Knives Back Out for Peace Activists in Korea

Ann Wright responds to a Newsweek opinion column last week smearing Women Cross DMZ, other peace organizations and individuals, including herself, as “pro North.” 

South Korean soldiers at Panmunjeom in the DMZ between North and South Korea, 2008. (Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Ann Wright

The knives are out again for those advocating for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Almost eight years to the day, I wrote “The Knives are Out For Those Who Challenge Militarization of the Korean Peninsula,” about Washington Beltway pundits and those on the payroll of organizations and corporations that make money out of the U.S. bureaucracy’s need for an enemy.

These groups had focused their outrage and diatribes at Women Cross DMZ for organizing the 2015 trip to North and South Korea and daring to challenge the status quo of U.S. policy toward North Korea.

Eight years later as Women Cross DMZ and other Korea peace advocacy groups are organizing a National Mobilization to End the Korean War, July 26-28, in Washington, D.C., the smears have resumed for those saying that after 70 years of an armistice and amid rising tensions in Asia, as well as for the security of the people of Asia and the world, it’s time to call again on another U.S. president and another U.S. Congress to support a formal peace agreement with North Korea.

Last week Newsweek published an opinion column “North Korean Stooges Step Into the Light” by longtime, paid lobbyist Lawrence Peck. This article contains false statements about Women Cross DMZ, other peace organizations and individuals, including myself.

The purpose of the article was to undermine the reputation and credibility of those named in the article and to call into question the rationale for next week’s national mobilization.

Women Cross DMZ responded to the false allegations in a comprehensive, well-documented letter to Newsweek which Newsweek has so far inexplicably refused to publish.

The Women Cross DMZ letter to Newsweek states:

“Mr. Peck accuses our organization, Women Cross DMZ, of being ‘pro-North Korean’ and our activities to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula as ‘an exercise in deception’ constituting ‘a foreign influence operation targeting Congress.’ He accuses Women Cross DMZ of working in collaboration with the North Korean government to benefit the Kim Jong Un regime.

Christine Ahn in 2019. (Aadele, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0) 

These are baseless claims. Among the ‘evidence’ Peck provides to back his claims is an opinion article — although not labeled as such — in the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner noting that Women Cross DMZ Executive Director Christine Ahn met with a diplomat at the DPRK Mission to the United Nations.

To attribute nefarious motives to the meeting is both dishonest and irresponsible. The meeting was a necessary procedural step to arrange the 2015 women’s peace symposium, the DMZ crossing and subsequent efforts to meet and engage with North Korean women — not, as the article suggests, evidence of collaboration or deception.

Women Cross DMZ has also met with representatives of the U.S. and South Korean governments, because we believe that face-to-face engagement is essential to fostering dialogue, trust and understanding — the building blocks for peace and lasting security.

Mr. Peck also points to statements made by Christine Ahn that are critical of the U.S. military presence in South Korea.

Being critical of the fact that the U.S. military poisons the water, robs farmers of their land and destroys ecosystems — not to mention the annual U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises that prompt North Korea to react with provocative military actions — is not evidence of being ‘pro-North.’ Being pro-peace and pro-engagement does not equal supporting any government.”

[Related: Giving Peace a Chance in Korea]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met at the Joint Security Area on April 27, 2018. (Blue House, Wikimedia Commons)

The Women Cross DMZ letter – continues:

“Our work is widely lauded by prominent experts and leaders, including the former UN Special Rapporteur human rights in the DPRK. Among the broad coalition of allies who stand with Women Cross DMZ are Nobel Peace laureates, feminist authors, peace activists, human rights lawyers, professors, former parliamentarians, faith leaders, humanitarian aid workers, filmmakers, artists, a retired Army Colonel, and a recipient of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Nowhere in Women Cross DMZ’s literature, speeches, media, or reports have we praised the North Korean regime. As our financial reporting demonstrates, we are funded entirely by U.S.-based foundations and individual donors, none of whom are based in North Korea or have any ties to the North Korean government.

Sadly, these attacks to discredit our organization and the growing movement for peace on the Korean Peninsula are nothing new. It is worth noting who is funding these attacks and why.”

