Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) calls for an end to the Korean War at a press conference sponsored by Korea Peace Action on Capitol Hill on July 27. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Three days after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the sole member of the U.S. Congress with the foresight to vote against an authorization of the use of military force that gave legal justification for the war in Afghanistan and the Global War on Terror.

Nearly 22 years later, Lee has again stood for peace by introducing the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act with Brad Sherman (D-CA) calling for diplomacy in pursuit of a formal end to the Korean War.

Lee was the lead speaker at a press conference on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Korea Peace Action Committee on July 27 to mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended hostilities in the Korean War temporarily (the armistice did not mark a formal end of the Korean War which has yet to be achieved).

The press conference marked the beginning of a larger peace mobilization and conference supported by numerous activist groups that was designed to lobby for a change in U.S. policy.

Peace activists provide a backdrop for press conference attended by Barbara Lee (D-CA) demanding an end to the Korean War. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

On June 26, in a deliberately provocative maneuver toward North Korea, the U.S. military deployed a U.S. nuclear submarine carrying 20 Trident missiles to the Port of Busan; the first deployment of a nuclear-armed submarine in South Korea by the U.S. since the early 1980s.

U.S. nuclear-powered submarine arrives at South Korea's Busan port | Reuters
Ohio-class U.S. nuclear-powered submarine USS Michigan (SSGN 727) arrives at the Port of Busan, South Korea, June 16, 2023. [Source:]

Two months earlier, President Biden met with South Korea’s conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol to discuss ways of furthering U.S.-South Korean military cooperation.

President Biden and President Yoon toast
President Joe Biden toasts his “perfect partner” Yoon Suk-yeol at a state dinner in Washington attended by celebrities. [Source:]

The U.S. currently has 15 military bases and an estimated 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, who operate about 90 combat planes, 40 attack helicopters, 50 tanks and some 60 Patriot missile launchers.

A group of soldiers on a boat

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U.S. and South Korean troops performing military drill. [Source:]
General Kenneth Wilsbach [Source:]

On top of all this, General Kenneth Wilsbach, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces, suggested that the U.S. might soon be landing nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at South Korean air bases.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, stated after Yoon’s visit to Washington in April that “the more the enemies are dead set on staging nuclear war exercises, and the more nuclear assets they deploy in the vicinity of the Korean peninsula, the stronger the exercise of our right to self-defense will become in direct proportion to them.”

What Yo-jong considers North Korea’s right to self-defense is presented by U.S. politicians and in the mainstream media as the “North Korean threat” or “aggression.”

Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: KCNA/KNS via AP
Kim Yo-jong [Source:]

Barbara Lee warned in her speech that current U.S. policies threaten the renewed outbreak of war, which would be disastrous.

Lee said that her father served in the Korean War between 1950 and 1953, which claimed the lives of four million people, mostly Korean civilians along with 33,000 American soldiers. U.S. fighter planes destroyed 80% of North Korean cities, forcing millions of Korean civilians to flee their homes and separating at least 10 million families.

A person carrying a child in a destroyed house

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Survivors of U.S. air raid over Pyongyang during the Korean War, known in the U.S. as the “forgotten war.” [Source:]

This deadly human toll has largely been forgotten in the U.S, which has experienced a “form of collective amnesia.”

Lee was followed on the podium by Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), a supporter of the Peace on the Korea Peninsula Act who said that she was moved on a recent visit to South Korea by an 86-year-old woman, Sun Bac Kim, whose dying wish is to be reunited with her family after having been separated during the Korean War.

Under current legislation, U.S. citizens are banned from visiting North Korea, which is under coercive economic sanctions, and only a small number of South Koreans are able to visit with family members in the North under a lottery system.

Congresswoman Judy Chu speaking at a press conference sponsored by Korea Peace Action on Capitol Hill on July 27. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Joy Lee Gebhard, a woman in her late 80s, spoke at the rally about the traumatic experience of being separated during the Korean War from her family who lived in North Korea.

Sixteen at the time, Ms. Gebhard traveled to Seoul and then came to live in the United States in 1956. She only learned in 1980 that members of her family living in North Korea were still alive and has been barred from seeing them and even from sending a letter to her siblings.

Gebhard fears that she is running out of time to see her family members again and urges people to support the Peace on the Korean Peninsula Act, which would end the travel ban.

At the end of her speech, Gebhard read a poignant poem about her mother in which she recounted crying at night because of the separation, and dreaming about seeing her again, which was now impossible since her mother died at the age of 46.

