Milwaukee’s Korean American community reacts to plans for ending the 68 year Korean War
A historic summit on April 27 began the process to formally declare an end to the Korean War after seven decades, and Korean American residents of Milwaukee are once again hopeful for a united homeland.
Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, leaders of North and South Korea, agreed to work towards peace on the peninsula with a formal end to the conflict. They agreed to bring the two countries together and establish a peace zone on the contested border.
“I am hopeful for the peace process in the Korean Peninsula,” said Milwaukee resident Saehee Chang in a social media post. “My grandfather would have wanted to be buried back in his home town in North HamGyong province, if there would have been reunification. My mother was 6 years old when she left her hometown with her family as refugees after the war broke out.”
The war began in 1950 and devastated the region for three years of fighting, until an armistice was signed that suspended full scale military actions. A formal peace treaty was never declared, and the two countries have been officially at war for the past 68 years.
Based on 2014 estimates there are over 4,000 ethnically Korean residents in the greater Milwaukee area, which is double the Korean American population of the 1980s. Unlike other ethnic communities that have concentrated residental and commercial establishments in a particular neighborhood, Milwaukee-area Korean Americans remain dispersed across the region.
Rather than revolving around a Koreatown, the local population has maintained a sense of community through shared cultural organizations, personal networks, religious institutions, and the celebration of a few key annual events.
Koreas in Milwaukee and around the world remain hopeful that both countries will be able to declare an official end to the war by the end of this year. The Panmunjom Declaration, a historic agreement between the leaders of North and South Korea named for the summit in the demilitarized zone, seeks a formal end to the Korean War and the complete denuclearization of the peninsula.
Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in held talks, and both crossed the border into the other’s country during the unprecedented event. The pair shook hands and even exchanged jokes in a highly-choreographed media presentation before signing the joint declaration. The pact also promises that each country will implement a number of past agreements.
Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula
During this momentous period of historical transformation on the Korean Peninsula, reflecting the enduring aspiration of the Korean people for peace, prosperity and unification, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held an Inter-Korean Summit Meeting at the Peace House at Panmunjom on 27 April, 2018.
The two leaders solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.
The two leaders, sharing the firm commitment to bring a swift a swift end to the Cold War relic of longstanding division and confrontation, to boldly approach a new era of national reconciliation, peace and prosperity, and to improve and cultivate inter-Korean relations in a more active manner, declared at this historic site of Panmunjom as follows:
1. South and North Korea will reconnect the blood relations of the people and bring forward the future of co-prosperity and unification led by Koreans by facilitating comprehensive and groundbreaking advancement in inter-Korean relations. Improving and cultivating inter-Korean relations is the prevalent desire of the whole nation and the urgent calling of the times that cannot be held back any further.
(1) South and North Korea affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord and agreed to bring forth the watershed moment for the improvement of inter-Korean relations by fully implementing all existing agreements and declarations adopted between the two sides thus far.
(2) South and North Korea agreed to hold dialogue and negotiations in various fields including at high level, and to take active measures for the implementation of the agreements reached at the Summit.
(3) South and North Korea agreed to establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives of both sides in the Gaeseong region in order to facilitate close consultation between the authorities as well as smooth exchanges and cooperation between the peoples.
(4) South and North Korea agreed to encourage more active cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts at all levels in order to rejuvenate the sense of national reconciliation and unity. Between South and North, the two sides will encourage the atmosphere of amity and cooperation by actively staging various joint events on the dates that hold special meaning for both South and North Korea, such as 15 June, in which participants from all levels, including central and local governments, parliaments, political parties, and civil organizations, will be involved. On the international front, the two sides agreed to demonstrate their collective wisdom, talents, and solidarity by jointly participating in international sports events such as the 2018 Asian Games.
(5) South and North Korea agreed to endeavor to swiftly resolve the humanitarian issues that resulted from the division of the nation, and to convene the Inter-Korean Red Cross Meeting to discuss and solve various issues including the reunion of separated families. In this vein, South and North Korea agreed to proceed with reunion programs for the separated families on the occasion of the National Liberation Day of 15 August this year.
(6) South and North Korea agreed to actively implement the projects previously agreed in th e4 October, 2007 declaration, in order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the nation. As a first step, the two sides agreed to adopt practical steps towards the connection and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor as well as between Seoul and Sinuiju for their utilization.
2. South and North Korea will make joint efforts to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula.
(1) South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea, that are the source of military tension and conflict. In this vein, the two sides agreed to transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone in a genuine sense by ceasing as of 2 May this year all hostile acts and eliminating their means, including broadcasting through loudspeakers and distribution of leaflets, in the areas along the Military Demarcation Line.
(2) South and North Korea agreed to devise a practical scheme to turn the areas around the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea into a maritime peace zone in order to prevent accidental military clashes and guarantee safe fishing activities.
(3) South and North Korea agreed to take various military measures to ensure active mutual cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts. The two sides agreed to hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the defence ministers meeting, in order to immediately discuss and solve military issues that arise between them. In this regard, the two sides agreed to first convene military talks at the rank of general in May.
3. South and North Korea will actively cooperate to establish a permanent and solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Bringing an end to the current unnatural state of armistice and establishing a robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is a historical mission that must not be delayed any further.
(1) South and North Korea reaffirmed the Non-Aggression Agreement that precludes the use of force in any form against each other, and agreed to strictly adhere to this Agreement.
(2) South and North Korea agreed to carry out disarmament in a phased manner, as military tension is alleviated and substantial progress is made in military confidence-building.
(3) During this year that marks the 65th anniversary of the Armistice, South and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States and China with a view to declaring an end to the war and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.
(4) South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The two leaders agreed, through regular meetings and direct telephone conversations, to hold frequent and candid discussions on issues vital to the nation, to strengthen mutual trust and to jointly endeavor to strengthen the positive momentum towards continuous advancement of inter-Korean relations as well as peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean Peninsula.
In this context, President Moon Jae-in agreed to visit Pyongyang this fall.
27 April, 2018 – Panmunjom
- Moon Jae-in, President, Republic of Korea
- Kim Jong-un, Chairman, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Korea Summit Press Pool