By Jonathan Edward
SEOUL, Sept 18, 2018: As South Korean president Moon Jae-in met his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang over the future of the peninsula today, thousands of peace activists converged at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium in a show of support for the reunification talks.
Organised by the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), a non-profit which advocates peaceful reunification with the North, the event drew over 50,000 supporters from 110 countries.
The gathering, held annually since 2014, drew 30 former heads of state from Romania, Ukraine, Burundi Nepal and Kyrgyzstan among others who joined delegates representing various religious organisations and other peace groups.
Also present were veterans of the Korean War, fought between the North and South between 1950 to 1953, resulting in a division that has persisted to the present day.
Besides those in Incheon, over 200,000 supporters gathered simultaneously in 97 countries including the United States, France, Mongolia Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Africa and Germany chanting the groups’ slogans – “We are one” and “World Peace”.
Founded as a lobby group for the peaceful reunification of Korea, HWPL has since become a major force in advocating non-violent conflict resolution including successful involvement Mindanao peace process, resulting in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014.
Led by the charismatic Lee Man Hee, himself a Korean War veteran, the group has a presence in 170 countries and is lobbying for the United Nations to adopt its draft Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW).
Engaging in “personality diplomacy”, Lee has managed to draw together an array of high profile individuals including political and religious figures besides building an international network of like-minded non-governmental organisations worldwide.
“I sincerely ask each nation’s head of state to show their endorsement of the DPCW to achieve peace and cessation of war that all nations and people long for.“
In the near future, the DPCW, in the form of a resolution, will be submitted to the UN to have it implemented at the international level,” he told the gathered masses.
The document contains 10 articles concerning the outlawing of the use of force to settle disputes between countries, an end to racial and religious discrimination and an emphasis on peace education.
It aims to provide a legal framework to discourage the use of force in the settling of disputes between countries and is meant to be legally binding, though the ability to enforce its articles may limit its effectiveness.
Relations between Pyongyang and Seoul have markedly improved in recent months with Moon’s visit to the North’s capital being the first visit by a South Korean head of state to the North and the third dialogue session between the two leaders this year.
In June this year, Kim met with US president Donald Trump and signed a joint statement agreeing to security guarantees for North Korea, reaffirmation of the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials.
Despite combat operations ending 65-years ago, the two countries are still technically at war with only a cease-fire and not a peace treaty. Moon and Kim have pledged to bring a formal end to the conflict.
While there is nothing to stop the two Koreas from signing a bilateral peace treaty, analysts concede the involvement of China and the US in supporting the North and South respectively, means their blessing would be needed for any lasting solution.