FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 27, 2018
The Futility of War, the Power of Hope
SEOUL, South Korea – On Friday, as Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., spoke to members of the National Assembly of South Korea here about peace and reconciliation, 33 miles to the south a solemn ceremony was taking place, evidence of “the futility of war” and yet, the civil rights icon said, a sign of hope.
Remains believed to be those of 55 American servicemen killed in the Korean War nearly seven decades ago were returned by North Korea and brought to the Osan Air Base south of Seoul to
begin the long journey home.
“Those remains could have been my neighbors, my father’s friends, the guys we never saw again,” Rev. Jackson said, recalling how as a boy he watched many of the young men in his South Carolina neighborhood march off to fight – and die – in a distant place called Korea. “The price we paid here was high, so we have the right to expect fairness and justice and peace.”
The remains were returned on the last day of Rev. Jackson’s week-long peace mission and speaking tour that included meetings with elected officials, church leaders, peace activists, journalists and the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Harry Harris, who tweeted about their Thursday morning meeting.
“Just had breakfast with the Rev. Jesse Jackson @RevJJackson at my digs in Seoul. ‘Hope is a weapon in diplomacy’…wow…powerful words…that’s why he’s a preacher & I’m not!”
On Friday, Rev. Jackson was the keynote speaker at a forum at the National Assembly, commemorating Armistice Day, the day 65 years ago – July 27, 1953 – when North Korea, the United States and China signed an agreement ending combat in the Korean War.
A peace treaty was never signed, and the war that claimed the lives of more than 33,000 American military personnel and more than 3 million Koreas – North and South – has never officially ended.
“Armistice Day should be turned into Peace Day and Family Reunification Day,” Rev. Jackson said. “This war must be part of our painful past. Not our future.”
Rev. Jackson and Assemblymen Kim Jong-hoon read a joint-statement at a packed press conference at the National Assembly, calling for a peace agreement to be signed to end the Korean War and to normalize relations between the two Koreas and the United States. Rev. Jackson read the statement in English, the assemblyman in Korean. They praised the efforts of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea and President Trump for taking “a step toward dialogue and peace” in recent months after “a period of intense political and military tension.”
But there is still much work to be done before the threat of “fire and fury” and nuclear war on the peninsula is extinguished. “On the path toward peace,” the statement said, “lay down your weapons and eliminate your hostile policies against each other. There is nothing more favorable for peace on the Korean Peninsula than enabling the people of North and South Korea and the United States to freely meet with each other.”
When Trump and Kim met at their historic summit in Singapore earlier this year, Kim agreed to return the remains of the fallen Americans, the first of more than 5,300 servicemen believed to have been buried beneath the battlefields of North Korea.
The fact that Kim kept his word, Rev. Jackson said, was a sign that hope, and healing are in the air, floating over the divided peninsula.
“For peace to happen, diplomacy, not provocation, is essential,” Rev. Jackson said at the National Assembly on Friday. “It’s time to break the cycle of fear that has gripped the peninsular since its division. It’s time to tear down past walls of division and build new bridges of hope and unity.
“Surely,” he said, “it is time to give peace a chance.”