The 2021 International Seminar on Peace in Asia and the Role of Women was held in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 25.
Background: This year’s international seminar, held in-person and virtually, was a continuation of the May 1991 conference Peace in Asia and the Role of Women. The first meeting in Tokyo brought together women leaders from South Korea, North Korea, and Japan. The second meeting took place on Nov. 25, 1991, in Seoul, and 15 women representatives from North Korea crossed the DMZ to attend the meeting. In September 1992, 30 women representatives from South Korea went to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. In April 1993, they had their fourth meeting back in Tokyo.
Then in early 2000, representatives from South and North Korea and Japan actively participated in the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery held in Tokyo. The International Organizing Committee, chaired by representatives from South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, drafted the Charter of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 for the Trial of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery.
This was also the same year that South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jun-Il met in Pyongyang from June 13 to June 15. It was the first inter-Korean summit since the Korean War ended in 1953. On June 15, they adopted the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration seeking peace in the Korean peninsula.
In October of that year, in response to persistent advocacy from women’s rights groups and civil society, the UN Security Council adopted the landmark Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. This resolution calls for women’s equal participation in all UN peace and security efforts.
The peace movement continued in 2002, when 357 women representatives in South Korea, 300 women representatives in North Korea, and 20 overseas women representatives met at Mt. Kumgang in North Korea to participate in a joint event called Women, Power of Peace.
From Feb. 12–13, 2019, eight women representatives from South Korea, five from North Korea, and three from overseas again met at Mt. Kumgang. As one of the follow-up actions from this meeting, organizations from North and South Korea, along with overseas organizations, issued the Joint Statement Calling for Resolution of the Issue of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery from the Women of North and South Korea, and those Standing in Solidarity to Commemorate the Centenary of the March 1st Movement, which ran as an ad in The Washington Post on March 1, 2019, to commemorate the centenary of the March 1st Movement.
ESJF, one of the co-signers of this joint statement, helped translate the statement.
This year, eleven peace-seeking NGOs—from South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China, and Canada—co-hosted the 30th anniversary of the Women Leading Peace movement on the exact date that the North Korean women leaders crossed the DMZ to attend the second Peace in Asia and the Role of Women conference held in Seoul.
Recalling the commitments of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, they agreed to carry it out actively in Asia through various channels, including establishing a consulting body for women’s peace and security as well as addressing the climate crisis in Asia. They also voiced the necessity of including the North Korean women to this platform.
Forgotten by Eun Seo Kim
At a recent international competition, eight U.S. students received awards. The 2021 International Youth Artwork Competition was held to support the registration of “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” into the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. The competition was hosted by the Masan, Changwon, and Jinhae Civil Assembly for Japanese Military Sexual Slaves (Machangjin, for short), an organization actively involved in amplifying the voices of “comfort women” in Pusan, South Korea.
About 400 entries were submitted from across South Korea, the U.S., the Philippines, and Taiwan. A committee of fifteen judges selected student work. Out of the international entries, Eun Seo Kim (9th grade) received the second-highest award, the Autonomy award, with her painting, Forgotten. Eun Seo is a member of the Hwarang Youth Foundation.
Four members of Speaking of War received the third-highest awards, Peace awards, with their writing submission, The Memory Post. They are: Irene Oh (12th grade); Eunice Oh (12th grade); Felicia Lee (11th grade); and Raeeun Kim (11th grade).
Three other members of the Hwarang Youth Foundation received Justice awards for their writing. They are: Arissa Jeong (12th grade), We Will Remember You; Logan Byeon (11th grade), Remembrance of the “Comfort Women”; and Junhyeok Park (10th grade), “Flowers” Who Couldn’t Bloom—A Story About “Comfort Women.”
ESJF was privileged to be a co-organizer for this meaningful event, and we offer our warmest congratulations to all the awardees for their thoughtful and talented work, along with all the youth members of the Hawrang Youth Foundation and Speaking of War.
We also thank Machangjin for hosting impactful international campaigns that worked to raise awareness about registering the “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” into the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme!