading to the historic inter-Korean summit on April 27, 2018, and the DPRK-United States summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018. We have a long road ahead, but these actions suggest that we may be closer than ever to an official peace agreement to finally end the Korean division. Other positive indications include the DPRK's three summits with China in 2018 and its diplomatic efforts to keep the United States in check and end UN sanctions.
The Moon Jae-in administration in South Korea has initiated various actions focused on dismantling long-standing policies that treat North Korea as an enemy. (1) Despite these initiatives, the women of the Korean Peninsula need to play a more central role in establishing peaceful coexistence between the two Koreas. Korean women, who have long been discriminated against and marginalized, need to be recognized as historical subjects and protagonists in the peacemaking process. Women's voices that have been silenced need to be heard and our previous and current contributions documented. The 2015 International Women's Peace Walk, as well as the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Women's Peace Walks, which called for "Korea Land of Peace! Peace Walk for Life--Peaceful Coexistence on the Korean Peninsula," are some of the more recent women's actions calling for peace between the two Koreas.
Currently, the #MeToo and #WithU movements are very active in South Korea. These represent important steps in our efforts to adopt a zero-tolerance stance against the deep-rooted patriarchy of Korean society, so that as we move toward peaceful coexistence we can create a world free of sexism, sexual violence, and misogyny for North and South Korean women. As Choi (2018, 44) states, "We don't want peace based on the silencing of victims!" Rather, we want to create a world of equality, freedom, and, most importantly, justice. I see the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) Ecofeminist Farm Project as one...