2003 The Year of Independence and Peace
Currently in South Korea, an acute tension is emerging related to the issues concerning nuclear weapons in North Korea. Various sectors are asking for a peaceful solution, in addition to continuing the candlelight demonstration everyday and asking for re-establishment of South Korea-U.S. relations through revising the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
As this is the 50th year since the armistice of the Korean War, the Pan-Korean Committee on the girls killed by an U.S armoured vehicle (PCGV) and Korean NGOs declared 2003 to be the Year of Independence and Peace, to declare our perspective on anti-war, peace, and reciprocal equality. On January 13 (Monday), through a press conference for the national and foreign press, the PCGV and Korean NGOs released this statement:
2003 The Year of Independence and Peace
New Year’s Statement by the Korean Civil Society (January 13, 2003)
A new year is dawning on the Korean peninsula amidst unprecedented tension and hope. Korea, marking the 50th year of the ceasefire from the Korean War, remains the only divided land steeped in the Cold War in the world, the scars and wounds of the War are still very much current.
North of the dividing line the land is beleaguered by isolation and starvation; the tension between North Korea and the U.S. over the alleged nuclear weapons development program that re-ignited last year has spilt over into the new year, drawing the entire peninsula into a renewed crisis, with the breakout of a war seemingly just around the corner.
On the other hand, the hope for change has taken root and is set to gain strength. The momentum of peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas has soared to new levels over the last few years. And the aspiration of the people to fend off the likelihood of war and destructive confrontation from the peninsula has risen to new heights. The people of South Korea have clearly articulated, through a series of candle-lit vigils and rallies that erupted in the wake of the deaths of two middle-school girls who were run over by an armoured vehicle of the U.S. military, the will to establish a new Korea-U.S. relationship based on reciprocity and equality and to oppose the violence of militarism and war.
We declare 2003, which marks the 50th year of the ceasefire in the Korean War, as a Year of Self-Determination and Peace, and have set forth our position.
This year should be devoted to laying a new foundation of Korea-U.S. relations based on equality, paved through the punishment of those responsible for the killings of two middle-school girls and the amendment of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two countries.
The deaths of the two middle-school girls who were run over by a U.S. military armoured vehicle last June, and the subsequent handling of the case, has brought out the inequality inherent in Korea-U.S. relations. The U.S. Armed Forces in the Republic of Korea thought fit not to find anyone responsible for the deaths of the two schoolgirls. In reality, the deaths of the two girls are just one of many similar incidences, which have largely gone unnoticed in Korea. All of these cases have been swept aside in a succinct fashion by U.S. military authorities – without even a pretence of transparency or fairness – for the comfort of the culprits by pulling the rank of U.S. military personnel.
The protest that erupted from the Korean people stems not from a spur of the moment emotion but from accumulated anger and frustration, which can only be addressed by fundamental readjustment of Korea-U.S. relations. A comprehensive overhaul of the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which stands in the way of justice in the handling of the killing of the two girls, is a minimum prerequisite towards this end.
We cannot accept measures for improvement in the operation of the SOFA worked out between the governments of the U.S. and Korea. The improvements do not address the fundamental inequality inherent in SOFA, nor can they prevent the recurrence of similar incidents. They fall far short of the demand for a fair and equal Korea-U.S. relationship put forward by the great masses of Korean people who have carried on the candle-lit demonstrations. We shall continue with the peaceful protest until those responsible for the deaths of two schoolgirls are brought to justice, U.S. President George W. Bush makes a formal and public apology, and SOFA is revised fundamentally.
We call on the U.S. government and media to address the Korean people’s protests with greater clarity and sincerity. The dismissal of the protests as senseless emotional outbursts or as banal nationalism by some of the government officials and media practitioners fails to grasp the rising tide of aspiration for peace and sovereignty not only in the Korean peninsula but also throughout the world. The U.S. government and media need to recognise the just and reasonable demand calling for a redress of the inequality in the Korea-U.S. relationship and the privilege bestowed on the U.S. troops in Korea.
In 2003, the conflict that has escalated over the issue of the alleged nuclear weapons development program of North Korea must be dissolved once for all, in a package arrangement, through dialogue and negotiation, to clear away the cloud of war hanging over the Korean peninsula, and to usher in a new era of peace on the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia.
