What Games are they playing?

The International Conference for a Peaceful Korean Peninsula and Peaceful Olympics discussion and to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) border city of Cheorwon.

The conference, attended by 150 people. was held near infamous Tunnel #2, from January 31 to February 2, and sponsored by the YMCA of South Korea.

The conference for peace was tied to the Winter Olympic Games, which opened on Friday, February 9 at Pyeongchang, a two-hour drive from our conference site.

Delegates at the conference agreed that they will:

1) Actively support North Korea's participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the subsequent resumption of the inter-Korean dialogue and exchanges;

2) Strongly demand the commencement of unconditional dialogue and negotiations between the other countries involved, including bilateral talks between the U.S. and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK);

3) Urge countries of the world including the U.S. to lift economic sanctions on the DPRK immediately as such a measure only negatively affects ordinary people in North Korea;

4) Demand the replacement of the Armistice Agreement, which as signed 65 years ago, with a Peace Treaty;

5) Demand the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in line with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN);

6) Demand the resumption of inter-Korean families reunions and Mount Kumgang tourism and to reopen the Kaesong industrial complex, the operation of which has thus far has been halted by the South and North Korean governments.

Four themes were discussed at the conference: 

- The role of sports in bringing peace to the region 

- Sustainable peace regime and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula

Women in the peace process 

- Cooperation between peace and cultural movements

One of the highlights of the conference was going into the civilian-controlled access area next to the South Korean DMZ embankments. Located in the DMZ controlled access area is the Border Peace School, a private initiative for international graduate students to study peacemaking for three years in the heart of an area needing peace. The school currently has three students -- one each from Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo and the United States with more students arriving in the month. They study and do practical work in the area around the DMZ during their time there.

Dr. Jiseok Jung has been the school director for seven years.

We joined the students and faculty of the Border Peace School in their daily walk up Pilgrimage Hill just outside the DMZ control zone in a reflective spirit to overlook into North Korea and conduct a ceremony for peace on the Korean peninsula.

I brought our Veterans for Peace and Women Cross the DMZ "No war on North Korea" banner from our actions in Honolulu! Holding the banner there with North Korea behind us -- in the extreme cold reminded me of the horrific three-year Korean war in which so many civilians and military of 20 countries were killed or froze to death.

The conference opened with Mimi Han of YWCA and Women Cross DMZ, Dan Jasper of American Friends Service Committee, Jeremy Courtney of Preemptive Love Coalition in Iraq and Wansang Han, former deputy prime minister of South Korea and conference organizer, appealing for peace and dialogue on the Korean peninsula, not war.

Dan Jasper's excellent Opening Address for the Conference is here.

In the Women and Peacemaking panel, Ahn Kim Jeong Ae of Women Making Peace told the history of meetings of North and South Korean women over the years when the political atmosphere permitted.

I told of women at the meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver and women in peacemaking around the world. Panelists and moderator SungEun Kim of Women Making Peace and Mimi Han of YWCA were a part of the 2015 Women Cross DMZ. Our South Korean friends met our international group as we came across the DMZ into South Korea in May 2015.

We ended the three-day conference back in Seoul where our delegation conducted a press conference in the South Korean National Assembly press room.

Dan Jasper of the American Friends Service Committee spoke of the terrible effects of sanctions on humanitarian programs to North Korea, citing AFSC's 35-year agricultural program. He also spoke of the desire to have divided Korean families reunited including those of Korean Americans.

With 29 years in the U.S. military, I spoke on the lack of necessity of massive U.S.-ROK military exercises as the militaries have been practicing war for decades. Therefore, a continuation of suspension of these war games will cause no lessening of national security for either South Korea or the United States. Continuing military war games are solely for intimidation purposes. I also asked South Korea to pressure its ally the U.S. to send a letter to the DPRK to formally request the return of the remains of 124 U.S. servicemen from the Korean War that the DPRK was ready to return on receipt of a “letter for return” on humanitarian grounds.

Retired Mongolian Ambassador to the United Nations Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, head of the international Blue Banner Initiative for a nuclear-free Mongolia, spoke of the important role of small and medium-sized states in challenging nuclear weapons.

The conference ended with our delegation meeting with two National Assembly members including Shim Jae Kwon, the deputy head of the Foreign Affairs committee who strongly supports dialogue with North Korea.

The International Peace Conference for a Peaceful Korean Peninsula and Olympic Peace was an important statement of civil society in South Korea and around the world for dialogue -- not war -- to resolve the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

The YMCA South Korea conference organizers have called for a second International Peace Conference of civil society to be held in Pyongyang, North Korea, in July.

Ann Wright is a 29-year U.S. army/army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand people during the civil war in Sierra Leone. She is most noted for having been one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in direct protest of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Wright was also a passenger on the Challenger 1, which along with the Mavi Marmara, was part of the Gaza flotilla. 

This story first appeared in opednews.com

Image: Ann Wright

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