Peacebuilding through Advocacy and Diplomacy

By Jessica Carey, international affairs intern at the MCC U.S. Washington Office

In the days following the summit in Hanoi between the United States and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea), the Korea Peace Network (KPN) met with congressional offices in Washington, D.C. to advocate for ongoing diplomatic efforts and legislation that supports peace on the Korean Peninsula. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is a founding member of KPN, a coalition of civil society groups and individuals dedicated to promoting humanitarian access, peacebuilding and reconciliation for Koreans on the Peninsula and in the U.S.

Faith leads us to a broader view of God’s kingdom and calls us to participate in the reconciling work of God. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The conflict between North Korea, the U.S., and South Korea presents an opportunity to put faith into practice, seeking wholeness and restoration for all.

A cook prepares a meal using MCC canned meat at a provincial pediatric hospital in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK)*. The hospital cooks like using the canned meat for soup, mixing the meat into broth with vegetables, like cabbage, and fermented bean paste, a traditional ingredient for soup broth. MCC sent 520 cartons of canned meat in 2017 and is exploring more ways to partner with pediatric hospitals in DPRK where most of the patients are children under four, accompanied by their parents. The canned meat is used to primarily support children with digestive problems and nursing mothers during their stay in the hospital.
The canned meat is convenient for the hospital staff to prepare because it is fully cooked. Children eating canned meat are able to thoroughly absorb the food and receive all the nutrition. A container of canned meat was sent in June 2018 for the hospitals.
*Names and locations withheld for security reasons.

 

Hostilities between the U.S. and DPRK persist due to an ongoing war that never officially ended. Beginning in 1950, the Korean War emerged as a proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite the signing of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, there has never been a formal declaration ending the Korean War and, for those living on the Peninsula, the tension is palpable. The U.S. played an essential role in stirring up unrest in the region, but now has a significant opportunity to take steps toward peace and reconciliation.

Within the past several months, South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, has urged President Trump to make an official end-of-war declaration, which Moon deems vital in progressing toward ultimate denuclearization on the Peninsula. As President Trump has taken a new diplomatic approach with Kim Jong-Un, the United States is uniquely positioned to lay the foundation for peace and reconciliation, striving for the end of this almost 70-year conflict.

Congressman Ro Khanna has introduced House Resolution 152, calling for a formal end of the war — a significant first step in securing a nuclear agreement. Along with expressing support for this resolution, and encouraging the introduction of a corresponding resolution in the Senate, KPN also spoke with lawmakers about supporting a peace agreement between the U.S. and DPRK and protecting exemptions from sanctions for humanitarian work.

MCC has maintained a presence in North Korea for over 20 years, providing food and assistance to orphanages, pediatric hospitals and tuberculosis rest homes. While humanitarian access became increasingly challenging in 2018, as the administration has tried to increase pressure on North Korea to negotiate, there has been a positive shift this year with both the U.N. and the U.S. government providing exemptions for humanitarian work. MCC is one of a handful of U.S. NGOs advocating for humanitarian work to be protected from the ebb and flow of politics.

Put faith into action and contact your representative today about supporting House Resolution 152 and to express further support for diplomatic and humanitarian efforts that work to promote lasting peace through reconciliation. 

 

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