The guns ceased firing on the Korean Peninsula 68 years ago today (27 July), but the war continues. Nearly 70 years have passed, since the promise to hold a political conference within three months of the Armistice Agreement to negotiate a peaceful settlement. The unprecedented period of armistice continues to this day.
One in ten Koreans died during the war and most of the land and infrastructure were destroyed, but this was only part of the damage caused by the Korean War. Because there has been no final peace settlement, the people of the Korean Peninsula have continued to live with the dread of war for decades and the frequent reoccurrence of military tension. The war-separated families who have been longing to reunite with their loved ones are now older and many have died. In the past 70 years, there have been only 21 reunions of separated families plus 7 reunions organized through videos, and even these brief reunions were, for many, prohibited. The fragile inter-Korean armistice has stoked military tensions in Northeast Asia and propelled an international nuclear arms race. The climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic threatening humanity have sent a clear message that we should disengage from the vicious cycle of the arms race and instead, muster our limited resources to ensure people’s livelihoods, their safety, and the securing of a sustainable environment.
In 2018, the summit between the leaders of the two Koreas and between the leaders of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea(DPRK) and the United States, and the resulting South-North Korea Military Agreement, allowed us a glimpse of the possibility that the fear of war and the risk of armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula may vanish and peaceful coexistence might be achieved. The hope was short-lived, and the warm promise of peace that wrapped itself around the Korean Peninsula is rapidly evaporating. However, we must not sit idly by and watch, whilst the fear of war and hostility encroach upon our lives again.
As a consequence, the citizens of South Korea have joined together to raise awareness and their voices for peace. Last year, on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, the seven major religious orders in Korea and more than 350 domestic and international civil society groups(430 CSOs as of now) launched the Korea Peace Appeal campaign, with the aim of ending the Korean War and achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula by 2023. This would be the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement, and they have engaged in a range of activities, despite the difficult environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic to raise the profile at home and abroad. It has garnered support from governments, parliaments, religious and civil society groups around the world, and culminated in the collection of signatures for the Korea Peace Appeal, which calls for an end to the Korean War and the establishment of a peace agreement, and the creation of a Korean Peninsula and a world free from nuclear weapons and the nuclear threat.
Countless people have joined the campaign over the past year. Those who participated in the Korea Peace Appeal include senior figures in society, prominent individuals from a variety of fields, members of the National Assembly, heads of local governments, members of local assemblies, and political parties. Actors, singers, film directors, writers, broadcasters, and others drawn from the arts also participated with signatures and selfies demonstrating solidarity. International organizations and expatriate Koreans are also showing a high level of interest and participating in our movement. Religious leaders and the members of their faiths, as well as civil society activists, took to the streets on Mondays to collect signatures, and ordinary citizens from all over the country and around the world added their names to the Korea Peace Appeal. The comments left on the signature papers read, “I was seven when the Korean War was raging, and now I am 80… It’s tragic that the war is not yet over”, “I hope the war ends to enable train travel from South Korea to Europe”, “Please remove the shadow of war in our future”, “I hope building a concrete peace will allow us to progress”, clearly expressing why this war must end.
It is time for concerned governments to respond to the clamor of citizens around the world pursuing peace on the Korean Peninsula. What is required now are practical efforts to restore trust and to resume dialogue. In 2018, the two Koreas and the United States opened their doors to dialogue through introducing measures to reduce the mutual threat, including the halting of ROK-U.S. joint military exercises and the suspension of North Korea's nuclear and missile development. They succeeded in putting a stop to the conflict via the inter-Korean military agreement and reached an agreement that would become a milestone in the negotiations. We urge that the respective governments demonstrate their commitment to the implementation of these hard-earned agreements between the two Koreas and the United States.
Subsequently, the peace process on the Korean Peninsula has stalled with disagreements and the threat of ‘corresponding actions’ by both North Korea and the United States, which has caused repeated setbacks in inter-Korean relations. The United States’ insistence on denuclearization of North Korea first, the continued strict sanctions against North Korea including the import and export of civilian goods, South Korea's record-breaking level of armaments, and the ROK-U.S. joint military exercise, have all exacerbated the situation. Simply saying ‘it is open to diplomacy with the DPRK’ is not enough, and it is time to take action. The U.S. needs to take concrete steps to demonstrate its firm commitment to the ending of hostilities and the war with North Korea and to resolving remaining issues through improved relations. South Korea and the U.S. need to stop the ROK-U.S. joint military exercise which is scheduled to begin shortly in August and to take the initiative in opening the doors to dialogue. North Korea also needs to actively engage in dialogue and negotiations to implement the inter-Korean and the DPRK-U.S. agreements and to achieve practical improvements in relations. The fastest route to peace is dialogue and cooperation.
27 July 2021
▶ For Korean version see here
🕊 100 Million Signature Campaign to End the Korean War
Sign the Korean Peace Appeal Now 👉🏻 endthekoreanwar.net