Time to End the Korean War: Lessons from the Past

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Time to End the Korean War: Lessons from the Past

Maj. Gen. Blackshear Bryan, left, exchanges credentials with Communist Lt. Gen. Lee Sang Cho at the opening session of the Military Armistice Commission in Panmunjom, the border village between the two Koreas on July 27, 1953. (Photo: File/AP)

During a break at a July Washington forum by the Korean Economic Institute of America, South Korean National Assembly Chairman of the Armed Services Committee told Newsmax reporter John Gizzi that he hoped that the US/Iran nuclear deal could provide “lessons” to North Korea that an agreement to keep from developing a nuclear bomb in return for ending of sanctions can be desirable.

On the other hand, the Chair of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, in opposing the Iran nuclear deal, claims that the "failure" of the US/DPRK nuclear agreements should be a "lesson" for us not to make a deal with Iran.

If we are to learn "lessons" from the past, we must remember the whole history.  First of all, the US is still at war with North Korea, and we have never taken our first use of nuclear weapons off the table.  It is not unreasonable for them to call their nuclear weapons program "a deterren."

We must remember that from 1994 until 2002 there were IAEA inspectors in North Korea, and they were not making bombs.  North Korea pulled out of the nuclear agreement because President Bush refused to cooperate with Nobel Peace Prize winner, South Korean President Kim DaeJung’s policy of constructive engagement, and Bush called North Korea part of the “axis of evil”. North Korea learned from the Iraq war what happens to a nation without nuclear weapon if the US attacks. No matter how stiff the sanctions, North Korea believes they must not give up their nuclear weapons program.

President Bush finally realized that without a nuclear deal North Korea had the freedom to develop more and more nuclear weapons. He sent Christopher Hill to negotiate. An agreement was signed that not only put back the IAEA inspectors in North Korea, but also destroyed the nuclear reactor.  With tensions relieved, in 2007 the Korean heads of state had another very productive summit, and a process was put into place that could have brought about peace and reconciliation. There was real hope in Korea.

However, all progress came to a halt in 2008 when the new South Korean President Lee announced in his inaugural speech his "get tough on North Korea policy." He could just taste that North Korea would collapse, and South Korea could take control. That ended North Korea’s willingness to abide by the deal.  Since then there have been no negotiations, and North Korea is again free to build bombs and test missiles.  When national security is at stake it is clear sanctions don’t work.

From the past successes and failures, the "lesson" that we must learn is that one cannot make an agreement and expect the other side to keep their part unless we also keep the spirit of the agreement.  

Seventy years ago Korea was divided by the US and the Soviet Union without consulting any Koreans. Since division was unacceptable to Koreans north and south, both thought they could end the division by military force.  But both learned that war was not the answer.  Four million people died, and 70 percent of them were civilians.  Thirty-six thousand US soldiers were killed. And the country was still left divided. Ten million family members were permanently separated. Both sides suffered oppression in the name of national security.  Both sides must fear war and must use their national resources for defense. 

South Korea spends as much on the military as the entire GNP of North Korea, and the Korean peninsula has become the most militarized place on earth. War is unthinkable!

There was a provision in the 1953 Armistice that there should be negotiations for a peace treaty.  We have ignored that requirement. Seven decades of military confrontation and sanctions have not made anyone safer or addressed our human rights concerns.

It is time for negotiations to end the Korean War.  In order to be successful, the negotiations cannot start by demanding that North Korea end their nuclear weapons program.  Negotiations cannot be successful unless the economic and security concerns of all parties are taken into consideration.

Wake up America. Support the three remaining Korean War veterans in Congress, Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), and Sam Johnson (R-TX), who on July 27 introduced House Resolution 384 Calling for a formal end of the Korean War. They really get it and we shouldn't miss this historic opportunity.

Dorothy Ogle

Dorothy Ogle lived for 15 years in postwar South Korea until her husband George Ogle was deported by South Korea’s military dictatorship because he prayed in public for eight innocent men who had been given the death sentence.  (All were hung in 1975)  Ms. Ogle visited North Korea in 1984 as a member of the American Friends’ Service Committee peace delegation and soon after supported the Korean peace movement as the Legislative Affairs Coordinator for the National Council of Churches  1986 Policy Statement of Peace and the Reunification of Korea.  In 2012 Dr. and Ms. Ogle published their memoirs, Our Lives in Korea and Korea in Our Lives.

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