[Related: The Korean War’s Forgotten Lessons on the Evil of Intervention]

The Women Cross DMZ letter concludes:

“Mr. Peck must not be given a platform to repeat his conspiracy theories about Korea peace activists without disclosing the financial motives of such attacks. In light of the falsehoods and conspiracies throughout Mr. Peck’s article, as well as the fact that it fails to meet basic journalistic principles of fairness, we request that you retract this article in its entirety. At the very least, in the interest of fairness, we hope you will give us a similar platform to explain why we advocate for peace.

Amid a dangerous escalation in tensions on the Korean Peninsula, we urge Newsweek to refrain from amplifying baseless accusations seeking to discredit the long-standing efforts of organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to building lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. In the future, we hope you will invest in nuanced, evidence-based reporting and cover the full diversity of perspectives on this issue.”

Since I was attacked by name in Peck’s article. I responded by email to the deputy Opinion editors of Newsweek with the following:

“Lawrence Peck cited me by name in his outrageous and libelous OPED ‘North Korean Stooges Step Into the Light’ published by Newsweek. Newsweek did NOT allow me or others named in his blatantly inaccurate and mal-intentioned article to be able to respond in the same issue of Newsweek to Peck’s malicious and untruthful remarks that jeopardized our reputations.

In case you don’t know lobbyist Lawrence Peck’s history, since 2015 with the trip to North and South Korea by 30 international women from 15 countries, including two Nobel Peace Laureates, with Women Cross DMZ, Peck has continued his outrageous statements about anyone and any group advocating peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Peck is totally wrong in his slanderous and libelous statements about individuals and groups he cites in his diatribe, remarkably published by Newsweek without giving those named as racist, anti-semitic and anti-American by Peck an opportunity to respond to such outrageous and libelous allegations.

I am not anti-American. I served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. I served 16 years as a U.S. diplomat and resigned over the tragic decision of the Bush Administration to wage a war on Iraq, a war that endangered U.S. national security as we now well know.

I am not racist, nor anti-semitic. I do hold lobbyists for the State of Israel accountable for their influence over individual Congresspersons and their votes in the U.S. Congress that protect the State of Israel from accountability for their criminal actions on Palestinians.

That is not anti-semitic, it is being truthful about the relationship between the State of Israel, lobbyists and some members of the U.S. Congress. The State of Israel and Peck attempt to portray any criticism of the State of Israel as anti-semitic, but it is not and Newsweek should not allow such allegations to stand.

The only “stooge” in the OPED published by Newsweek is the author Lawrence Peck who wants the status quo to continue and would lose his job if there would be peace on the Korean peninsula.”

So far Newsweek has not published my letter.

Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran who retired as a colonel. She is also a former U.S. diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.  She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia.  In December 2001 she was on the small team that reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.  

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

6 comments for “Knives Back Out for Peace Activists in Korea

  1. vinnieoh
    July 27, 2023 at 09:51


  2. Al Shirani
    July 27, 2023 at 01:57

    Dear Ms. Wright: I am glad to see some open-minded people like you. As you know here we have a kind of invisible control over many things and people are brain-washed. I think this kind of control is much worst than the visible control which has been applied in most of the 3rd world countries… Thanks again for your articles and am glad to see an open-minded & wise lady who tries to show the truth….

  3. wildthange
    July 26, 2023 at 20:41

    If the US and allies are practicing invasion tactic on North Korea’s borders yearly that is a definite sign of the need for negotiations to prevent actual warfare. The effect if dire sanction also is a reason for the good of humanity.
    One has to suspect there is only one reason for keeping North Korea on militarized fear. In order to have bases on the Asian continent bordering China now and throughout the Cold War and to keep South Korean as a weapon.

  4. Lois Gagnon
    July 26, 2023 at 17:08

    Those like Mr. Peck who shill for this violent empire are straight up cowards with no idea what integrity even looks like. Our media system serves the interests of these cowards as it is populated by careerist cowards as well. Their days at the top of the heap are numbered. The world is sick of being held hostage by these self-appointed global marauders.

  5. Onlooker
    July 26, 2023 at 15:46

    Ms Wright:
    “Lawrence Peck …. would lose his job if there would be peace on the Korean peninsula”

    Please tell us what exactly that job is, and who he works for.

  6. July 26, 2023 at 15:23

    Important article and most points made are valid. I only note that a formal peace to a non-war would be somewhat anomalous but that the appropriate parties should be the United Nations and North Korea, and that while a veto in the Security Council by the United States and its allies is all but certain, a resolution to that effect in the General Assembly might be considered res gestae. Food for thought anyway. Thank you.

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