The Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) visited Pyongyang and the DMZ area in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) in November 2017. CPCS filmed a series of videos to share their learnings and experiences from this visit. These videos can be helpful in understanding the Korean Peninsula Conflict and the importance of inter-Korean dialogue which has restarted in preparation for the Olympics in February 2018.
CPCS Executive Director Emma Leslie speaks from the halfway point between Pyongyang and the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). In 1994, US President Jimmy Carter drove from Seoul to Pyongyang along this route as a sign of his commitment to peace for the Korean Peninsula.
The road from Pyongyang to the DMZ is lined with farms, food storage centres and agriculture projects. CPCS continues on to drive through the Kaesong Industrial Complex (closed by South Korea in February 2016) before reaching the DMZ.
This video is taken in Panmunjom Village – the location of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement in 1953 and a few kilometres away from the Peace House – where the inter-Korean talks restarted on January 9, 2018.
The Korean Armistice Agreement declared a ceasefire in the Korean War; however, a permanent settlement has yet to be reached leaving the parties in an official state of war. To better understand the Korean Peninsula Conflict, it is helpful to understand the perspectives of the Korean people on both sides of the DMZ as well as the effects the ongoing war continues to have on Korean people today.
“I wish our whole nation will be able to travel freely from South to North and be able to meet with the people from their nation. We are one nation with the ordinary people of South Korea. They are also struggling to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. They want a reunified country too.“ – Secretary-General Kim Chun Chol, Korean National Peace Committee.
This video takes place on the North’s side of the Demilitarised Zone. Mr. Kim Chun Chol, Secretary-General of the Korean National Peace Committee, expresses his hope that one day the Korean people will be able to travel freely across the DMZ and live well in their reunified country. He explains that Korean people are one and that they are all struggling for peace and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.
CPCS experiences everyday life in North Korea. They walk through a Pyongyang park, witness various weddings and attend the Pyongyang National Circus. Thousands of North Korean people are brought in from all over the county to see the circus which performs twice weekly.
Koreans are a civilisation of nearly 5,000 years. This ancient culture has built a deep respect for leadership and places great importance on resiliency and self-reliance. After centuries of resisting foreign domination, the Korean people express that they would rather die for their homeland, than give into foreign pressure.
CPCS Executive Director explains that if we can understand this element of Korean society, we may better understand why isolation and sanctions will never work in undermining the North Korean leadership. For the Korean people, such isolation only further entrenches their ideas.