Nodutdol

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Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, is a New York City based organization. According to their Twitter profile, Nodutdol is a "progressive Korean organization advocating for social justice and the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula."[1]

Social Justice

Nodutdol is a community of first through fourth generation Koreans living in the U.S. We are a community that has families in both, the south and north of Korea. We are diverse in our backgrounds and perspectives, but bound together by our shared sense of the Korean homeland that continues to suffer under division [with the understanding that the concept of ‘home’ may vary]. We are part of the Korean diaspora spread throughout the globe made up of artists, filmmakers, teachers, students, workers, professionals, young families, etc. who believe in social justice. [2]

History

In April 1999, Nodutdol was founded in New York City. Inspired by the democratic social movements in Korea, there was a desire to create a progressive space in NYC that promotes the self-determination and unity of the Korean people through grassroots organizing and community development. With a critical analysis of the U.S. - Korea history [that is closely linked to war and militarism], Nodutdol began putting together workshops, lectures, and study sessions, believing in the importance of educating present and future generations of Koreans living in the U.S. to be actively engaged in social change.[3]

Mission

Through grassroots organizing and community development, Nodutdol seeks to bridge divisions created by war, nation, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, and generation among Koreans and to empower our community to address the injustices we and other people of color face here and abroad. Nodutdol works in collaboration with other progressive organizations locally, nationally and internationally as part of a larger movement for peace and social change.

Nodutdol seeks to contribute to a global people’s struggle against war and militarism as part of a Korean struggle for national unification and democracy, and as part of a U.S.-based peoples’ struggle for racial, social and economic justice in New York City. In that spirit, we are building a broad base of NYC Koreans who struggle against war and militarism on these two fronts. [4]

Peace Treaty with North Korea

Peace Treaty with North Korea

Nodutdol tweeted[5] a statement[6] on North Korea:

"Alarmed by the threat of a nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea, concerned U.S. peace groups have come together to send an open message to Washington and Pyongyang that we are strongly opposed to any resumption of the horrific Korean War. What we want is a peace treaty to finally end the lingering Korean War!
"Inspired by the Vietnam-era People’s Peace Treaty, we have initiated a People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea, to raise awareness about the past U.S. policy toward North Korea, and to send a clear message that we, the people of the U.S., do not want another war with North Korea. This is not an actual treaty, but rather a declaration of peace from the people of the United States.
"Our goal is to collect many thousands of signatures, and to publicize the People's Peace Treaty to the people in the U.S. as well as in the rest of the world. Please add your voice for peace by signing the People’s Peace Treaty with North Korea.

Signatories

Initial signatories:

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

In 2008 Hyun Lee, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, New York signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for the release of convicted “cop-killer” Mumia Abu-Jamal.[7]

KEEP

Sun-Mee-Chomet

Sun-Mee-Chomet has been accepted as a member of the 2015 Korea Education and Exposure Program (KEEP-DPRK) peace delegation through Nodutdol, a New York-based organization focused on Korean community development.

Since 2001, KEEP-DPRK has been taking members of the Korean diaspora living in the U.S. and Canada to North Korea to learn about the history, struggles and daily lives of the people there through first-hand experience. She will be heading to DPRK in August with seven other individuals. The group will visit hospitals, schools, farms, the demilitarized zone (the northern part) churches, etc. in various cities.

“The information we receive here in the U.S. about North Korea through the mainstream media is almost exclusively comprised of negative images of the state, its government, and armies,” Chomet said. “We rarely hear from the people of the DPRK. I believe it’s important to learn about the daily lives of North Koreans and get their perspectives on their country and international issues. This summer is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the armistice between North Korea and the U.S. – we are still at war, and the ramifications of the ongoing conflict are global. When I return to the U.S. I plan to speak and write about the experience, incorporating the research into my playwriting and social justice work as an artist. I also plan to continue working towards peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Chomet received funding from the Minnesota-based arts organization Jerome Foundation, that will go toward the costs of the trip and the research that Chomet will conduct. In addition, she is seeking contributions that will go toward the medical aid the group will bring. Every donation is appreciated – no matter how small.

Each trip, the delegation hand-delivers medical supplies and medicine (antibiotics) to a local hospital. In 2013, the delegation made a donation of $9,000 worth of medical supplies and medicine to the Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, which serves new mothers and their babies for free. KEEP-DPRK receives matching in-kind donations from Michigan-based World Medical Relief, through which it also purchases needed medicine and medical supplies. Our goal for medical aid fundraising is $7,500. With in-kind donations from World Medical Relief, the total value of the antibiotics we are bringing will be approximately $13,000. The participants of KEEP-DPRK 2015 have started a fundraising drive to purchase this year’s medical supplies.[8]

Meejin Richart

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New York-based community organizer Meejin Richart traveled in August, 2013 to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as part of a delegation of Korean Americans. They went through the Korean Exposure and Education Program-DPRK (KEEP-D), a program of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, whose mission is to increase awareness of and strengthen the global movement for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula. Workers World reporter Greg Butterfield spoke to Richart about her experience.

