Peace for Life: A Korean Perspective

International Conference on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Korea Christian Faculty Fellowship
15. – 19. May 2005 at Roman Catholic Retreat Center, Uiwang, Korea

A Korean Perspective on Peace for Life in North East Asia
Prof. Kim, Yong-Bock

Coming of A New Age

Since the dismantling of the bi-polar global order, global geopolitical dynamics have changed rapidly. We can imagine that during the next twenty years the North East Asian Region with its peoples and nations will be radically transformed from its present situation. The 20th century was one of world wars that originated among the western Industrial nation states. The subsequent Cold War was also a Western product. The present 21st century is the global age; and the time of absolute nation states seems to be over. Nations are deeply involved with each other and mutually interdependent on the global scale. The North East Asia region is an integral part of this global change. Though we cannot foresee or predict the future, the next twenty years will see a process of great historical transformation in this region and throughout the world.

The most outstanding and clearest indication of this transformation in the post Cold War Era is the emergence of a truly global empire that seeks to form a mono-polar hegemonic order. The empires of the past were limited in terms of their power as well as their geopolitical expanse. They claimed their imperial dominion in terms of civilisational universality with the image of Pax Imperium. But they were never truly universal or global--including the Roman and the British empires. Today the global situation has changed as a result of globalization of the economy, with accompanying technological advancements. The architecture of the newly emerging Empire is truly global in design. It is in the context of this unfolding global empire that Northeast Asian affairs must be treated. The hegemonic design of the empire impinges strongly upon peace for life in this and the other regions of the world. The emerging global empire is the primary reference for our discussion on peace for life, everywhere in the world.

Globalization; and Peace and Security for the Global Market
As the globalization process accelerates, political systems of national security have been transformed at international and global levels, forming a global nexus of security for the powerful empire that in turn is intertwined with the security of the global market. For ex-ample, President Bush in his second-term inaugural address declared that the US would work for the expansion of freedom, meaning the security of US freedom in the name of human rights, US political domination over the globe in the name of democratic govern-ance, and economic penetration in the name of economic opportunities in the global mar-ket. In a document on the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, the policy of the global empire is clearly spelled out in full military and political terms. The military hegemony of the global Empire is to protect the security of the imperial political power and its allies and to protect the economic security of the global market and its powers and principalities. In this context, peace means the security of the global principalities and powers.

There has also been a radical transformation of military strategy, as a consequence of high levels of technological advancement. Technocratic (especially technetronic) globalization, closely linked to the global market, has transformed the security system, particularly the military system with its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and its cybernetic network on the global—even cosmic—scale. The symbiosis of the military system with hi-tech ad-vancement has not only developed “omnicidal” systems of the most intensive and massive violence and of the most destructive weapons, but it also has evolved an all-powerful global military information and communication network using technetronic (electronic) systems. Cyber warfare is an example of such development. The highly developed technological situation has radically transformed the nature of war, in terms of its destructive capacity as well as of its strategy and tactics. This situation is actualized in the North East Asian military order, commanded by the US military.

There is a symbiotic cohabitation of economic globalization with the global military he-gemony of the global Empire and global technocratization. As one consequence, the world has been moving toward a “totalistic” integration of the globe in economic, political, geo-political and cultural terms. The global market is a total system. The military order has been a total war system since the Cold War Era. Political surveillance and a homogenized communication system are in operation for the global control of information and consciousness. Hi-tech advancement has been a key to the totalization of the global military system, as exemplified in the declaration of the US War on Terror. The global order under hegemonic domination by the empire is being transformed into an absolute order without any serious contest at the economic, political, cultural or military level. This is being justified in neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideological language and supported by neo-conservative religious beliefs.
This dynamic process of totalization is being imposed intensively upon the peoples of the North East Asia Region, making the region very unstable and dangerous. The Global Em-pire seeks to consolidate alliances among some regional powers such as Japan. It seems bound to clash with some regional powers such as China, due to the Empire’s effort to transform the military order toward its own hegemony. The US policy toward North Korea should be seen in this context: hegemonic domination by the global empire.

