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In Korea: No peace pact only ceasefire

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(BY: JESS DUREZA) We agonize today over the peace pact between the MILF and the government. After Mamasapamo, there are now serious challenges and obstacles.  But while we are sorting out things, we need to    keep the guns silent. This is through the ceasefire agreement.

“ARMISTICE” — Talking of ceasefires. This may help assuage our own ruffled and worried feelings.  Just barely four (4) hours away by plane from Manila, are two deeply divided Koreas, North Korea (called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) and South Korea (officially called Republic of Korea or ROK).  Fact is, since the war broke out in  1950, the two Koreas  do NOT have a peace agreement up to now. All they have today is  a ceasefire protocol called “armistice”.

VISITING DMZ — During  an international forum on “Prospects for Peace in Northeast Asia” in Seoul, Korea over the past few days organized by the US-based Washington Times,  I was able to visit the “no man’s land” demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates North Korea and South Korea. The two forces are in fact facing each other literally “eyeball to eyeball” with only a two-way street separating them from  each other. Well, it’s not really just the street but the United Nations military contingent that supervises the so-called “armistice” or ceasefire.  The name “DMZ” is actually a misnomer. The 240-kilometer line popularly known before as the “38th parallel” that divides the 2 Koreas, in some places, is heavily  militarized. 

DICTATOR — In the north, a  young, widely regarded as a volatile despot, Kim Jung Un, rules after he succeeded his late father. The head of the UN mission told us during the briefing that the “coordination” protocols of the “armistice” was suddenly changed since March 2013 soon after the young Kim took over. “ They no longer answer the phone on the other side”, he said. The phone represented the joint dialogues, meetings and coordination  that kept both sides in peace. Nonetheless, although some tensions surface from time to time, the ceasefire or armistice holds.

DEFECTORS —During our group’s side visit to the world-renown hub of the CHEON IL GUK of the late Rev. Moon, to witness  the international  celebratory  event of its founding anniversary including that of the Universal Peace Foundation and officiated by DR. HAK JAN HAN MOON, co-founder of Washington Times, we were able to listen to the testimonies of defectors from North Korea who escaped from the despotic rule across the  border. They claimed that they paid bribes to Nokor soldiers and officials in the borders just to cross the River Han for their deliverance. Life, from their accounts, in the north was like hell on earth, no food, virtually no respect for human rights and dignity and violence. They had to escape. 

MISSILES & ATTACK —During the time I was in Korea, two missiles were launched from North Korea to the sea as a protest to the on-going military exercises by South Korea with the US. On my last day in Seoul,  US Ambassador to Korea Mark Lippert, a close bosom friend President Obama, was attacked and wounded by a Korean who was mouthing anti US-ROK cooperation  expletives.

ONE KOREA — In spite of these challenges, the dream of re-unifying the two Koreas still remains a high priority, especially among the elderly Koreans whose families and  friends are still sadly  separated or are missing.  Others are mostly totally  unheard of. Talking to some young Koreans though, the issue of a divided Korea does not seem urgent. The young generation basks in and are preoccupied  with  the economic boom and prosperity of the  progressive south. Those recurring  threats of possible outbreak of hostilities are evidently  pushed back in the backburners of their minds, although the fear of the future pop up from time to time when incidents take place.   

FUTURE — A deeply divided Korea is a humanitarian crisis in itself. The rising tension rears its ugly head from time to time. There are expert Korea watchers who opine and firmly hold the view that unless the present North Korean government collapses or dictator Kim Jung Un is deposed suddenly, a reunification and a turn to peace is a “pipe dream”. But there is optimism.  “That time will definitely come but as to when, we do not really know”, a highly placed former US diplomat told us.
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