In an emergency press conference on November 10, 2020, Gyeonggi Vice Governor for Peace Lee Jae-gang protested against the UNC Command’s rejection of his request to set up a peace office in a 6-person tent in front of Dora Observatory, which overlooks the Kaesong Industrial Complex from South Korea:
“It is a terrible thing when we cannot install simple furnishings on South Korean land — something that does not involve any military purpose or any exchange of items with North Korea — without the permission of the UN Command (UNC). We can’t even enter our own land freely: we have to receive permission from the UNC merely to enter Panmunjeom. Even if we do receive permission to enter, we are forced to switch from our vehicle to UNC transportation, and be led by an English-speaking American officer working through a Korean translator. This ridiculous practice has continued for more than 67 years.”
The UNC, the US-led unified command of multinational forces that fought in the Korean War, was ushered into existence by UN Security Council Resolution 84 on July 7, 1950 which recommended that all member states providing military or other assistance in the Korean War be under US command. Today, only US troops remain stationed in South Korea, and the commander of the UNC is both the commander of the US. Forces in Korea (USFK) and the US-ROK Combined Forces command. This arrangement not only provides the US with an overwhelming level of power over Korean military affairs, but also enables it to impede or outright block the course of the inter-Korean peace process.
It is outrageous that while South Korea was obliged to cover over 90% of $11 billion cost of building Camp Humphrey, which is built on 3,500 acres of arable land forcibly seized from farming families who had worked its soil for generations, it cannot erect a simple liaison office in a tent on its own land without US permission. The largest overseas American military base in the world, Camp Humphrey replaces some of the most highly-prized farmland in geographically restricted South Korea with an Olympic gym, an 18-hole golf course, a movie theater, a 200-room hotel, and a 300,000 square foot shopping center, all for the exclusive use of more than 45,000 American military personnel and their families.
Call for Action: Demand that the UNC stop infringing on Korea’s sovereignty.
Please email the following message to the Commander of the UNC, and spread the word via your preferred social media platform.
To General Robert Abrams, Cmdr UNC :
As you know, on October 23, 2020, the UNC rejected Geongggi Province’s request to set up a temporary peace tent in front of the Dora Observatory near the DMZ. We agree with Vice Governor for Peace Lee Jae-gang’s objection to what he called an “unjust act of infringement on our sovereignty by the UN Command.” As Vice Governor Lee pointed out, the UNC’s powers of jurisdiction over the DMZ are meant to regulate and stop hostile acts. By overstepping its authority and blocking the legitimate activities of a South Korean government office, the UNC is in violation of the United Nation’s founding principle of respecting state sovereignty. We request that the UNC abide by the UN’s founding principles by respecting South Korea’s sovereignty, and not interfere in its attempts to establish a peace office on its own territory.
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In “Spring Wind and Barbed Wire,” Korean poet No Won-ho paints the image of an abandoned train station in mountainous Gangwon, on the southern edge of the DMZ. The spring wind, blossoming flowers, and a clear sky serve as the metaphors for harmonious coexistence and seasonal reunion in a land divided by barbed wire.
Spring Wind and Barbed Wire
By No Won-ho
At Woljong train station in Chulwon,
There stands a barbed wire fence far taller than us
The cruel fence that divides North and South
Harsh and immovable, it resolutely bars trains bound for the North
Yet the spring wind that breathes over its tiny frozen claws
Returns to soothe them day after day
Softly urging forth delicate blossoms that embrace them
Nursing a mutual affection that keeps them company
Until Spring has grown as tall as the fence
Ah, now it’s done
Finally the heart opens
The barbed wire caressed by the spring wind
Follows the gaze of the blossoms
Looking up into the blue sky that remains forever as one
It had never been divided.
(Translation from Korean to English by Simone Chun)