A Perspective on Peace for Life
There are many perspectives on peace and life in North East Asia. In the Korean peninsula, the perspectives of South Korea and North Korea converge in the will for national reunifi-cation and peaceful reunion of the people, permanent peace with independence, self-determination without interference from outside powers, and the common prosperity and human security of all the people in Korea. This is being articulated and implemented through mutual negotiations and cooperation by the governments of the South and the North. The fact that reconciliation and reunion have been the fundamental aspiration of the Korean people throughout their history, is the basic reason and validity for Korean re-unification. It also constitutes the basic stepping stone toward peace in North East Asia. Without the peaceful reunification of the Korea people, there can be no peace in North East Asia.
The powers around Korea have regarded the peninsula as their pivot for political and military domination; this has been the source of their political and military rivalry and their mutual clashes. Four different versions of peace have been advanced with regard to Korea in the context of North East Asia. These versions of peace have created hegemonic tendencies and struggles throughout history, leading to four major wars in and around Korea in the past century. Without resolving this rivalry for hegemony there can be no permanent peace in the region. Korea should be peacefully and independently unified, based upon the aspirations of the Korean people, and the peaceful, independent, unified Korea should be respected by all the powers related to the region. This vision of peace of the Korean people has contradicted all the hegemonic versions of the big powers throughout history, a difference in perspective that will continue in the future. The Korean vision or version of peace for life cannot be hegemonic. It should not be subjugated to, or dependent upon, any version of peace that is hegemonic. Therefore, the Korean vision of peace should be based upon justice, participation and solidarity of the people as subjects of life, the common security and prosperity of all people, the cosmic order of convivial life, and creative interaction in diversity of cultural life among the people in North East Asia. This will entail the politics of peace for life in North East Asia.

Roots of Peace for Life from the Perspective of Victims
There is no true peace so long as peace is not present for all living beings in the cosmos. The current notion of peace as the absence of war and violence is quite deficient. So-called “real peace,” based upon balanced power relations, is very precarious, even if it creates a temporary peace. In any case, such “real peace” cannot be peace for the Korean people, nor for other victimized people or living beings, for it is an imposed order, and the people do not have any “real” powers to overcome the domination and to form a balance of pow-ers. The real power argument for peace is the ideology of the powerful.

The true wisdom of Peace for Life comes from the hearts of the suffering people, the vic-tims of war and Pax Imperium. This wisdom is the wellspring of the vision for true peace for all living beings. The people in North East Asia have access to such inspiration and wisdom, which rises from the depths of their historical experiences and their religious tra-ditions. These visions of peace and life shine through their experiences of resistance against the violent powers throughout history, and through their deep religious experiences and philosophical reflections.

The people of North East Asia have rich historical resources. The vision of T’aiping (太平), the vision of Western Paradise (西方淨土), the Messianic vision and other visions of the people’s revolutionary movements such as Tonghak vision (後天開闢) are some of the traditional, religious and political visions that are deeply seated in the hearts of the people and their history. The roots of the vision of peace for life should be unearthed, clarified for today, and consolidated for articulation. These visions can converge to counter Pax Imperium, in contrast to their frequent use by past and present empires for religious and ideological justification of their “universal mission” for peace.

In the vision of Asian peace, there is also deep solidarity among the victims—humans and other living beings—bound together by their common suffering under the violent powers of the empire and by their shared visions. They aspire for a true and permanent peace for life in the universe. This solidarity goes beyond the boundaries and divisions of religions, cultures and societies, economics, politics and geopolitics. There is a cosmic unity of all the diverse ways of life of all beings in the universe. This cosmic solidarity and unity is an inte-gral part of the Asian vision of peace for life—one that constitutes the foundation for the solidarity of all people in North East Asia.

