The ICFC facilitated dialogue and organized meetings to promote healing between Korean and Japanese groups involved in sex slavery during World War II. We also addressed the issues of history in Korea through consultation, education and advocacy for “history without hate.”

GOALS

  • To be in dialogue with all sides, share ideas, test their acceptability, and provide motivation and consultation to all sides in working toward consensus

  • Play the role of the unencumbered outsider, free from local intrigues and resentments  

  • To establish new channels of communication that heretofore have not existed

  • Enable young people to understand the history of violence between countries without it fostering resentment and fear of the descendants of former enemies

  • To help Korean leaders of the young generation to work out the steps they need to take to support social integration in the event of future reunification of the North and the South

  • Support Korean leaders to focus on the importance of historical conciliation to the future of their country

SOUTH KOREA

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PARTNERS

PROCESS

GOALS

 

PROCESS

  • Meetings with the Japanese and the Korean sides of this conflicts (beginning of 2003)

  • ICFC staff conducted additional visits to non-governmental organizations in South Korea and Japan (summer of 2004)

  • Discussions with the lay and professional leadership. This enabled the ICFC to develop valuable perspectives on how different sets of activists view the conflicts with Japan around this issue. It also enabled us to see opportunities for resolution

  • Role play mediation to address the issues of unification

  • Discuss the perception of America because of its involvement in conflicts such as the opium wars, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea

 

PARTNERS

  • The ICFC

  • Japanese and Korean NGOs

  • Universities and churches

  • South Korean Government

 

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Comfort Women Issue

The ICFC played a “shuttle diplomacy” role in the course of these meetings, sharing information with the Korean and Japanese parties about their counterparts in the other country who were visited shortly before and thereafter. Through these meetings, the Institute connected with and encouraged chosen individuals, those who seemed to have the best opportunity and ability to communicate their positions effectively, articulately, and diplomatically to the other side.  Discussion topics included restorative justice and reparations, health insurance, apologies, and commemorations.

 

While incidents of riots in China may be instigated by government officials, they are clearly sustained by pervasive popular sentiments. These incidents confirmed ICFC's fears of reservoirs of hatred, deep and broad, among Japan’s neighbors. Korea is no exception, even while we see many promising signs of cooperation between these two nations. Claims were made that the historical issues are “peripheral” and will soon be forgotten. The real indicators of relations would to be seen in the volume of trade and exchanges on the popular level involving culture and athletics. These claims must be called into question by the popular expressions of hatred.

 

In regard to the Comfort Women issue specifically, time was essential. This issue will not be forgotten and it is exactly the sort of historically based resentment that could precipitate violence long after the last victim is around to press claims. The issue of ruined sexuality and its effect on national consciousness is a possible future that benefits no one. If the Japanese Government were to acknowledge what was perpetrated to the actual victims with apologies, as have been offered in the past by Japanese Prime Ministers in their own names and with compensation, and as has been offered by Japanese NGOs, this could strengthen the ties between these two neighboring countries and prevent this incendiary conflict from being reignited in the future.

 

South Korea and Perception of North Korean’s Future

Should there be any large scale emigration from North to South Korea? Should there be pressure for political reunification? The historical issues that are likely to explode under conditions of "unification" with North Korea, are not being dealt with in an adequate way.The issues between two countries that were once one are numerous and complex. Each country has very different ideologies to epitomize differences, which provide potential for acrimony. The Koreas' position within the US-Soviet battleground further intensified and stratified these differences. The possibility of “reunification” brings up many painful memories of families torn in two and, in many cases, its members cast on opposing sides of bloody war.

 

Please be mindful that, to maintain the usefulness of such an exercise, it should not be distributed widely without the ICFC's consent, and that the exercise is protected by copyright laws. Historical issues between North and South Korea are proving to be volatile and are being used to exploit dissention. Narratives that are counterproductive to peace and conciliation between the North and the South, to whatever degree they may be true or not, have a hold on the thinking of people. They influence what happens with the reunification of families from North and South and often add hatred to family memories that have been harbored for so many years. This makes the task of “reunification” all the more difficult.

 

Rather than undertake to mediate any particular conflicts, the ICFC is trying to address the issues of history in Korea through consultation, education, and advocacy for “history without hate.” We provide consultation to the best organizations who work on the front lines with these issues. We particularly worked through religious networks, such as the Buddhist and Christian clergy and social workers who receive refugees from North Korea. We believe that these people need support and training in not only the development and economic issues of dealing with refugees, but also the issues of memory. The South Korean Government has turned to raising the issue of Korean collaboration with the Japanese in the 20's, 30's, and 40s, and holding families responsible two and three generations later. As if this were not sufficiently problematic, this policy is being implemented in a completely partisan way. Moreover, historical issues that are likely to explode under conditions of "unification" with North Korea are not being dealt with in an adequate way, such that they will linger and interfere eventually with integration of this divided nation.

 

In Ho Lee, former South Korean Ambassador to Russia, assisted with our consultations and project development in the area. ICFC Board members Don Shriver and Peggy Shriver have also provided assistance in project development and in local contacts and consultation about the current situation in South Korea. In the United States, where the ICFC is based, our fellows have researched, drafted and tested a role play mediation simulation exercise that could be used to train Korean clergy members and social workers in dealing with the above issues in the field.  We have successfully tested the role play with South Korean graduate seminary students at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and benefited from consulting with them to revise it for maximum potential effectiveness in the field.  

 

 

Image by Joonyoung Kim