WW: How did you get involved with the KEEP program?

MR: I first heard about KEEP back in 2010 when I was living in Seattle and working on Korean diaspora issues. I went on KEEP-R [to the Republic of Korea, the capitalist south], where we learned about the South Korean progressive movement. In New York, I became politicized in a much deeper way and decided to go on KEEP-D [for DPRK].

I was encouraged to go by an organizer who I worked with in the anti-police-brutality movement. Since coming to New York, I’ve been organizing around police violence and broader pan-Asian community issues, and I wanted to focus again on issues that affect the Korean diaspora.

The delegation was 14 people, plus six folks who were translators, guides and a driver from the DPRK. We were a very diverse group with lots of identities — adoptees, queer, trans, biracial, and an age spectrum from the early 20s to the mid-50s. There were lots of different experiences and language abilities. It was a lot to negotiate. But we realized on the trip that this is a necessary negotiating and reconciliation process within the Korean-American diaspora to work toward tongil [peaceful reunification].

We were in the DPRK for 11 days, but the entire trip lasted about three weeks. There are no direct flights from the U.S. We had to fly first to Beijing. Getting there was a learning experience in itself.

I was very surprised to meet tour groups and tourists on our flight. For example, there was a group of Zainichi students: ethnically Korean high school students living in Japan. They came for a four-week musical program of traditional Korean music — dancing, drumming, flute and so on. There were other folks from the Korean diaspora, but also Australians and Europeans. For the first few days, everyone tends to go to the same historic sites, so we kept running into the same tour groups from our flight.

WW: What kind of experiences did you have with people living in the DPRK?

MR: The first group meeting we had was with a group of farmworkers, about 30 folks on a collective farm. They were members of the [Kim Il Sung Socialist] Youth League. Our bus arrived late, and eight people had been waiting a long time with flowers to greet us at the junction of the road. A farmer asked if we wanted to pick eggplants. We walked down into a muddy field even though we were wearing professional dress!

We had the opportunity for a lot of one-on-one conversation. There were two questions we were asked a lot. The first was whether women still experience discrimination in the U.S. The other was, what do people in the U.S. think of the DPRK?

WW: That must have been uncomfortable.

MR: It was a difficult conversation. It made me sad that we had to say the perception is not good. But we also explained that the reason we were there was to bring back stories about the reality of the country.

People were very receptive. As someone who doesn’t speak Korean, I was told over and over, “Thank you for coming, doing all of the required learning must have taken a lot of effort.” That to me was the biggest and most important part of the journey — the idea that “we need everyone for tongil.”

WW: As a Korean American, did it feel like you were an outsider looking in?

MR: It was much more of a homecoming. In the DPRK there is an ideology of “Korea is one” or “Chosun eun hanada.” That’s about wanting the Korean diaspora to come and participate in the life of the home country and be united.

It was powerful and so different from my experience in Seoul on the 2010 trip. Despite the fact that we were learning about the South Korean progressive movement, and obviously some folks were more welcoming, overall I felt like a foreigner and not very welcome. In the DPRK it was completely the opposite: open embrace and loving arms.

WW: I understand there was a lot of singing.

MR: I really tried to prepare myself before the trip. Each of us on the delegation was able to choose a song to memorize and have that be our song. In Korea, they say “my 18” — when that song comes on karaoke, you’re really good at it and can hit all the notes.

When we were in Korea, there was talking, meetings, eating, and then our hosts would always get up and do their songs. Which was kind, to put themselves out there first — but then to follow them was a little bit hard and kind of embarrassing!

In the U.S., there is a performance element to singing in front of a big group of people, but in Korea it’s much more about sharing with each other. People start singing along after you make it through the first verse.

Everyone just knew all the songs that we had taken so long to learn. We asked our guides and translators where they had learned these songs. They said in school or with family at home. Singing is very much a part of the culture.

For me, not speaking the language, coming with a song that I had learned was also a way to connect. My song was “Blue Sky of My Home Country.” The lyrics are kind of nostalgic: “When I was young, I lived in my home country and I was happy, I looked up at the blue sky. Now I look up and see the same blue sky and I wish for how it was before.”

There were songs about the desire for reunification. To say it is one thing, but to put it in musical form is very powerful.

WW: As someone raised in the United States, what was the most striking thing you experienced about the U.S. role in the division of Korea?