The vision of peace is an integral vision of whole life, rejecting any kind of fragmentation by any means. It includes all the dimensions of life and embraces the nexus of all living beings in the cosmos. This is reason why we call our deliberation “Peace for Life.” It is founded on the pillars of cosmic justice, participation of all living beings, dynamic resolu-tion of conflicts for harmony, and conviviality of all living beings. This vision of peace for life contradicts the dictates of any Pax Imperium.

People’s/Citizens’ Network on Truth, Reconciliation and Peace for Life
There is a need for consolidation of a committed network/community that has overcome past, present and future enmities among the people in North East Asia and the wider global community. One of the sources of conflicts in North East Asia is the peoples’ his-torical experiences of mutual animosity. The community network would seek to discover the truth about injustices committed in the past, to lay foundations for justice. It would work for genuine reconciliation among “enemies” through confession, restitution, com-pensation and forgiveness. This reconciliation process should have high integrity in order for authentic new relationships to be built among the peoples in the region. Of course, this involves political processes among the Asian nations, which have been deficient. The wider network of committed citizens and people would seek creative paths to genuine resolution of past enmities among peoples across national boundaries. 

This would open the real possibility of sharing a common vision of peace for life in North Asia and of creating a political process of participation and solidarity among the people and citizens for peace in North East Asia. 

We wish to catalyze such a committed community or network to respond to current and future threats to peace for life.

The process of globalization in North East Asia in economic terms promises massive eco-nomic growth to the extent that the economic power of the global empire is challenged. The socialist market economy is growing in the global market, involving integration of the social market with the capitalist market, and radical structural adjustment of economies with socio-economic consequences. This leads to intensive, large-scale political and geo-political interdependence, competition and clashes. Global capital under the global em-pire seeks to exert its economic influence in the situation, flexing its political and military muscles.

There is another source of potential conflict that could destroy peace and life. That is the economic disparity that has emerged in the process of economic globalization—among na-tions and in each of the Asian societies. Any suggestion to make food supplies or eco-nomic sanctions into political and military components of “peace” negotiations would go against life and against peace for life. Forced starvation of the population of any nation is indirect “genocide,” but this is taking place in the midst of rapid economic growth in North East Asia, and in other parts of Asia, as well as in many nations of Africa, along with unlimited global economic growth. The feeding of the hungry cannot be limited by any conditions, whatever the circumstances. Food is the God-given right of all living beings.

Fundamentally, the global empire seeks to secure the global market for maximum economic opportunities, and this entails geo-political and military hegemony, which leads to military competition and conflicts. The current US defense strategy is geared to this situation, and it is in this context that we should understand the consolidation of the US-Japan military alli-ance, the political situation in Japan, US-North Korea and US-South Korea relations, and US-China relations, in addition to other tensions and relations in and around North East Asia. Our grave concern is the continued acceleration of the military buildup among North East Asian nations in conventional, nuclear and cybernetic terms. The US nuclear missile defense (NMD) program and the changing US military posture are examples of develop-ments that serve to trigger an arms race and military buildup in the area.

In this self-destructive military order, dominated by the global empire, peace for life is a matter of faith. Any war that would destroy living beings by means of such “almighty” military power should be resisted as an ultimate matter of faith. This is the time for a comprehensive and participatory pacifist stance by faithful people.

Also, as a matter of practical politics, there is no option except the peaceful path—such as the Sunshine policy of former President Kim Dae-Jung for the reunification of Korea—and this path can lead to a permanent order of peace for life in North East Asia. Any war in or around the Korean peninsula would develop into a colossal, apocalyptic disaster.

It is clear that the current geopolitical situation in North East Asia has a great potential to threaten peace in the world beyond the region. The peace issue cannot be resolved only by military power and means. It goes beyond geopolitical power politics among the nation states. It is therefore clear that peace for life in North East Asia cannot be only the affair of the governments of the region’s nation states. Geopolitical power politics and military power relations among the powers cannot and should not determine the future of peoples and all living beings here in North East Asia. In the era of globalization and global empire, the nation states are limited in realizing a true and permanent peace for life. These nation states are armed with the most dangerous and most violent weapons systems and strategies, which could bring “omnicidal apocalypse” to all people and other living beings. Military action and war cannot bring a sustainable peace to North East Asia.