The Korean peninsula, which remains the only divided land gripped in the Cold War, has, over the last few years, taken important and momentous steps towards historic changes to finally rise out of and put behind it the half century of confrontation and hostilities. The historic inter-Korea summits and June 15 Joint Declaration instituted an entirely new framework of reconciliation and cooperation between South and North Koreas, signalling the beginning of the end to hostile inter-Korea relations. They paved the way for the October 12 Joint Communique between North Korea and the U.S., and the North Korea-Japan summit meeting, which have given energy for peace in the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia.
Despite considerable changes and progress, the Korean peninsula is still overshadowed by a serious threat of war. The refusal to engage in dialogue and negotiations and the suspension of crude oil supply by the U.S. Bush Administration that followed the October visit to North Korea by Kelly, and the subsequent allegations of North Korean nuclear weapons development program, the North Korean decision to lift the freeze on nuclear facilities, and its declaration to withdraw from the Non-proliferation Treaty, have rekindled tension between North Korea and the U.S., setting the scene for the eruption of a serious crisis.
In addressing the current crisis, we cannot but point out the inherent dangers of the unilateral foreign policy posture of the Bush Administration. The U.S., despite possessing the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, has consistently resisted nuclear arms reduction and has refused to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It has failed to live up to security guarantees towards North Korea contained in the Geneva accord and refused to rule out a pre-emptive nuclear attack on North Korea.
The Bush Administration has unilaterally turned its back to the achievements made in North Korea-U.S. relations by the preceding Clinton Administration, nullifying their progress. At the same time, it has wilfully stood in the way of the efforts of the South Korean government to improve inter-Korean relations. It reverted to a hostile posture towards North Korea, defining North Korea as a part of the Axis of Evil and setting the scene for the inflammation of tension between the U.S. and North Korea.
In reality, the U.S. has failed to present clear evidence of its accusation concerning the nuclear weapons development program of North Korea. It was set on unilateral retaliation against North Korea, refusing to engage in any kind of dialogue, provoking the North Korean response lifting the freeze on the nuclear facilities.
We are deeply concerned by a series of North Korean measures, starting with the lifting of the freeze on the nuclear facilities in Youngbyun, the expulsion of the IAEA inspectors, and most recently, the declaration of withdrawal from the Non-proliferation Treaty in the midst of the rising suspicion surrounding the uranium enrichment program. The declaration of withdrawal from the NPT, coming on the heals of a new round of efforts by the governments of South Korea and neighbouring countries to prioritise dialogue and to refrain from provocative measures, is most regrettable. The action is in all the countries involved a cause for concern that North Korea is intent on rushing to nuclear weapons development through the reactivation of various nuclear facilities. In pointing out that a series of actions taken by North Korea, leading up to the declaration of withdrawal from the NPT and undermining the international good will which has sustained the efforts to enhance dialogue and the very efforts of the Korean people and all the forces of peace in the world working for the peaceful resolution of the current problems, we call on North Korea to reverse its decision to leave the NPT regime. The North Korean authorities must realize that the hard-line measures may give rise to an undesirable turn of events, precipitating a war on the Korean peninsula.
We call for a nuclear weapon-free Korean peninsula and, as a part of this vision, oppose the development, deployment, and use of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. At the same time, we oppose reliance on war or use of force or blockade as a means of dealing with any problem. The greatest victims of any war in the Korean peninsula would be the 70 million people living in this land. We shall not allow any moves, measures, and consideration for a war totally disregarding the will of the people. A comprehensive denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the resolution of the tension between North Korea and the U.S. over nuclear weapons development can only be obtained by negotiations in good faith between North Korea and the U.S. We call for unconditional dialogue and simultaneous reciprocal action between North Korea and the U.S. for the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.
