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Korean Peace Treaty Campaign FAQ

1) Why do we need a peace treaty? Isn’t the Korean War over?

The Korean War is not over.  No peace treaty was ever signed.
The fighting ended in 1953, but only an armistice was signed – a temporary measure to end the conflict.  Fighting can resume at any time.

2) What’s the problem with leaving things the way they are?

The danger of even “accidental” war on the peninsula is high because of the number of troops, weapons and bases in close proximity. Nearly a million troops - South Korean, North Korean and U.S. soldiers, are arrayed on the two sides of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), with hi-tech weaponry on numerous bases. We came close to war during both the Bush and Clinton administrations, as U.S. preemptive strikes were threatened in 1994 and again in 2006 over the possibility of North Korea developing nuclear weapons. And although there have been recent decreases in the  numbers of American troops stationed in South Korea, the U.S. is increasing the size and capabilities of bases like Camp Humphreys in Pyongtaek, south of Seoul.  Furthermore, the U.S. and South Korea, along with Japan have recently announced stepped up joint military exercises to “maintain regional stability.”

Millions of Korean people have been separated from our families and homeland due to the national division.  (10 million South Koreans – no less than 1/4 of the population - have separated family members in the north.) Fifty-years of division are long enough. It’s time to bring down the wall that divides us and reunite families.

3) Who benefits from perpetual division?

Perpetual military standoff serves to justify continued military build-up on both sides and a never-ending arms race. In 2006, the United States and South Korea agreed on a plan to change the role of U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK) from a defensive posture against North Korea towards a more flexible, mobile, and rapidly deployable force for the wider Asia-Pacific region.  The United States, which is primarily concerned with containing the rising power of China, points to the military standoff with North Korea as justification for its continued presence on the Korean peninsula.  This, in turn, serves to bolster the military hawks in North Korea, which continues to develop its nuclear capabilities.  Defense contractors also stand to gain from this arrangement.  South Korea is the world’s fifth largest importer of U.S. arms, and South Korean conglomerates, such as Hyundai and Samsung, rank among the world’s top weapons manufacturers.  As we plunge deeper into a global economic crisis, we can’t afford to continue to waste productive resources into war-making.  We need to challenge the power of war-making institutions and call on our governments to redirect resources to create jobs and housing, and provide education and healthcare, not to perpetuate an endless arms race.

4) Why try to achieve a peace treaty now?

The U.S. has been locked in a cold war mentality on the issue of North Korea since it came into existence – a mere 60 years ago.  There were solid steps taken towards improving relations towards the end of the Clinton administration, with President Clinton meeting with North Korean Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveling to North Korea to meet with President Kim Jong Il in 2000 – but with the Bush administration, relations again re-froze.  By 2002, President Bush had labeled North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.”  Only this past year have there been signs of a new thaw – as Washington has been holding direct discussions with North Korea (after years of publicly agreeing only to multi-lateral talks) and President Bush finally removed North Korea from the list of states sponsoring terrorism.  With the historic election of President Obama, who backs diplomacy and direct negotiations, the opportunity to achieve real peace, and to develop a new U.S.-Korea relationship – is within reach.

5) What steps are needed to achieve a peace treaty?

Steps towards reconciliation have already started to happen between North and South Korea since the historic summit of 2000, when leaders of both countries met for the first time ever,and then again with the summit of 2007.  While there have been some setbacks with the conservative Lee Myung Bak presidency, the overall trend towards reconciliation has been set.

For the U.S. and North Korea, we believe that U.S. should use aid and leverage to start to build a relationship of trust while ameliorating the severe humanitarian crisis that afflicts North Korea, then to work towards negotiations to draw up a peace treaty – that this time includes South Korea (which was not included in the original armistice agreement).   On the U.S. side, in order to get a peace treaty signed, at least the “advice and consent” of the Senate would be needed, and then ratification by the President.  But it will take public interest and effort to get this issue on the presidential priority list, and to begin to dismantle and challenge the past 60 years of “cold war” and “red scare” mentality that has been embedded in U.S. mainstream media.

6) But there’s a lot about North Korea that I don’t know about and that I’m concerned about – especially around human rights and its potential nuclear capability.  Shouldn’t that be dealt with first?

Our position is that in order to be able to know more about North Korea and to be able to effect any changes there, we have to have a condition of peace with North Korea.  Then, many things are possible.

North Korea is most concerned about its own security and sovereignty, and for many years, has been pressing for normalized relations with the U.S.  The US has resisted, listing a series of issues that stand in the way, from nuclear inspections to human rights.  North Korea has maintained its right to defend itself, including the development of nuclear weapons because of the US’s persistent hostility.  Without moves towards peace and normalization, there is no persuasive rationale for North Korea to reduce its arsenal or consider other social changes. More and more experts, scholars, former US officials and grassroots groups have been calling for a peace treaty, citing the lack of one as a leading obstacle to progress in dealing with North Korea.