1. The issue of common security and true peace for all people and other living beings de-mands the participation of all people and their solidarity networks in the regions and throughout the world. Freedom is not just individual freedom practiced through free com-petition in the market place and in liberal politics. Freedom means participation and net-works of solidarity among the free citizens of all nations. The path to a permanent order of peace for life lies in the participation of the people and their solidarity.

2. Korea as the pivot of geopolitical rivalry should be the hinge of peace-making for North East Asia. This hinge of peace can be constituted through national reunification: through the process of confidence building, comprehensive economic and cultural exchanges, and mutual disarmament. We are concerned about the global geopolitical dynamics that seek to turn South Korea into an all-directional base of military operations in Asia, just like Oki-nawa. We are concerned about NMD development and deployment.

The military in Korea should be transformed into a peacemaking institution for the com-mon security of the people and all living beings. Its role should be that of peace making: promoting the reduction of military tensions, disarmament among the powers, and com-prehensive disarmament of nuclear weapons. In this regard there can be cooperation be-tween the civil society movement and the military community. This may be a way to work towards common security for the people and a permanent peace for life. Such a hinge of peace in North East Asia should be supported and strengthened through the mutual coop-eration of Japan, China, Russia and the United States, as well as through direct support of inter-Korean resolution of the division.

The Japanese military should remain as an instrument of the peace constitution of Japan. It should not seek any overseas role even for the common security of the people, for there is no political development of mutual trust in the region in regard to the political role of Japan except as the instrument of the global empire. However, Japan should be active politically and economically to promote peace in the Korean peninsula and national reunification as the hinge of peace and security of all people in North East Asia. This is to build a counter-pivot against hegemony by any power in the area. It is to undercut the vicious cycle of missile race, nuclear arms race, and accelerating military build-up among East Asian nations. It would provide a context in which transnational citizens’ participation and solidarity can work towards not only security and peace, but the conviviality of all living beings in the North East Asian order of peace for life.

China should be a countervailing point of geopolitics against the hegemonic powers of the empire. For this, China can be a solid promoter of justice for all people in North East Asia, upon which true and reliable peace can be built. China’s following of the hegemonic line would cause tragic consequences: it would destroy peace in North East Asia.

3. A new history can begin with a newly consolidated People’s Solidarity Forum on Truth, Reconciliation and Peace for Life. A new vision of peace can be articulated: the People’s Charter on Peace for Life, as the base upon which peace policies and actions can be developed and conviviality of all living beings in North East Asia can be cultivated. The root of this vision and the Charter of Peace for Life can be found in the tradition of the people and their struggle for life in peace. The current situation demands a new universal peoples’ / citizens’ charter for global democratic participation and solidarity, going beyond inter-state and multi-state agreements and charters. The world demands more than democratization of the existing multilateral charters and covenants among nation states.

4. A Northeast Asian Citizens’ Solidarity for Politics on Peace for Life is proposed. It should be participatory and peaceful. It should be based upon transnational solidarity of all people in the area, which presupposes the politics of direct participation along with the “Netizen” politics of information and communication. It is to take common action for peace for life and to tell the truth against disinformation and misinformation by the global empire or by any power or principality that carries out war and violence against the people and other living beings. It is to tell the stories of the suffering of the people, the victims. It is to disseminate the seeds and vision of peace for life among the people.

A Concluding Word
A network of committed scholars and thinking people can be a component in the matrix of service to the peace movements of citizens and people for the life of all living beings. It is our hope that the International Consultation on Peace for Life in North East Asia will make a small contribution to the cause of peace in the world.

Prof. Dr. KIM Yong Bok: Asian Pacific Graduate School for the Study of Life