We note that there are signs of initial efforts towards dialogue, such as the U.S. governments indications of its readiness to return to dialogue on this issue, and the contacts between representatives of the North Korean authorities and Governor Richardson of New Mexico. We feel there is a room for encouragement in the fact that the North Korean statement points to a possibility of resolution through negotiation, as it expresses a commitment not to pursue nuclear development despite the withdrawal from the NPT, and readiness to subject itself to a verification regime acceptable to the U.S. if the U.S. brings its hostile posture and nuclear threat against North Korea to an end. We call on each side to build on these openings to institute rigorous dialogue and negotiations between the two to bring tension concerning the alleged North Korean nuclear development program to a peaceful resolution.
The first step in negotiation should take the form of simultaneous withdrawal of the decision, on the part of the U.S., to suspend the supply of crude oil, and on the part of North Korea, to revoke its decision to lift the freeze on nuclear facilities and to withdraw from the NPT. What should ensue is a package settlement through a comprehensive negotiation. The U.S. should articulate the commitment of non-aggression towards North Korea, conclude a peace treaty, remove North Korea from the list of nations supporting terrorism, and lift economic sanctions, which sets the framework guaranteeing North Korea s survival and security. In turn, North Korea should institute a clear renouncement of nuclear intentions demonstrated through a verification regime acceptable to the U.S., and the renouncement of its involvement in the development and proliferation of missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.
We call on President Kim Dae-jung and President-elect Roh Moo-hyun to resolutely stand against any measures of blockade or war that would escalate tension in the Korean peninsula and to place efforts to facilitate dialogue and negotiations between North Korea and the U.S. to bring the issue to a peaceful and mutually acceptable resolution. We call on the government of South Korea to continue on with economic cooperation and humanitarian support of North Korea, which is plagued by food and energy shortages.
We call on Japan, China, Russia, the EU, and all other concerned countries to support efforts for a peaceful resolution of tension between North Korea and the U.S. and to continue with humanitarian support of and economic cooperation with North Korea.
In 2003, all peace-loving and peace-making forces of the world need to build global solidarity to defend the world from unjust wars and threats of wars that are raging in various corners of the world, such as Iraq.
We have learned from the war in Afghanistan, which began in the name of a war against terrorism, that a war, in whatever form, is extreme violence against the lives of innocent people, leaving behinds deep wounds, scars, and ruins.
Another war is looming over the horizon even before the dust of the previous war has settled. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has embarked on an unprecedented pursuit for unilateral hegemony. The U.S. has singled out the Hussein regime of Iraq as a grave threat against world security and peace through its development of weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism, and is methodically inching towards a war. Iraq, however, has accepted compliance with the UN Security Council resolution 1441 unconditionally, and has allowed UN inspectors to undertake a comprehensive weapons inspection. The Iraqi government has, in December of last year, submitted to the UN a voluminous report on the development and possession of weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration of the U.S., however, has already, before the conclusion of a verification process, ruled that Iraq possesses dangerous weapons of mass destruction, in its justification for the war drive.
The U.S. Bush Administration has failed to present any concrete evidence of Iraq’s threat against the U.S., or any other country for that matter. Instead, it claims the Hussein regime has proven weapons of mass destruction and is intent on removing the regime. The blind and deaf rush to war against Iraq cannot be explained apart from the U.S.’s own political and economic interests.
We oppose the war against Iraq that is being pursued without any justifiable reason. The international society must refuse cooperating with the unilateral U.S. war drive. We call on the Korean government to refuse requests for financial contributions or military participation. We will work in solidarity with all peace forces in opposing the war against Iraq.
In 2003, let us light candles of solidarity for peace, mutual respect, and co-existence in all parts of the Korean peninsula and the world.
The candles we lit last year were symbols of our aspiration for co-existence, mutual respect, equality, and peace. Our anger and protest were not just over the deaths of two schoolgirls, Meeseon and Hyosoon. We know hundreds, thousands, and millions of Meeseons and Hyosoons may die in the course of immoral military manoeuvres and war. We share their fear, pain, and anger. We seek solidarity of all pro-peace forces in our struggle to tackle the realities we find in the Korean peninsula, and we declare our solidarity with all people struggling for peace against various wars around the world and the hegemonic wars waged by the unilateral Bush Administration in the U.S.
2003. 1. 13
Pan-Korean Committee on the girls killed by an U.S armoured vehicle (PCGV) and Korean NGOs
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