Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SK Solidarity Trip Day 1: Sacks of Wasted Reunification Rice

Our delegation was given a tour this afternoon of Yongsan Base which is right in the heart of Seoul and the headquarters of the United States military forces in Korea. We climbed into a van provided by the Pan-Korean Alliance Reunification (PKAR) South Korea branch, and drove around the base, marveling at how intertwined the government of South Korea and the US military were.

We spent the afternoon visiting the Pan-Korean Alliance Reunification (PKAR) South Korea branch. They took us to their office, gave us a tour of nearby Yongsan Base (which houses the headquarters of the US military in South Korea) and treated us to dinner afterwards.

For those interested, we were given a small packet of information on their group and so here is some excerpts:

Who are We?

Pan Korean Alliance for Reunification (BomMinRyon) was established in 1990 as a non-governmental civil organization conducting the movement for great nation unity and reunification of Korea…

BomMinRyon – the movement is based on three principles of national reunification – independence/self-reliance, peaceful reunification and great national unity – which were signed and declared by the governments of both North and South Korean on July 4, 1972 and July 15, 2000.

What is PKAR aiming for?

Korea was divided soon after World War II was over, not by the will of the Korean people, but simply by the superpowers, particularly the United States, for their own convenience and interest. There is no doubt that without this interference by superpowers, Korean reunification could be accomplished rather easily….

We emphasis that it is important that the two different political and socio-economic systems now existing on Korean soil be allowed to continue, competing and cooperating with each other, slowly working towards an ultimate evolution into a single Korea. We consider that the most realistic form of government working towards this end would be a south-north confederation. We believe that through a government of such form we can restore our lost national honor and the South and North can prosper together.

In their office they had numerous posters from events and rallies over the years in support of a unified Korea. They had a large picture on one wall with an image of the leaders of both North and South Korea shaking hands at one of the previous unity conferences. While I was there I heard the story of how last year six members of that organization, most of whom were in that office that day, were arrested and imprisoned for 6 months. In September and October of 2009 they were released three at a time, first on probation and then on bail. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly the charges were other than their reunification activities, but so many of the articles on the case are in Korean. I'm pasting a video below of one of the activists making a statement after her release:

One of the things which I found most interesting in the PKAR office, was a pile of rice sacks near the door. I was told that this rice was farmed in South Korea by a group of farmers specifically for the purpose of being sent to North Korea to help feed people there and build more ties across the border. The rice had been given to PKAR weeks ago, but the South Korean government refused to let it be sent to North Korea, and so hundreds of pounds of rice were left wasting in that office.

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