Joy Lee Gebhard speaks at July 27 rally. Next to her is Christine Ahn, one of the organizers of the peace mobilization, and a co-founder and Executive Director of the non-profit group Women Cross DMZ, which is known for organizing a group of 30 female activists in crossing the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea in 2015. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Rick Downes, who chairs the Coalition of Families of Korean War & Cold War POW/MIAs, was a child when his father Hal Downes, an Air Force pilot and All-American ice hockey goaltender at the University of Michigan, was shot down during the Korean War.

Downes said at the July 27 press conference that he and others like him cannot find out precisely what happened to their loved ones who died in Korea or recover their remains, and cannot get closure until the war is formally ended.

On a 2016 visit to Pyongyang, Downes flew over the area where he believed his father died, and said that people in the U.S. and North Korea should get to know each other, which would be a way to heal the wounds of a war that went on for too long.

Rich Downes speaking at July 27 press conference. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Dan Leaf, a retired three-star Lieutenant General and Deputy Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, followed Downes by proposing that the Biden administration appoint a senior director at the National Security Council for resolving the Korean War. The job would be to prepare for the peace in Korea that everybody wants. At this time unfortunately, Leaf said, there is nobody in the government whose job it is to make peace—neither in Korea nor elsewhere.

General Dan Leaf [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

The final speaker at the press conference, Hana Kim, is a 14-year-old child actress from Los Angeles who said that she was speaking for Generation Z.

Ms. Kim said that her great-grandfather had traveled to North Korea on the eve of the Korean War in 1948 on a humanitarian mission to help develop the country and became separated from his family as a result of the war.

Kim’s grandmother also became a refugee who always remembered crossing a bridge on the Han River during the war as a four-year-old to escape the violence in her hometown as she heard the explosions behind her.

Hana Kim, speaking at the U.S. Capitol for Generation Z. [Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Ms. Kim said that her generation sees war as destructive and wasteful and is facing economic uncertainty and potential environmental disaster.

She ended by saying with a passion that the imperative for peace is great, and this is indeed what we should all be working for.

Rally for Peace

After the press conference, there was a peace rally in front of the White House and march to the Lincoln memorial where more speeches were given and people joined together in Buddhist prayer and sang Korean peace and protest songs.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

The temperature outside was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but people were cooled off by a brief downpour.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

The people’s spirit was exuberant as they called for ending the Korean War and dismantling of U.S. military bases in South Korea, the Philippines and Okinawa.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Some of the marchers displayed photos of loved ones who were killed during the Korean War.

A person holding a sign with pictures

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[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

One speaker detailed the sins of the U.S. in Korea, ranging from the bombing and massacre of civilians like at No Gun Ri, environmental degradation, the denial of Korea’s right to self-determination and carving up of the country like it was a spoil of war after World War II, along with support for sex trafficking and murderous dictators in South Korea.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

The U.S. also in 1958 introduced nuclear weapons into South Korea in violation of the 1953 armistice, demonized and persecuted Koreans who wanted reconciliation with the North, supported red-baiters in the South who stoked fear of North Korea, expanded the U.S. military base network, and carried out provocative military drills.

The main foreign policy goal has been to undermine and isolate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK-North Korea regime), which American leaders made promises to that were repeatedly betrayed.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Disgracefully, many Americans have grown rich off the suffering of the Korean people, including from weapon sales and investment in military industries via stock purchases and retirement portfolios.

One speaker emphasized that the American public’s indifference towards the fate of the Korean people is exemplified by the Korean War memorial next to the Lincoln memorial, which highlights the hardship experienced only by American soldiers in the war and not the vastly greater hardships experienced by Koreans.

The Korean War memorial features U.S. soldiers slogging through the mud. The suffering of U.S. soldiers is acknowledged but not that of the Korean population. [Source: Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

A plaque honoring U.S. troops admits that South Korea was a country that they “never knew.”

[Source: Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

Another speaker at the rally said that one day he hopes that Americans could receive absolution for their sins in Korea if they acknowledged the gravity of what they had done.

The end of the rally was truly uplifting as people weaved bands of cloth designed to commemorate victims of war together and sang and danced to violin music after a Buddhist monk chanted peace hymns.

[Source: Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kuzmarov]

One hopes that this spirit will linger and that participants in the rally will provide the spark for a larger peace movement in the U.S. that could help end the Korean War and Ukraine proxy war, and that could help halt the U.S. push for war with both China and Russia as a new multi-polar world order takes hold.

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  1. Perhaps this is just a glitch in my own personal computer. In the most recent articles the reply section is no longer available. So readers can no longer make comments on the articles.

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