Self-determination – Bay Area Rallies for peace in divided Koreas

by Tenzin Shakya

Photo by Eric Soracco

The chill in the night air couldn’t keep San Francisco’s war veterans, students and activists from demanding peace between North and South Korea as they rallied downtown on Nov. 29 in protest of the U.S. military’s presence in South Korea.North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire through the Korean Peninsula on Nov. 23, killing two civilians and two Marines. Although the two countries were divided by the peninsula when the Korean War ended in 1953, organizers said North and South Korea are still at war and the “time has come to negotiate a peace treaty.”

Veterans for Peace member Paul Kangas, 69, served in the Navy Intelligence in the late 60s. According to Kangas, the countries shouldn’t be fighting anymore and the U.S. shouldn’t be involved.

“It’s a stupid waste of money and it’s harming a lot of lives,” Kangas said. “We already have too many wars going on.”

The rally was organized by the San Francisco chapter of the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism coalition.

“We are just trying to bring awareness to U.S. propaganda,” said Frank Lara, 26, an organizer with ANSWER. “The U.S. wants us to view this as two Koreas when it has always been known as one country.”

Lara, who works with SF State’s Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development program, also said that if the U.S. wants to help, more support should be given to citizens instead of creating another war.

Members of the San Francisco Korean community performed a traditional Korean dance using drums and other instruments to highlight their cultural identity which they said connects them to their country.

Speakers at the event included Lara, David Ewing from the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association and Christine Ahn from the National Campaign to End the Korean War.

“This means a lot to Korean people,” Ahn said. “The division is still under constant threat dealing with the situation that North Korea has nuclear weapons.”

Ahn, who carried a sign that read “You can’t bomb your way into peace,” paused several times as she described the evolving situation between the U.S. and North Korea. She gasped for breath as tears fell down her face, her voice breaking.

“It is a tragedy that a lot of lives have been lost in Korea,” she said. “The Korean Peninsula remains divided. It’s time for a peace treaty now.”

China, an ally of North Korea, has urged the U.S. to begin dialogues with North Korea, but the Obama administration said a return to the table with North Korea would be a grave mistake considering previous attempts to negotiate talks.

President Obama condemned North Korea’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in South Korea and said the U.S. would defend South Korea. According to GlobalSecurity.org, an organization that provides data on military, intelligence and national security matters, there are currently more than 20,000 troops stationed in South Korea.

“The U.S. involvement with dividing South Korea and North Korea only benefits the U.S.,” Lara said. “It’s the higher level of twisted logic that the U.S. has been practicing with war games.”

The rally ended sharply at 6 p.m. as the speaker yelled, “No new Korean war, U.S. out!”
The crowd responded, “They say more war, we say no war!”

Juan Martinez contributed to this report. 
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