News Archive
Dec 1, 2010 - Taking the Women's Road to Peace on the Korean Peninsula: A Report on the Northeast Asia Women's Peace Conference
Peace Boat US and the Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) of the George Washington University in Washington, DC co-hosted a four-hour meeting on December 1, 2010, as part of the annual Northeast Asian Women's Peace Conference. The main event of this conference for 2010 took place in Seoul on October 5.

A diverse group of stakeholders from Washington, DC - universities, think tanks and NGOs – participated in this event, which was also joined by a delegation of the Global Partnership of the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) Northeast Asia, of which Peace Boat is Secretariat. The agenda for the meeting included presentations on the conditions of women in North Korea as well as an analysis of the Yeonpyeong Island incident between the two Koreas last November. Following the presentations, participants discussed these issues as well as next steps that can be taken in order to further the women's road to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Linda J. Yarr, PISA's director, opened the session. The program quickly moved to an update on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula with presentations by Yu Chong-Ae, consultant to academic institutions and NGOs and Jung Gyunglan, Chair of the Policy Committee of Women Making Peace in South Korea.

Yu Chong-Ae sought to broaden our understanding of North Korea and to focus on the conditions for ordinary people in that country. Today, only 18.8 % of goal production is being met domestically. Agriculture constitutes 21% of GDP and it is not adequate to meet even basic nutrition requirements of the population. Ms Yu emphasized that there is a very strong cultural imperative that holds women responsible for providing food for their households. Given the straightened circumstances of most families, and the need for women to ensure food for, in turn, son, husband, daughter and lastly, herself, malnutrition is rife among women. Consequently, Ms Yu recommends that humanitarian assistance focus on agriculture, particularly through the agricultural cooperative in which women often exercise leadership positions. Areas in the North and Northeast of the country, distant from the Chinese border, are especially impoverished and should be the focus of attention.

Turning to the political and security aspects of the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Jung Gyunglan traced the history of the disputed inter-Korea maritime demarcation line in the Yellow Sea, using maps that located the contested and therefore perilous seas between the so-called Northern Limit Line (NLL) drawn by the UN Command in the aftermath of the Korean War and the more southerly line advocated by North Korea later in 1990s. Consequently, North Korea brands military exercises by South Korea in the sea between the two lines as sources of provocation and as justification for shelling South Korean citizens on Yeongpyeong Island, resulting in deaths of two civilians and two military personnel. Given the current stalemate in the Six-Party Talks process, Ms Jung outlined a three-stage approach to building a peace regime for the Korean Peninsula. Her recommendations target officials in North and South Korea, and also consider roles for civil society groups in South Korea and around the world.

The program next shifted to a committee-of-the-whole discussion to develop an action plan for measures that could follow-on from the Third Northeast Asia Women's Peace Conference which was held in Seoul in October, 2010. Narae Lee, International Coordinator of Peace Boat US, served as facilitator, with participation by each of the attendees.

The discussion was organized into three areas: humanitarian concerns, resumption of dialogue and women's contribution to the peace process.

With respect to humanitarian issues, the group recommended that research be done to produce a briefing document on the health and welfare of women and children, particularly with respect to nutrition. Research can also be undertaken to calculate the gender composition of staff engaged in providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea. Given women's role in agriculture, this sector should be targeted for technical assistance, training and other means to help boost production. Also, the group suggested that a media campaign should be launched to introduce to the general public the human face of North Korean women, their everyday lives and needs for humanitarian aid.

To address the need to resume dialogue on the establishment of peace for the Korean Peninsula, a number of propositions were advanced. First, Professor Myagmar D. of The Mongolian Institute of Geopolitical Studies and GPPAC Ulaanbaatar Focal Point offered that Mongolia's good relations with both North and South Korea position it to serve as a host for a meeting of representatives from the Six-Party Talks countries. Yoshioka Tatsuya, Co-Founder and Director of Peace Boat, strongly advocated people-to-people contacts and advised moving away from the "macho language" that dominates discourse on these issues on both sides of the 38th parallel. As he acknowledged the cultural importance of 'face,' Mr Yoshioka said it is critical to develop an alternative discourse to promote peaceful resolution of conflict. Consequently, it was proposed that a next step would be to launch an ongoing "Northeast Asia Women's Peace Initiative" and form a North American Steering Committee to engage in public awareness activities utilizing new media and outreach methods.

During the final discussion on women's contribution to peace processes, participants spoke of the need to link up with groups that are engaged in advocacy around Security Council Resolution 1325 that calls for women's participation in all matters of peace and security. It will be important to draw on lessons learned from other peace processes underway in other conflict zones around the world. In any event, keeping the basic question, "Where are the women?" in mind will help to bring women to the table in all decision-making sessions. The Women's Communication Network can be utilized to share information and best practices. The group discussed the possibility of holding Women's Six Party Talks in Ulaanbaatar, or participating in other meetings or conferences around the world attended by North Korean women and proposing side meetings in conjunction with that conference to engage North Korean women in dialogue.

For the final session, Jolynn Shoemaker, Executive Director of Women in International Security (WIIS), gave a comprehensive presentation about women's participation in peace processes worldwide following the adoption of SC 1325. She noted that women utilize diverse tactics to have an impact on the ground in conflict or post-conflict zones. In some cases, they advocate from the standpoint of women's traditional roles, while in others they adopt the vocabulary of traditional security to frame the issue as an "operational imperative to achieve the mission of security on the ground." To get beyond the 'token woman' stage and develop a more effective critical mass of women in positions where they can have an impact, attention must be paid to building a pipeline to move qualified women into visible positions and serving as role models. Women's advocacy groups need to learn to craft concise and effective messages to the public and constituencies of power. Jolynn notes that efforts to bring women into the peace process for the Korean Peninsula are timely.

For further information or an update on this initiative, please contact Narae Lee, International Coordinator of Peace Boat US at narae[a]

Documents for download
GPPAC Northeast Asia Statement for Peace on the Korean Peninsula