SOUTH KOREA NEWS

Student protesters disrupting press conference for the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation

‘Comfort Women’ Survivors and Advocates Distraught by ‘Healing Foundation’

On July 28, a dozen South Korean university students disrupted the launching of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation – established by the South Korean government to dole out a lump-sum donation by the Japanese government to victims of sexual slavery during WWII. The students staged a protest delaying the foundation’s launch press conference for 30 minutes, after which they were forcibly removed by the police. Outside the launching ceremony, civil society organizations including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop) rallied to protest the foundation’s launch. One participant stated, “The [South Korean] government, which has sold the history [of Korean people] and its conscience for 10 billion yen, is absolutely the worst government.”

Last December, the South Korean government and the Japanese government settled on an agreement regarding the issue of the so-called “comfort women” without acknowledging the voices of survivors of sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. The December agreement yielded a proposal for the South Korean government to establish the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which would use a lump-sum donation given by the Japanese government to support comfort women victims financially. According to the agreement, the donation to the foundation would exonerate Japan from any legal responsibility for its sexual crimes during WWII. Since the agreement, comfort women survivors and civil society organizations have demanded the two governments reverse their decision.

On July 28, despite protests, the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was officially launched with its first board meeting and sign-hanging ceremony attended by the press. Leading up to the official launch of this foundation, members of civil society organizations including the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop), the Association to Support Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Survivors, and the National Peace Monument Alliance held rallies to oppose the South Korean government’s decision to launch the foundation. The organizations made a statement during a press conference on July 25 stating, “Since announcing a humiliating Dec. 28 agreement on the Japanese military comfort women issue that abandoned the victims’ demands and principles of human rights, the government has disregarded voices of opposition from the victims and citizens and [has gone] ahead with enforcement of the agreement, including the foundation’s establishment.”

On July 27, U.S. Veterans for Peace (VFP) members attended a rally outside the Japanese embassy to demand justice for comfort women. VFP member Ken Jones spoke at the rally and delivered a message of solidarity.

 

NORTH-SOUTH RELATIONS

S. Korean peace activists holding signs that read, "63 Years of Armistice, Sign a Peace Treaty Now!"

After 63 Years of Armistice, Koreans Call for End to War and Peace & Reunification

On Wednesday, July 27, on the 63rd anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice, survivors of the Korean War, civil society organizations and labor unions protested outside the American Embassy to call for an end to hostile U.S. policies against North Korea. In addition to demanding an end to  the joint U.S.-ROK war exercises and calling for talks for a peace treaty, peace activists denounced the recent U.S.-South Korean decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea as  only provoking more military conflict and war.

Despite the US and South Korean governments’ refusal to cease military provocations, 2016 has seen a few signs of hope. In particular, Koreans around the world are responding to North Korea’s proposal to convene an inter-Korean conference – for Koreans to talk about peace and reunification without foreign intervention. Since North Korea made the proposal in late June, overseas Koreans have been forming regional preparatory committees for the inter-Korean conference. In South Korea, although the government has rejected North Korea’s call, civil society organizations are calling for improvement of North-South relations through education and exchange programs. On July 28, the June 15th South Korean Committee for Peace and Reunification proposed forming a planning group to coordinate efforts in South Korea for the inter-Korean conference.

 

REGIONAL NEWS

Photo Source: Newsis

China Snubs South Korea over THAAD Decision at ASEAN Forum

At the top of the agenda of the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) were the US and South Korean governments’ controversial decision to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea and North Korea’s nuclear program.

The forum, which took place from July 24 to July 26 in Laos, showed signs of deteriorating relations between South Korea and China over the South Korean government’s approval  of the US’ THAAD deployment plan system. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho for bilateral talks on July 25 and invited South Korean reporters to cover the meeting. Wang also met with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se on July 24 and expressed his dismay at South Korea’s THAAD deployment decision- “South Korea’s recent actions have hurt mutual trust.”

On July 26, China’s Xi Jin Ping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin issued a joint statement to the UN criticizing the US’ “unilateral deployment of anti-missile systems all over the world.” The statement expressed that “[the deployment of ­anti-missile systems] is non-constructive and has negatively ­affected the global and regional strategic balance, stability and security.”

 

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