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Korean LGBTQ experts push for peace Bay Area group praises developments from U.S.-North Korea summit By CHRISTOPHER KANE A brief statement signed June 12 by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded an historic summit in Singapore. The agreement was short on details but fodder for explosive speculation. Trump committed the U.S. to vague “security guarantees” in exchange for a “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” with no specific language about verification or a timeline. Trump also called off “war games,” otherwise known as joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea that has heretofore provided an umbrella of protection for the region. The announcement surprised both South Korea President Moon Jae-in and the Pentagon. “Our military exercises are defensive in nature,” Frank Jannuzi, CEO of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation and former deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Los Angeles Blade. “What’s remarkable to me here is that you’ve got Trump unilaterally suspending those exercises and getting nothing for it. It’s not like the North had made a reciprocal pledge to both suspend production of fissile material [that which is capable of sustaining a nuclear fission reaction] and to suspend their large-scale military exercises.” Trump “is way out of his depth,” “duped” by the violent dictator Kim Jong Un, former CIA Director John Brennan told MSNBC. The statement of principles was something Un had already signed more specifically with South Korea. Others, however, remain optimistic. Ju-hyun Park, a member of the Communications Committee of Hella Organized Bay Area Koreans (HOBAK), a San Francisco-area collective founded as a home for queer and trans Koreans, told the Los Angeles Blade: “The cancellation of U.S.-ROK [South Korean] military drills and the DPRK’s [North Korea’s] commitment to denuclearization are positive steps towards the realization of peace and reunification

Members of HOBAK expressed hope for peace on the Korean peninsula. Photo Courtesy HOBAK

on the peninsula. We hope talks continue and result in demilitarization and denuclearization, including of U.S. assets.” Christine Ahn, co-founder of the Korea policy Institute and founder and international coordinator of Women Cross DMZ—a coalition of women working to end the decades-long stalemated Korean War—told Democracy Now on Tuesday: “This is unprecedented. It’s a new day for the Korean peninsula. The joint statement talks about peace and prosperity and security. It remains the job of civil society, and especially of women’s groups, to be sure we’re included in this peace process.” Women and LGBTQ Koreans have long been pushing for peace in the region as the best way to secure more freedoms and protections for gender and sexual minorities on the Korean peninsula. Both North and South Korea have been beset by human rights abuses, as well as prejudice from the American-influenced Christian Right against LGBTQ people. Trump said human rights abuses were discussed “briefly” during the summit, but did not elaborate. Rather, he showed

Un a four-minute video produced by and California-based Destiny Productions about what his country could be. The video comes off as a movie trailer “about a special moment in time when a man is presented one chance that may never be repeated. What will he choose – to show vision and leadership – or not?” Trump, who lavished praise on Un, told reporters that the North Korean leader and his entourage were impressed. Many experts and activists, including members of HOBAK, watched the summit with both trepidation and excitement since the world leaders are known for being unpredictable. They feel the inclusion of women and LGBTQ communities in peace talks could help to usher in an era of demilitarization and reconciliation and want to offer insights into a better way forward. HOBAK, a group of 20 grassroots activists, promote gender equality, LGBTQ rights, demilitarization, Korean reunification, and other progressive policies both on the Korean Peninsula and in the U.S. The group believes that American involvement in the ongoing Korean War has only stymied hopes

for peace and demilitarization. “I think we’ve been seeing this again with Donald Trump’s administration, where they have been really fanning the flames of hostility and tension,” Hyejin Shim told the LA Blade. “U.S. occupation has really impacted the politics of South Korea because the U.S. has positioned itself as South Korea’s benefactor and savior. To our understanding, the relationship between the U.S. and the South Korean government— that was a relationship that propped up South Korean dictators for many decades after the Korean War,” started June 25, 1950. Having women and LGBTQ folks involved in the peacemaking process leads to actual and more lasting peace deals, said Ahn, who has hosted international peace summits in Seoul and Pyongyang. The ongoing state of war is “used by governments on both sides to justify a very repressive national security state. Obviously, on a scale of one to 10, it’s a 10 in North Korea. And in South Korea, it depends on whether it’s a more progressive or liberal administration, versus a neoconservative one.” While she did not minimize North Korea’s record on human rights, Ahn said the

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