Korea: Crisis and Opportunity


Rene Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have recently increased, highlighted by the nuclear weapon test of North Korea and the subsequent reactions. In a 14 March 2013 message to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Rene Wadlow, President of the Association of World Citizens, called for an UN-led Korean peace settlement conference and stressed that a crisis also can be an opportunity for strong initiatives and action. The United Nations with historic responsibilities for Korea should take the lead.

The 1950-1953 Korean War was undertaken by UN Security Council Resolutions 82, 83, and 84.  21 UN Member States (16 combatants and 5 humanitarian) joined to support the UN Command.

The 27 July 1953 Armistice was signed by the UN Command Delegation and by Delegations of the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army.

The 1950-1953 Korean War set the stage for later Cold War tensions in Asia, tensions which have prevented an Asia-wide organization of security and cooperation as was possible in Europe with the OSCE.

Today, with the entry of the two Korean States to the United Nations in 1991, all the States involved in the Korean War are members of the United Nations.

Partial measures of cooperation between the two Korean States, the 6-Party talks on nuclear issues and a number of  Track II diplomatic efforts have shown the possibilities but also the limits of partial measures.

With conditions of insecurity growing and also threatening Korea’s neighbours, the Korean situation is a “matter which may threaten international peace and security.”  Therefore, the Citizens of the World call for a UN-led Korean Settlement Conference to be organized during 2013 — the 60th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice.

Such an UN-sponsored Korean Peace Settlement Conference can build upon past partial measures and especially meet the new challenges of security and cooperation in Asia. The Association of World Citizens also stresses that such a Peace Settlement Conference is of concern not only of Governments but is one in which the voices of civil society are legitimate and should be heard.


René Wadlow, a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and of its Task Force on the Middle East, is president and U.N. representative (Geneva) of the Association of World Citizens. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Mar 2013.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Korea: Crisis and Opportunity, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

One Response to “Korea: Crisis and Opportunity”

  1. satoshi says:

    The headline of the above article is “Korea: Crisis and Opportunity”. In the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two letters – “danger” and “opportunity”. Therefore, the word “crisis” can be interpreted as the “opportunity of danger” or as the “danger as an opportunity”. (Koreans also use Chinese letters although mostly they use Hangul, the Korean alphabet.)

    By using this opportunity, let me refer to the following two issues:

    First: On the possible humanitarian crisis in the Korean Peninsula:

    So, what crisis the Korean Peninsula is facing now? The nuclear missile crisis as Western mass media report? Yes, however, there is another and more serious crisis in the Korean Peninsula. That is a possible large scale humanitarian disaster – the starvation of common North Korean citizens, the deterioration of the sanitary situation in North Korea and the possible exodus of a huge number (perhaps millions?) of starving refugees from that country into the neighboring countries. For example, according to “The Chosunilbo English Edition” (See http://english.chosun.com/ ), one of the main newspapers in South Korea, twelve North Korean soldiers have fled to China so far this month (March 2013), due to, reportedly, the shortages of food in North Korea. These soldiers were sent back to North Korea. In addition, on 9 March, eight North Korean civilians, including five street children, were arrested by the Chinese authorities near the border of North Korea and were sent back to North Korea on 19 March. It is highly likely that these people are now being severely punished or persecuted by the North Korean authorities. Remember that, on 11 March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council decided to investigate North Korea’s possible crime against humanity and relevant serious human rights abuses.

    Second: The principle of non-refoulement:

    Refugee issues are a huge problem for many countries in the world, especially for those asylum countries. However, the minimum rule in dealing with refugees, who are essentially illegal aliens, is that relevant authorities should act according to the “principle of non-refoulement”. This principle is stipulated in Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, its 1967 Protocol and Article 3 of the 1984 Convention Against Torture (CAT). Although, in general, international treaties are applicable only to the State Parties to those treaties, the principle of non-refoulement is considered as a customary international law so that this principle is applicable to all States (and relevant authorities) in the world. In addition, many scholars of international law consider that the principle of non-refoulement is a “jus cogens” (= a peremptory norm).

    Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention:
    1. No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
    2. The benefit of the present provision may not, however, be claimed by a refugee whom there are reasonable grounds for regarding as a danger to the security of the country in which he is, or who, having been convicted by a final judgment of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country

    Article I of the 1967 Protocol for the 1967 Refugee Convention:
    1. The States Parties to the present Protocol undertake to apply articles 2 to 34 inclusive of the Convention to refugees as hereinafter defined. [Therefore, the effect of the 1967 Protocol includes Article 33 of the above mentioned 1951 Refugee Convention.]

    Article 3 of the 1984 Convention Against Torture:
    1. No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
    2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

    For more information on the principle of non-refoulement, visit UNHCR’s website: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain?docid=438c6d972