Kim Jong-hoon, a member of South Korea’s National Assembly and co-chair of the progressive Minjung Party, led a delegation to Washington on March 20-21 to appeal to U.S. lawmakers about supporting efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. Congress and Senate should not just watch Trump’s maneuvers from the sidelines but play an active role to make sure the talks succeed in achieving genuine and lasting peace, he wrote in The Hill. The Minjung Party was borne out of the candlelight revolution that unseated former President Park Geun-hye and is composed of workers, farmers and the urban poor.
In a meeting with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Kim urged the senator to take the lead in building support for a successful summit:
No matter the motive for President Trump’s decision to meet with Kim Jong Un, dialogue is better than war. Military tension on the Korean peninsula had reached a feverish pitch last year, and real fear of impending war was shared by all Koreans, whether in the north or south. Leaders in Washington and the American people need to call on Trump to negotiate in good faith.
Senator Sanders expressed support for “peace talks between North Korea and the United States,” and the two lawmakers agreed to work together to facilitate dialogue between lawmakers of South Korea and the United States for a peaceful resolution of the U.S.-North Korea conflict.
Representative Kim also met with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who also expressed support for the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit. “Dialogue is the best path to peace,” she said and discussed the false missile alert that had caused terror among residents of Hawaii earlier this year. The two lawmakers agreed that the people of Korea and Hawaii share a stake in resolving the current crisis peacefully. Congresswoman Gabbard said she will introduce a House resolution in support of the upcoming North Korea-U.S. summit.
Representative Kim also met with Congressman Jim McGovern and Congressman Dwight Evans, who both agreed to support the peace process in Korea.
Representative Kim also met with Reverend Jesse Jackson. The two leaders released a joint statement in support of the upcoming peace talks, and Reverend Jackson agreed to travel to South Korea in the near future to meet with members of the National Assembly and civil society organizations to discuss joint efforts for peace.
Representative Kim also met with peace activists in Washington and New York. He thanked them for their solidarity for peace in Korea. For the grandmothers fighting against the U.S. THAAD system in the village of Soseongri, he said, “Let us work together and redouble our efforts to establish a lasting peace system on the Korean Peninsula.”
Candlelight, Once Again, for Peace
Ahead of the Key Resolve Foal Eagle U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises scheduled to begin on April 1, anti-war and peace activists in South Korea are taking to the streets to demand an end to the war games. Although the United States and South Korea had previously indicated that they may reduce the scale of this year’s exercises, they seem to have decided to move ahead with a similar number of troops as in previous years.
“People’s Action to Oppose War and Realize Peace” — a coalition of 40 civil society groups — held a press conference near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on March 21. They demanded the U.S. stop its war exercises ahead of the upcoming summit between the United States and North Korea–just as North Korea has promised to freeze its nuclear and missile tests as long as talks continue. In order for the peace talks to continue, they said, the U.S. and North Korea need to cooperate and create an environment conducive to a peace-building process. This, they argued, is why it is essential to stop the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises immediately.
The press conference was followed by a mass demonstration for peace on March 24. The “Korean Candlelight for Peace” rally took place in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza, where millions had gathered the previous year to demand the ouster of former president Park Geun-hye and restoration of democracy in South Korea. One year after Park’s impeachment, the people of South Korea now aim to turn their candlelights for democracy into candlelights for peace.
Hundreds of participants from over 80 different peace organizations and faith communities converged at the plaza to call for an end to the Korean War and the seventy year-old division of the Korean Peninsula. Residents of Seongju, who have been fighting to remove the U.S.-deployed THAAD anti-missile system from Korea, were also part of the demonstration.