July 27 Auspicious Date to Renew North Korea-US Talks

July 27 2011 marks the 58th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that officially ended the fighting of the Korean War. On July 27, 1953, parties to the Korean War, with the exception of South Korea, formerly agreed to an armistice. Further negotiations toward a peace treaty were to follow. But the needed agreement for a peace treaty continues to prove an elusive goal, even 58 years later.

This week, in an unusual and generally unexpected development, the North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Kwan and Ri Gun, head of the North American Affairs Bureau of the North Korean Foreign Ministry have arrived in New York for formal (official negotiations) and less formal (called 2nd level) talks toward determining whether there is a basis to resume the 6 party talks. Kim is to meet with Stephen Bosworth, the US Special Representative for North Korean Policy and others in New York as part of his visit. Some of the talks it is expected are to be held in conjunction with the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, as has been the practice in previous years.

In previous years, participants in the second level, unofficial, talks have included former US government officials like Henry Kissinger, academics like Leon Sigal of the Social Science Research Association and Korea Society officials like Donald P. Gregg, President Emeritus of the Korea Society. The specific individuals who will participate in the 2011 second level talks on behalf of the US or for the official negotiations, however, have not yet been formally announced.

The North Korean negotiators arrived in New York today. Reporters in hopes of some photos or remarks, swarmed nearby both at the airport, and later at the hotel near the UN.

At one point, some reporters spotted North Korea’s Ambassador to the UN, Sin Son-ho, walking up the street leaving the hotel. Reporters surrounded him while he was walking. One reporter told others she had succeeded in having a brief exchange with him. She had asked him where they would be going tomorrow. She said he responded that they didn’t know yet. They had an invitation but that the delegates who had just arrived had had a long airplane trip. They would gradually talk more to decide.

It is auspicious that they have arrived in the US the day before the 58th anniversary of the armistice agreement signed to ensure a cessation of the military hostilities, so that further political discussion could be held to set the basis for a formal peace treaty.

Unfortunately the efforts in the following months and years to solve the outstanding political issues did not succeed. It is now more than 60 years since the start of the Korean War. There is not yet a peace treaty to end the Korean war.

In honor of this occasion marking the anniversary of the Armistice, it is important to recognize that though the formal fighting of the Korean War ended with the signing of the Armistice, the hostile relations among parties to the Korean War have continued through the years. These hostile relations are demonstrated by the fact that no peace treaty has yet been agreed to. This leads to the question of why this is true and what can be done to change this situation.

Last September, in a program held at the Korea Society in New York City, Professor Steven Hugh Lee, of the University of British Columbia gave a talk as part of an all day conference on “The Korean War Today”. In his talk, Professor Lee maintained that the Korean War began before the officially accepted date of June 25,1950.Video of talk: http://www.koreasociety.org/policy/policy/the_korean_war_today.html

Other scholars make similar claims. But this is not a widely recognized perspective.

During a brief trip I made to Jeju Island in South Korea this past June, however, I saw in a graphic way, an example of why the 1945-1950 earlier period is considered as a more accurate starting date of the
Korean War.

On Jeju Island there is a very impressive museum and memorial site, the Jeju April 3 Peace Park and Museum, built to honor those who participated in the struggle for an independent Korea, and especially those who perished in the struggle and its aftermath. The April 3, 1948 rebellion (or 4.3 as it is more commonly known in South Korea) was a rebellion against the planned May 10, 1948 election in South Korea to be conducted by the United Nations which would then result in the division of Korea.

The result of the Jeju rebellion was that the election for National Assembly representatives from Jeju was prevented for a year. But the penalty was severe. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 80,000 people living in Jeju were killed mostly as a result of South Korean government military action encouraged by the US military government. This military action included a vicious scorched earth campaign and other forms of violent repression.

The Museum provides an especially well documented narrative of the events taking place in Jeju from the end of WWII through the 1950s in the struggle for an independent Korea by the citizens of Jeju.

There are campaigns in the US and elsewhere to encourage the signing of a peace treaty to officially and formally end the hostilities of the Korean War. As part of the work toward a peace treaty it would be good to see support for continuing education and research about the roots and reality of the Korean War and its continuing effects on our world.
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A version of this article originally appeared on the netizenblog at
http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2011/07/27/renewalnorth_korea-us_talks/

  by Ronda Hauben

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