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CSW62 Report Back | Day 6

CSW62 Report Back | Day 6

Un-Ai Jo

Two countries, two names, one nation - once were and always will be. This is a day that I long to see, as a fellow Korean who understands the sadness and pain that families go through due to forced separation of families as a result of the 38th parallel.

The 38th parallel separates North Korea and South Korea. The last 70 years of separation has led the two countries to develop into a completely different state politically, economically and culturally. Whilst South Korea has rebuilt its nation state by focusing on infrastructure, trade, tourism and technology, North Korea focused its development in military and defence. As tensions have risen dramatically in the Korean Peninsula as North Korea continues to test intercontinental ballistic missiles, I attended a few parallel events during CSW62 to show my support and speak with panel members that were presenting on North and South Korea.

Some of the parallel events at the Commission on the Status of Women delivered powerful presentations of:

  1. The current political and economical climate in North Korea;
  2. Movements and campaigns that promote reunification of the two Koreas;
  3. The experiences of North Korean defectors; and,
  4. The current cultural shifts in South Korea with the #metoo movement and North Korean defectors with the #ustoo movement.

‘Destitution in Rural DPRK and China – featuring the testimonials of North Korean women’ allowed audiences to hear about the two North Korean women who defected the Kim Jong Un’s regime to move to China with the hope of settling in South Korea or America. Two women highlighted common themes of patriarchy, male domination, poverty, deprivation and normalisation of violence against women.

The process of defecting North Korea included, but is not limited to, (1) swimming to cross the border to China; (2) being sold off to different Chinese families as slaves - where they frequently become victims of violence and sexual assaults or are used as a means to produce babies for Chinese families without children; (4) finding ways to escape slavery and avoid being deported back to North Korea; and, (5) hoping to find a on good willed broker that will help them in their journey to South Korea or America.

It was interesting to know that China has a policy to forcibly repatriate North Koreans even when they are facing serious consequences, including  ‘political camp’ or lifetime imprisonment. The North Korean speaker recounted her harrowing experience in ‘political camp’ where she was frequently beaten up and was subjected to sexual examinations.

Along with North Korean women in the panel, Jubilee Campaign, a non-profit organisation that promotes the human rights of minorities, called for multinational and lateral approachs and efforts to assist and help women of North Korea.

CSW62’s parallel event continued to explore international law that can assist to achieve peace and security between the two Koreas, in particular the Resolution 1325. The Resolution 1325 states that it ‘reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction. Moreover, it stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security’.

The exploration of the two Koreas situation with a feminist lens was an interesting angle taken by the civil societies that were involved in this presentation. It was inspiring to witness the collaboration of panel members from around the world. Speakers promoted their concerted movement and how they were taking practical steps towards the peace movement at an individual, community, domestic and international level. A lot of young passionate advocates spoke up to be involved in the movement as well.

I hope that the positive, passionate and practical energy that filled the room blossoms to achieve the common goal – the reunification of Korea. It would be a life changing experience to have the opportunity to meet any of my long lost family members that were lost through the separation of two Koreas.

Keira Jenkins

There are more female journalists than there were 15 years ago. We are growing in number, we a growing in strength.

But alongside our growth have been the growth of technology and the growth of abuse. Female journalists have always been attacked because of their gender, and have always faced different abuses than our male counterparts.

Most female journalists have been on the receiving end of some kind of gender-based violence, including rape threats, sexual harassment and abuse, and other forms of sexual violence.

We are attacked on the basis of our gender and stripped of our dignity, our professionalism is questioned and our sexuality is used against us.

Increasingly, this abuse has been moved onto public online spaces. Outspoken women are bombarded with threats to their safety through their emails, their Facebook, their Twitter and these have very real consequences for the journalist’s safety in the offline world.

Maria Ressa is a journalist, and has covered conflicts in south-east Asia since the 1980s.  During a session on safe journalists and strong democracies she told us she’s received an average of 90 threats every hour for the past month. A lot of these threats have been state-sponsored.

“They’re only words at this point, but words can have a huge impact,” she said.

Ms Ressa spoke about the 26 fake accounts on Facebook that had prompted over 3 million real accounts to reiterate the hate the fake accounts were sprouting.

One of these was a teenage boy who posted on his Facebook page that he hoped Ms Ressa would be raped to death, and that this would bring him joy.  Ms Ressa organised to meet this boy and explained the power of his words, and the very real consequences of them.

Words matter.

Why else would we be sitting in the hallways of the UN fighting over the use of the word families versus the family in the agreed conclusions?

Why else would I dedicate my life to story telling, to finding the right word to describe a person or an event?

I believe in the power of words because journalists have been murdered for using the words that can hold their Governments accountable for their actions.

There are women in this world who have been silenced and gagged and are not allowed to use the words they so need, to get justice.

So I believe in the power of choosing every sentence, every word very carefully because I have the privilege to have my voice amplified by my space in the media, by organizations like NCOSS who care what I think, by other women who have supported me.

Because the words that you use can have serious effects on the people around you, and they can do more damage than you could imagine.


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