MR: We had done study sessions prior to the trip, so we had learned a lot about the role of the U.S. But for me it became very clear in two places: when we visited a war memorial/museum and at the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

The Sinchon Massacre Museum has 16 rooms devoted to the memory of people who were part of the Revolution. Tens of thousands of people were murdered in this very small county by the U.S. military. A lot of them were women because much of the revolutionary leadership came from Korean women.

We saw photographs that were taken at the time: women tied up, tortured, mutilated. I asked how the photographs came about, and a woman who was showing us around explained they were taken by U.S. soldiers because they thought it was something to be proud of. It was striking and really upsetting. We saw bones recovered from mass graves, of women who were pregnant or holding their children in their arms. It really hit home – these were U.S. soldiers doing this to Korean people.

Being Korean American, having so many friends who also have family members who live in the north, I knew some of their family members could have been killed, and we’ll never know. It was a very heavy day and also helped inspire me to act upon my return to the U.S., not just reunification work but on a larger scale about the cost of war and U.S. imperialism.[9]

"Koreans want peace!"

Seventy people packed the Asian American Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan on July 27 to discuss the struggle for peace in Korea. The majority were members of the Korean diaspora. The teach-in was held on the 65th anniversary of the Korean War armistice and organized by Nodutdol for Korean Community Development.

A three-person panel, Betsy Yoon, Yujin Park and Rose Kim, together with moderator Ryan Wong, talked about the political situation following the summit meeting between Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. Public opinion polls show 80 percent of people in U.S.-occupied south Korea view Kim Jong Un favorably.[10]

Keep-D 2015 Reportback

Keep-D 2015 Reportback, Public · Hosted by Nodutdol for Korean Community Development

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Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 1 PM - 4 PM EDT

Asian American Writers Workshop

Hear from Sharon Chung and Haruki Nathaniel Eduardo-Ha, plus coordinator Betsy Yoon, about their experiences building people-to-people relationships in North Korea![11]

Invited on Facebook

Interested

Went

KEEP alumni

Nodutdol for Korean Community Development June 16, 2016;

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obligatory post-event photo! — with JT Takagi, Betsy Yoon, Juyeon Rhee, Meejin Richart, Sharon Chung, Cori Irene Hook, Haruki Nathaniel Eduardo-Ha and Sooyoung Lee.


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keep-d alums! — with JT Takagi, Juyeon Rhee, Betsy Yoon, Meejin Richart, Sharon Chung, Haruki Nathaniel Eduardo-Ha, Hyun Lee and Sooyoung Lee.

Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea

Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea

In 2017 Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, and several Nodutdol activists endorsed Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and End Militarism in Asia and the Pacific.

They were Hosu Kim, Yujin Park, Ryan Lee Wong, Nodutdol, New York, Juyeon Rhee, and Hyon Mi Chang, Nodutdol, Brooklyn.

Connecting Resistance Across the Pacific

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Korea trip

Report on a May 2018 delegation of US trade unionists, Black Lives Matter, and other social movement activists to trade unions in Korea, sponsored by US Labor Against the War and the Korean Trade Union Confederation.

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Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) executive director Michael Leon Guererro reports on a delegation of US trade unionists, Black Lives Matter, and other social movement activists to trade unions in Korea, sponsored by US Labor Against the War and the Korean Trade Union Confederation. Michael reports that the Korean labor movement played a key role in the peace process:

The road to the peace process was paved by the Candlelight Revolution - a popular movement uprising that lasted for months - ending in December 2016 with the impeachment of Korean President Park Gun-hye. Anchored by the KCTU, the movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets in a series of protests against the corruption of the Park government and political domination by the family-owned conglomerates known as chaebols. On May 9, 2017, Moon Jae-in, a human rights attorney, was elected as the new President.
The delegation learned the history of the KCTU, which has grown to be a powerful organized voice of workers and changed the political landscape of Korea since being established just 30 years ago. Some of them met with former KCTU Chairman Han Sang-gyun and former vice-president Lee Young-Joo, both imprisoned by the Park administration on trumped up charges while protesting labor law reforms that would further limit workers' rights.
How will the process of denuclearization take place? What will be the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops? How will the U.S. transition and clean up its military bases and the legacy of heavy toxic pollution that these bases invariably create? And will Trump ultimately derail a peace process that the Koreans themselves have taken into their own hands?
Glass cases filled with gas masks is not a common site in any metro station except in South Korea. Metro lines are buried deeper underground than most systems. Transit riders walk through long tunnels to make connections between stations. This has become a cultural legacy in a country more than 3 generations into the Cold War. Over the years there have been hopeful moments that the political military tension would come to an end - only to end in disappointment and frustration. But in this moment, there is cautious optimism that a transition to peace is really on the horizon.
From May 1 through 8 I had the honor to be invited on a delegation organized by US Labor Against the War (USLAW) to South Korea. It was a peace mission sponsored by USLAW and the Korean Trade Union Confederation (KCTU). Our group was a mix of trade unionists, Black Lives Matter and other social movement activists and a team of interns from Tougaloo College. Our purpose was to strengthen solidarity with the Korean labor and social movements. We couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Just a week earlier President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea met in an historic summit at the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two countries. Both leaders agreed to a peace process that will ultimately end the Korean War and eventually reunify the Korean peninsula.
The road to the peace process was paved by the Candlelight Revolution - a popular movement uprising that lasted for months - ending in December 2016 with the impeachment of Korean President Park Gunhye. Anchored by the KCTU, the movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets in a series of protests against the corruption of the Park government and political domination by the family-owned conglomerates known as chaebols that control major sectors of the South Korean economy. On May 9, 2017, Moon Jae-in, a human rights attorney, was elected as the new President.
After a very informative orientation session at the Maritime Center in Baltimore led by Juyeon Rhee, Executive Director of Nodutdol and Reece Chenault, USLAW Executive Director, the delegation had to quickly troubleshoot as the first leg of our flight to Toronto was canceled. The team got most of us on alternate flights so that we arrived early in the morning of May 1.

