Monday, April 23, 2018

Pasadenans Join National Effort to “Give Peace a Chance in Korea”

May 6, 2018, 4:00-6:30 pm
Orange Grove (Quaker) Meetinghouse, 520 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA
Contact: Anthony Manousos,    627-375-1423

Pasadenans are "giving peace a chance in Korea" by engaging in advocacy work and organizing a community event on May 6 that will highlight efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula. Six months ago, when prospects for peace in Korea seem remote, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (the oldest faith-based lobby in Washington, DC) launched a campaign to avert war with North Korea. This Quaker advocacy organization engaged local groups across the country in this campaign, including activists in Pasadena and Los Angeles. Sue Park-Hur and Hyun Hur, Mennonite pastors living in Pasadena and founders of a peace group called ReconciliAsian, took part in these lobbying efforts along with many others. They urged elected officials to support S 2047 and HR 4837, bills that would bar the President from launching a first-strike preemptive attack on North Korea without Congressional authorization.
 Congresswoman Judy Chu and Senator Feinstein have signed on to these bills, and Senator Harris has also called on the President to use diplomacy, not military threats. As the recent “Peace Olympics” made clear, North and South Koreans want peace and normal relations, not war.
Hyun Hur has visited North Korea several times for humanitarian purposes, and so
has Shan Cretin, former director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which is also involved in peacemaking efforts with North Korea. On Sunday, May 6, from 4:00-6:00 pm  Hyun and Sue Park Hur along with Shan Cretin will talk about how to avert war with North Korea  at Orange Grove (Quaker) Meetinghouse, 520 E Orange Grove Blvd, Pasadena, CA  For more info contact
“Most American do not realize that the US has never signed a peace treaty with North Korea and refuses to do so,” says Hyun. ““We need real negotiations, not more threats. Let’s give peace a chance.
 “AFSC has helped farmers in the DPRK increase their output of corn and rice,” says Cretin, whose organization received the Nobel Peace Prize for its relief efforts in 1947.  "Even more important, we have been able to learn first-hand about life in North Korea and connect North Koreans with people and ideas from outside their country.  Person-to-person engagement is key if we are to help “pariah states” re-enter the global community.”

This event is sponsored by Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace, which was started after 9/11 by religious leaders such as retired All Saints rector George Regas with the slogan "religious communities must stop blessing war and violence. Other sponsors include  ReconciliAsian, Unity and Diversity Council, Montrose Peace Vigil, Progressive Asian Network for Action, Ban the Bomb—LA, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Office of the Americas, Veterans for Peace, and Orange Grove (Quaker) Meeting.

Picture above is in the office of Representative Judy Chu. left to right: Maile Plan (Judy Chu's aide), Hyun Hur, Kit Bell, Edie Salisbury, Kwanghee Park, Jochen Strack, Yul Hur, and Sue Park Hur, Pat Wolff, and Anthony Manousos.

Hyun Hur and his wife Sue were born in South Korea, a country that experienced the deadly aftermath of a war in which at least 1.2 million Koreans were killed. During this bloody conflict from 1950-1953, the U.S. dropped a total of 635,000 tons of bombs, including 32,557 tons of napalm, more than during the whole Pacific campaign of World War II. Almost every substantial building in North Korea was devastated as a result. North Koreans remember all too well that the US unleased “fire and fury” on their nation, and are fearful that it could happen again. That’s why they feel that nuclear deterrents are their best defense against US aggression.
The psychological damage caused by this war and the division of the nation into two parts persists to this day. Many Koreans in the South have been afraid even to mention that they have family members in North Korea since it could cost them their jobs. They cannot send letters to their family members in North Korea. They must send letters to friends or relatives in the US, who then forward their correspondence to North Korea.
Hyun confessed that he was taught to distrust and hate North Koreans in school and even in his church. He and his wife both remember drills and curfews to prepare for anticipated attacks by North Korea.
Hyun’s attitude changed when he became an Anabaptist, a branch of Christians that include the Amish, Mennonites and other pacifist Christian sects. He rejected war and the idea that North Koreans were his enemy.
“I wanted to be a faithful follower of Christ,” he explained. “’Jesus told us to ‘love our enemies,’ I don’t consider North Koreans to be my enemy and I must love them as Jesus commanded.”
Sue became a peacemaker as a result of the L.A. Uprising when her family was targeted by African Americans because they owned a small business. Mediators came into her community and she learned conflict resolution skills which she and her husband now teach.
“I learned to be a mediator and bridge builder from an early age,” she explained. “As a child of immigrants, you end up playing the role of bridge between two worlds. I would interpret for my parents and even help them to understand legal documents.”
She also learned to fear North Korea and was shocked when her aunt went to visit relatives in North Korea.
“It seemed crazy to me,” said Sue Park. “Why would anyone want to go to this scary place?”
Her views changed when she became involved with a church whose pastor encouraged his congregation to pray for North Korea. Soon she and her fellow congregants were praying for reunification of her country, a dream that she hopes will some day become a reality.
She and her husband pastored Mennonite churches, raised their family and taught peacemaking skills.
“Someone asked us, ‘Why aren’t you applying your peacemaking to North Korea?” said Sue.
Taking this question to heart, Hyun and Sue began sending shoes and other needed materials to an orphanage in North Korea. This gave them an opportunity to visit these sites on a “verification tour” to make sure that their donations were received and properly used. Hyun went to North Korea three times, in 2013, 2016, and 2017. Only 800 Americans visit North Korea each year on tourist visa.Others visit for humanitarian purposes.
These trips were eye-opening for Hyun.
“I realized that North Koreans were human, just like me,” he said. “We speak the same language, enjoy the same foods, and joke around together. When we sang a favorite Korean folk song together, we were in tears.”
Hyun took his son on his second trip, and his son was surprised that the North Korea landscape was in color, rather than gray scale, as he had imagined. He was also excited to see North Koreans playing sports like soccer, just like normal people.
Recently Hyun and his family joined a dozen others visiting the offices of elected officials like Senator Harris and Congresswoman Judy Chu regarding bills that would prevent the President from launching a preemptive attack on North Korea without Congressional approval. Congresswoman Chu along with 65 other Representatives and 8 Senators support such bills. Senator Harris has signed onto a letter telling the President that it is unconstitutional for him to launch a first strike against North Korea. For Sue and Hyun, these visits were an exciting taste of what American democracy is all about. They were thrilled to be part of a nation-wide campaign started by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker advocacy organization started in Washington, DC, in 1943.
The American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker humanitarian organization which received a Nobel Prize for its relief efforts after World War II) has worked in Korea since 1980. It coordinates projects with four cooperative farms, the Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Kye Ungsang College of Agriculture of Kim IL Sung University to raise productivity and implement sustainable agricultural practices in North Korea. 
These efforts have been hampered by President Trump’s travel ban. Hyun and Sue were unable to travel to North Korea, as planned, this fall.
These small but not insignificant peacemaking efforts should not be minimized or dismissed. During the 1980s, “citizen diplomats” from the US and other Western countries traveled to the Soviet Union and helped change the political climate, which led to the end of the Cold War without bloodshed. Hyun, Sue and their fellow activists have faith that their efforts will eventually lead to a similar end of the Korean War and current conflicts.

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