|The 2018 Global Peace Forum on Korea (GPFK) was held at Columbia University in New York City from September 29 to 30, at a time when the prospect of peace and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is on everyone's mind. The forum was organized under the theme "Peace and Prosperity for Korea and the World."
The event drew participants from around the world, including the countries that comprise the Six Party Talks to Denuclearize the Korean Peninsula -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia, China, the U.S. and Japan.
The moderator and one of the main organizers of the GPFK was Professor Kiyul Chung. He also served as co-chair of the forum's organizing committee and is the Executive Director of the Institute for 21st Century International Relations, based in Washington, DC. Professor Chung's dedication to the cause of peaceful reunification is well-known, including his role as Secretary General of the Korea Truth Commission in 2001.
Originally planned for Washington, DC, the forum was moved to New York to permit the participation of members of the DPRK's Permanent Mission to the United Nations who are unjustly restricted to a 25-kilometre radius of New York City.
One of the overarching themes of the event was that peace on the Korean Peninsula concerns not only the Korean people, but the whole world. Thus the proceedings of the forum called on all peace and justice-loving people to support the efforts of the governments and peoples of the DPRK and the ROK now that a lasting peace is within reach.
The opening address by forum co-chair Jim Winkler, President of the National Council of Churches, focused on this historic moment, that after more than 70 years of national division and state of war with the U.S., the Korean people are moving as one toward peace as never before. He highlighted the recent inter-Korean summits between Chairman Kim Jong Un of the DPRK and President Moon Jae-in of the ROK and the strengthening of inter-Korean ties such as the recent agreements to remove weapons from the Demilitarized Zone, including a no-fly zone over the zone and a joint demining operation, to ensure that no acts of aggression take place between the DPRK and ROK and other peace initiatives. He concluded his remarks by pointing out that what is needed is for the U.S. to sign a peace treaty with the DPRK.
Following that, a message of congratulations from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter was read to the forum encouraging the deliberations of the participants on the important question of peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The forum also received a message of congratulations from Rosemary DiCarlo, UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, who noted that the positive developments towards peace on the Korean Peninsula were encouraging and that the UN pledged to assist these efforts.
A high-level ROK government representative to the forum, Ms. Lee Mi-kyung, former National Assembly member and President of the Korean International Cooperation Agency, noted that 2018 marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and that September 21 was the 47th anniversary of the UN International Day for Peace. She pointed out that peace is necessary for human rights to flourish and that only by ensuring the rights of every human being in each country in the world can peace flourish everywhere. She outlined the many initiatives the Moon government is undertaking to promote inter-Korean peace initiatives.
Presentation by DPRK Representative
A paper entitled "Inter-relation of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the Normalization of U.S.-DPRK Relations" prepared by Professor Tae Hyong Chul, the President of Kim Il Sung University and member of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, was presented by Mr. Ri Ki Ho, Councillor of the DPRK's Permanent Mission to the UN. It conveyed the strength, hope and dignity of the DPRK and its people to affirm their right to be and their dedication to the peaceful reunification of Korea.
The presentation explained that the DPRK was given little choice but to arm itself with tactical nuclear weapons due to the nuclear threat from the U.S. Consequently, the removal of the threat posed by the U.S. is a condition for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and normalization of relations with the U.S.. Thus, denuclearization must be a bilateral effort by the DPRK and the U.S.
Referring to the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Summit in Singapore, the paper noted that the DPRK wishes to continue the positive atmosphere this created. However, legal and institutional measures must be taken toward a declaration and peace treaty to end the Korean War that would foster normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations and tangible steps towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The paper highlighted the importance of normalizing relations between the DPRK and the U.S., noting for example that within this framework of hostility the DPRK's nuclear deterrent is somehow considered a threat, whereas the nuclear arsenals of Britain, France, Israel are not. It also noted that this hostility and distrust has consistently undermined previous attempts at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
The presentation ended by once again entreating the U.S. to sign a peace treaty as a concrete measure to end hostilities and create the conditions for denuclearization and peace.
Sanctions as Violations of Human Rights
In the first panel discussion entitled "Peace and Security," Doug Hostetter, Director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) UN Office, pointed out that if there is a lesson to be learned about the more than 10 UN Security Council resolutions passed against the DPRK, it is that they have clearly failed in their stated aim of forcing the DPRK to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
He noted that these sanctions have had a very detrimental effect on the civilians in the DPRK and have forced many NGOs doing humanitarian work in the DPRK to leave. He gave the example of the MCC not even being able to send nail-clippers in children's kits to the DPRK because they were made of metal. He called these sanctions "collective punishment" against the people of the DPRK and that the UN Security Council itself is in violation of international human rights law such as the 1899 Hague regulations. Hostetter noted that it is the diplomatic initiatives of the DPRK that have led to the current positive state of inter-Korean relations and also DPRK-U.S. relations, adding that diplomacy is key to ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Need to End the Cold War Framework
In a session entitled "Northeast Asia Regional Relations," Professor Lee Jung-chul of the Institute for Peace and Reunification at Soongsil University in Seoul noted that for the longest time it was a Cold War framework that defined relations between the DPRK and ROK and that it was predicated on maintaining the U.S.-ROK military alliance. This has been hugely damaging to the Korean people in their fight for peace and reunification. He noted that previous south Korean governments took the attitude that to have peace on the Korean Peninsula "you prepare for war," i.e., a second Korean War. He stated that the current Moon administration is taking the position that to have peace "you prepare for peace," and this has created a new situation on the Korean peninsula
Professor Lee also noted that the efforts of the Korean people themselves are the decisive factor and they will determine their own future based on peace and reunification, not any outside force or big power politics.
Role of People-to-People Relations
The last panel of the first day of the forum discussed civil society and people-to-people projects and engagement between international NGOs and religious organizations working in the DPRK. These relations lead to understanding and appreciating the DPRK, its government and its people because the experience of those who actually work in the DPRK goes against the disinformation in the monopoly media.
One of the speakers, Dr. Kee B. Park, a U.S. physician of Korean descent who teaches at Harvard Medical School, shared his experience working in the DPRK. He expressed great admiration for the doctors and medical personnel of the DPRK for their knowledge and professionalism and the ease with which he has been able to work with them and learn from them.
The first day's sessions were followed by a reception for the participants. The special guest of honour was the new Permanent Representative of the DPRK to the UN, His Excellency Ambassador Kim Song, who thanked everyone for their support for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
During the reception, there was a cultural performance of contemporary and traditional Korean music as well as singing by the participants. Various people came forward and expressed their heartfelt appreciation and their enthusiasm for the forum and their determination to work for a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
At the end of the reception, the New York Declaration for Peace and Prosperity for Korea and the World was read out and the first day's events were brought to an end.
The next day's morning session comprised exchanges and discussion between the participants and the panelists and speakers.
The Global Peace Forum on Korea was deemed to be a resounding success by the organizers and participants. Future events will continue the discussions and actions to support the Korean people's striving for peace and reunification which will be an important contribution to peace and stability in the world.