A few hours later we were in the midst of tens of thousands of Korean trade unionists at the May Day rally. It was a powerful and visually striking event - with a parade of large flags representing hundreds of unions and expressions of solidarity with workers and communities in the midst of strikes or protests across the country. The #metoo movement has also had a strong influence in Korea and women workers throughout Korea were waging a nation-wide campaign to confront sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
The next day we visited the small farming village of Seong Ju where a small army of 80-year old women is leading a protest movement against the THAAD missile defense system that the U.S. imposed on the region despite the objections of the surrounding villages. We were able to participate in a weekly Wednesday rally. We had great chants that a crew of our young delegates put together and the villagers loved the lively show of solidarity.
On May 3 we did a press conference in front of the U.S. embassy with leaders of KCTU. We recognized that the peace process is an important opportunity for workers and communities in the U.S. as well. We need to think about our own transition to a peacetime economy and to support the process forged by the Korean leaders.
The rest of the day was spent with leaders of KCTU, including Vice-President _______, who is also the chair of the KCTU reunification committee and the Railway Workers Union (RWU) which has played an important role in building KCTU. The current chair of the confederation, Kim Myeong-hwan was the former chair of the RWU. We learned more about the history of the KCTU, which has grown to be a powerful organized voice of workers and changed the political landscape of Korea since being established just 30 years ago.
Small teams from our delegation were also able to meet with former KCTU Chairman Han Sang-gyun and former vice-president Lee Young-Joo, both imprisoned by the Park administration on trumped up charges while protesting labor law reforms that would further limit workers’ rights. Other members of the delegation met with representatives of the Korean Teachers Union which was decertified by the Park administration by allowing unemployed teachers to maintain their membership in the union. The team from Tougaloo college also met with a student organization and shared experiences of organizing and political education of students in their respective communities.

As a representative of the Labor Network for Sustainability I was of course interested in the position of the Korean government and the trade unions on climate change and a just transition from a fossil-fuelbased to a sustainable economy. In 2017 the Korean Power Plant Industry Union actually applauded the decision by the Moon administration to phase out older coal-fired power plants stating “Although our hearts are heavy, we welcome the shutdown of worn out coal power plants because we are clear about what kind of country we want to leave for our descendants.” Unfortunately I couldn’t find out more about other Korean union positions on these questions during the visit, but it is definitely an area where there is much opportunity for dialogue and exchange.
Our last visit was to the DMZ. We were met by representatives of the village of _____ and they hosted us for lunch. Our last stop was the Dorasan train station - a newly built station that was supposed to connect to the North Korean rail system when the last promising peace negotiations faltered a few years ago. The station is now a tourist spot with hopes of one day realizing its true mission.

Many questions remain in the transition to peace - how will the process of denuclearization take place? What will be the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops? How will the U.S. transition and clean up its military bases and the legacy of heavy toxic pollution that these bases invariably create? And will Trump ultimately derail a peace process that the Koreans themselves have taken into their own hands?
A promising proposal for the DMZ is that it be converted to a wildlife refuge. Apparently this fourkilometer wide stretch of land that spans the peninsula has developed into a de-facto, protected ecosystem where wildlife has flourished for nearly 7 decades - an unexpected legacy of the Cold War that hopefully has the chance to continue and expand across a united Korea.
Special thanks to Wol San Liem and Mikyung Ryu of the KCTU International Department for the hospitality, education and logistics coordination. Looking forward to more U.S.-Korea exchange and solidarity in the years to come.[12]

References