Let us pray for peace in the Korean peninsula.
Below is my reflection on the Inter-Korean Summit happening on April 27, 2018.
We all live with hope for peace.
Inter-Korean Summit and the Hope for Peace
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Korea is always on my mind.
It is my motherland. It is where I was born. My family-aunts, uncles, cousins- lives there.
When I was born in the 1960s, the country was trying to recover from Japanese colonialism and Korean War. These two historical traumas devastated the country economically, socially and spiritually.
Many trace the division of Korea to the Japanese colonization; it may not have occurred if Japanese had not occupied Korea. During the Japanese occupation from 1910-1945, many Koreans were killed, others were taken and enslaved as workers, and women, particularly young women, were taken to sexually gratify Japanese soldiers as ‘comfort women’. The negative affects of Japanese colonialism remain alive today.
With the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II, the Korean peninsula was officially divided at the 38th parallel in 1945 with the U.S. controlling the southern part of the peninsula and the Soviets controlling the north. In 1948, two distinct governments were established: one in Pyongyang with its leader being Kim Il-Sung, the other in Seoul with its leader being Syngman Rhee. North Korea, related to the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, and South Korea, related to the United States, were created.
Tensions existed between the two countries that finally led to war in 1950. The Korean War ultimately involved the United States and other UN member countries supporting the government of South Korea with troops and aid. Troops from the People’s Republic of China supported the government of North Korea. The Soviet Union provided North Korea with military and medical aid, training, and air support. An armistice agreement ended the fighting in 1953, but a peace treaty has not been signed and a state of war continues to exist on the Korean peninsula.
This division has divided families, friends and neighbors. When family members went south during the war, they believed it would be temporary and they anticipated reunification with their families they left behind. But this was not to be.
As the division between two Koreas continued, the feelings of despair, anguish and frustration deepened. Such feelings remain strong the two Koreas still live as divided countries. Since the division, there have been two Inter-Korean summits, the first in 2000 and the second in 2007. It is important that these two summits occurred as they discussed the ending of the war, the deployment of approximately two million troops at the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea, and human rights issues. The 2000 Inter-Korean summit occurred in Pyongyang on June 13 – June 15 and was led by Kim Dae-ung, the president of South Korea and Kim Jong-il who was head of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The second Inter-Korean summit occurred in June 2007 between Roh Moo-hyun, the president of South Korea and Kim Jong-il, the Chairman of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This summit adopted a declaration that promoted a three-party or four-party summit meeting to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, and active promotion of inter-Korean economic cooperation projects.
A third summit is planned for April 27, 2018 between Moon Jae-in, the current president of South Korea, and Kim Jong-un, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the Republic of Korea’s portion of the joint security area. There is much anticipation for this joint summit as there appears to be change in tune by Kim Jong-un as he also plans to meet with President Donald Trump of the United States in May.
The world is watching as this summit meeting hopes to work towards the denuclearization of the peninsula. While Kim Jong-un has indicated that North Korea will both suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down its nuclear test site, skepticism remains that he will actually give up the country’s nuclear weapons. North Korea has consistently used the weapons and the program to threaten South Korea and the world. The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has continued to legitimize their nuclear weapon of due to the continued U.S. military presence in South Korea and the joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S.
Even though many view this summit with cynicism, it is an important step towards any possibility of peace on the Korean peninsula. This Inter-Korean summit in April will surely set the tone for what happens at the May between Kim and Trump.
As Trump’s harsh rhetoric about the Wall between the U.S. and Mexico and about migrants coming to the U.S. continues, South Koreans, North Koreans, and Korean immigrants around the world are hoping that the “wall” which divides the Korean Peninsula can be torn down. Koreans live in hope. Hope that the wall of war, tension, and distrust that has separated families, friends, and neighbors and scarred the peninsula will one day be remnant of history. Hope that the Korean War can be ended, and peace can be restored, and justice can be established. Hope that this beautiful peninsula can one day be reunited.
Korea is always on my mind.