Strengthening the Solidarity and Effort of Women in Peace Building Process on Korean Peninsula

Nicole Thurner
May 31, 2016 - Gyeongju, Republic of Korea  

66th UN DPI/NGO Conference - Report on YWCA's Workshop

The YWCA began in 1885 in England and currently has members in 120 countries. YWCA Korea was established in 1922 and has been serving the Korean society and its neighbors, centered on the Christian tradition of agape love, charity and respect. YWCA has been actively advocating for peace and life and the overall well-being of women's lives throughout the world.


The workshop began with an opening video entitled, "WWYD for Peace? What would you do for Peace?" Deborah Thomas-Austin, President of World YWCA, delivered the welcoming remarks of the workshop, and Mrs. Won Young Hee, Nominations Committee Members of the World YWCA and Vice President of the YWCA of Korea, gave the congratulatory message and said to the participants, "Thank you that God send you here."

Yeji Lee, Anyang Y-Teen of Korea, Senior Class of Pyeongchon High School, presented her protest to 'Strive for True Peace' between the people of Japan and Korea. Ms. Lee gave awareness of the Comfort Women and their suffering eighty years ago when Japan colonized Korea. The film, "Spirits Homecoming" was seen by Ms. Lee's class and was based on the true historical events of Korean girls who were forced to become sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during the Japanese colonization. Ms. Lee explained that innocent young women were forced into prostitution without their consent, and that for true peace to become realized, the issues of comfort women must be resolved. Ms. Lee stated that peace will remain incomplete, if society ignores these unsolved issues such as the history of comfort women as well as other women who share similar experiences around the world. Ms. Lee expressed her hope that this tragedy will never be repeated again in the next generations to come. The entire room was left in silence and reflection from the strong impact of Ms. Lee's despite her young age of 17 years. The awareness of unresolved and hidden problems between countries is an important step to the bringing of internal and external peace between countries.

Ann Wright, Retired U.S. Army Colonel, former U.S. Diplomat and Steering Committee Member of Women Cross DMZ, a woman of great passion for the working towards peace in areas of division and military presence, worked a total of 29 years for the U.S. government. Her attitude in life was working on peace instead of conflict, and therefore ended her long involvement with the U.S. government and resigned in opposition to President Bush's war on Iraq. Since then, Ms. Wright has been active with Women Cross DMZ. Ms. Wright observed very clearly the misery and unhappiness of people in war conflicting zones, and as a woman aims to strengthen the solidarity and effort of women fighting for a greater good. Ms. Wright especially strives for peace on the Korean peninsula, Middle East and all over the world where there is heavy military involvement. Her words, "…we must challenge our governments to stop the militarization of our societies and the use of war as an implement of conflict resolution. And we must push for women to be involved in all negotiations in making our world a more peaceful place." Ms. Wright emphasized the importance that governments should stop war approach to handling international situations, and that members of civil society and organizations need to respond to conflicts rationally. Ms. Wright also mentioned that women play a crucial role in fulfilling the responsibilities in this world. Having dialogue of trust and not abusing the privilege of free speech, is essential to resolve issues between peoples and nations. Ms. Wright added that for communities to have peace, members of civil society cannot be pushed into a corner through brute force. Ms. Wright then requested the participants to become advocates of peace and to support the unification of the Korean Peninsula that would then allow the people of Korea to cross from the North to the South.

Hyung Won Koh, Director of United Korea 4 the World, led the closing ceremony. Mr. Koh is also working for the unification and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula through his talent of music and media production. Mr. Koh published an album, with his conviction, "Songs make a Way." The song, 'Arirang' was performed; as it has been the heart crying song of Korea, that longs for peace and harmony. Mr. Koh searched for K-pop stars who could donate their time and talent to be "One Voice for One Korea." The wish of each person was the desire to be united, as 70 years of division is enough. "Be a Peace Maker Not Peace Keeper!" was the motto that Mr. Koh advocated during his talk, and later presented a video displaying the long history of reconciliation initiatives for the North and South of Korea.

Nicole Thurner, WFWP intern Geneva (far right)The workshop concluded with the song, 'Tongil Arirang' and had the participants sing and dance together as a 'peace flash mob' in support of the unification of North and South Korea. The workshop uplifted and informed the participants to be peace makers through the responsibility as a member of civil society. Conflict resolution and inspiration from the Korean spirit were given to the participants as a form of encouragement to become global citizens.