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‘Comfort women’ statue

Syntiche Dedji

This statue commemorates the Korean ‘Comfort women’ as they have traditionally been known. Now, there is a move to stop calling them by this euphemistic title bestowed on them by the Japanese military, and to call them what they actually were, Japanese military sex slaves. These are women who, during the Asia-pacific war, from the early 1930s- 1945, were forced into sexual slavery by Japan and dragged around battlefields. After the war, survivors were either slaughtered or abandoned on battlefields. Japan concealed and distorted its war crimes, and survivors suffered in forced silence for more than 50 years.

Many of these girls were only around 16 years old when they were taken to Japan. Some were much younger. This statue is of one such victim. She sits facing the Japanese embassy, waiting for the Japanese government to acknowledge their crimes and to issue an apology. As you can imagine, this has caused some controversy, and Japan has demanded that it be removed.

There is an ongoing petition demanding that the Japanese government issues an apology and legal reparations to the victims, accompanied by demonstrations every Wednesday in front the Japanese embassy. The 14th December 2011 marked the 1000th Wednesday Demonstration, which is still ongoing.


The Blue House

Syntiche Dedji

Yesterday was a busy but very productive day!

We started the morning at the National Assembly offices in Seoul, where we met with Representative In-Young Lee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (South) to discuss the results of the international summits to end war on the Korean Peninsula.

After lunch we travelled to the Blue House (South Korea’s equivalent of the White House) where we had a great meeting with parliament member Dukhaeng Lee, Secretary to the President for Unification Policy. During the meeting, I took hold of the opportunity to ask Mr Lee (acknowledging that my question may be a bit premature), whether they have considered what they would like reunification to look like. Have they thought about what the new system of governance may look like? How will it affect their economy? What are their hopes?

He replied that my question was indeed too soon, continuing, "Once reunification happens, we will need to sit down with the two Koreas and with other concerned states and work out a system of governance. However, what we are hoping for is peace, no animosity and denuclearization."

What next?

Syntiche Dedji

We have spent the past couple of days in Paju, South Korea, which is situated right near the border with North Korea.

This morning we all attended Shinsam Methodist Church, a stunning church up in the mountains. The pastor of the church, Pastor Shin Bo Hyun, has attended four of the past Article 9 conferences. He delivered a passionate sermon on the theme of "Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Shalom", stating, "So many surprising things are taking place in Korea recently. Last year, when we had the threat of war, I had so many people contact me to ask if I’m okay, as we are so close to the North Korean border." He went on to talk about God’s role as both our protector and our peace, stating that peace cannot be achieved with weapons or military might.

This was followed by a scenic drive through the South Korean countryside as we made our way up to Seoul for the continuation of the

Korean Peace Treaty campaign. The original plan for the campaign was that it would be a three year campaign. For the first year, members of the NCCK (National Council of Churches in Korea) carried out a US tour, concluding with a peace walk outside the White House. last year they were in Europe, where MCB organised an ecumenical meeting for them at the House of Lords, Westminster. This year, the third year of the campaign, was targeted at key North- East Asian states.

One of the things we will therefore be discussing for the remainder of our time here is "what next?" There is already a general consensus that this is not the time to end the Global Campaign for a Peace Treaty on the Korean peninsula. It must continue!

From Article 9 to the Peace Treaty Campaign in Korea

Syntiche Dedji

Today is the final day of the Article 9 Conference, and we are finalising the communique that will be sent out following the conference. In order to do this we have split up into three different groups based on language- there is a Japanese group and a Korean group, with the remaining representatives in the English speaking group. It is a good thing I was paying attention throughout the conference, as the English speaking representatives elected me as their Secretary! I will be addressing the Conference on their behalf.

After the closing ceremony later today, a smaller group of us will continue on to South Korea as part of the Peace Treaty Campaign in Korea.

It has been interesting to note the reactions to the Trump- Kim summit. Yesterday, the North- East Asian participants, and especially the South Korean participants, expressed disappointment at the western media’s negativity regarding the summit. Here, everyone is very positive and hopeful about the future. the link to the article below provides more information on this debate, and the significance of the various perspectives.

maddowpress_500_333_s.jpg Liberals Are Criticizing the Korea Summit From the Right. Here’s Why They Have it All Wrong.
With an end to the 68-year Korean War finally in sight, some U.S.

“It’s hot, it’s hot… help me… water”

By Syntiche Dedji

Although we have been in Japan for a few days now (First in Tokyo, and then Hiroshima), today was the official opening of the 6th Global Inter- religious Conference on Article 9, from Ground Zero Hiroshima. There are 167 participants here from 12 nations and various organizations and denominations. The conference began with opening prayers from different Buddhist representatives, followed by a key note address from Mr Ichiro Yuasa, a Marine Biologist who started advocating against nuclear weapons after discovering the effect they have on ecosystems. In the afternoon we heard talks from representatives from the Church of Scotland, Nicholas Mele of Pax Christi, and eye witness accounts from Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors).

Since my arrival in Hiroshima I have sat down each day to blog, but words seem to fail me. During these few days, we have seen first-hand the impact nuclear weapons have had on this city- on the people, the buildings and even the trees, and have heard first-hand witness accounts from Hibakusha. What words can I use to adequately convey the horrors we have heard described, and the lingering effects we have seen around this city, even 73 years after the atomic bombing? How about the words, “It’s hot, it’s hot… help me… water…”?

These are words we have heard repeated over again during the course of our visits. We heard them again this afternoon from the lips of Mrs Park Namjoo, a Hibakusha, as she shared what she saw on that awful day… The sight of the bomb falling, followed by the blinding light… the immediate and complete destruction of the city… everyone covered in blood… the horrific sight of the victims… the not knowing what had happened… and worse, the immediate and long-term after effects.

Towards the end of her talk Mrs Park Namjoo stated, “For years I couldn’t remember anything… I didn’t want to remember anything”. Words I can certainly relate to! I would rather not remember much of what I have heard and seen over the past few days, but I cannot keep it to myself either. After hearing such stories, it is hard to think of a single reason why any state should possess nuclear weapons. And yet the debate is extremely nuanced, and Japan is by no means an innocent victim. We have had the opportunity to reflect on its role as both a perpetrator and victim of war crimes. Despite being the only country to be directly affected by nuclear weapons, Japan has yet to sign the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. “We’re not ready”, one Japanese participant said.

The quote below very appropriately concluded the opening talks:

"Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Martin Luther King Jr.

Mrs Park Namjoo, Hibakusha

We continue to pray

The building pictured below was partially destroyed during the atomic bombing in Hiroshima on the 6 August 1945 and now stands as a memorial. We ended a busy day with a candlelight prayer vigil for peace in the grounds of the Hiroshima Peace Park.

Revd Yuki Nagao (National Christian Council in Japan) leads the prayers for peace.

Participants write their prayers for peace on a map of the Korean peninsula.

History: Looking back, moving forward

Syntiche Dedji

There is a lot of nervous excitement in the air today as we meet in Hiroshima, Japan, for the Article 9 Conference, at the same time as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong- Un meet for the much anticipated summit in Singapore.

We have been on the road all day, reflecting on the past, as we visit various places that were affected by the atomic bomb that devasted Hiroshima on the 6 August 1945.

Participants are maybe a bit distracted, anxiously checking their phones for updates whenever possible. We impatiently wait to hear details of the agreement that has been signed, and how the nations concerned can hope to move forward…