Organized peace movements trace their existence far longer back in history than the 60"s in the western world: In the early 1800"s, in response to the Napoleonic wars, a peace movement marked the beginning of today"s modern anti-war activism. A century later, World War I brought several organizations to act against the war. And numerous others followed ever since.
The peace movement has come a long way since then, evolving from contained, religion-motivated demonstrations to massive public forces composed of people who oppose war for numerous reasons. Today, as U.S. battles Iraq, activists are again voicing their objections to war, louder than ever before.
The anti-war movement against the war in Iraq is by far, in scope and number of countries involved, the largest peace movement ever to take place in the history of the world. Thousands of people, regardless of age or color, gather under the common cause of peace. The anti-war movement has particularly turned into furious public demonstrations in Korea, where it meshed with a general anti-American sentiment that has been ongoing due to a number of unfortunate incidents involving the U.S. military.
Thousands have joined in rallies held in downtown Seoul, and numerous concerts and charity fund drives have been staged for the sake of peace. But all the calls for peace were dismissed when on Mar. 21, U.S. President George Bush ordered the beginning of the long-anticipated war against Saddam Hussein. This has lead many to question the effectiveness and impact that peace movements really have on war. Can they really stop the war?
"Whether or not it is possible, does not matter," believes Koh Ara (Sociology, 3) and Yun Jina (Sociology, 3), two students participating in the peace movement held in front of the Student Union Building. "What matters is that we tried to stop the war, that we showed the world how we feel and stood up for what we believed in." she adds.
Though the two never actually participated in any of the anti-war movement before, now that the war has started, they feel that they should still be active in the peace movement. Others were more confident: "Of course we can stop the war! There is no questio about it," says Lee Eun-ju(English Language & Literature, 2), a member of the Student Government Association. "If we can get more people to realize the seriousness of the war, then we can stop the war."
And that is the point of these rallies, according to Lee, to get more people to understand and participate. "We failed to prevent the war from happening but we can make it stop. That is the agenda of these rallies at the moment," adds Lee.
Some students see effects of their voiced opinions. "Actually, I believe what delayed the Iraq war from happening until now, was the antiwar movement," says Chris Kerr (International Politics, 3), an exchange student from Australia. "I mean, the U.S. has been planning to bomb the place for as long as six months."
Asked about the mounting anti-American sentiment prevailing in Korea, Eun Bok (Division of Liberal Arts and Foreign Lang. & Lit., 1) dismisses the war as a reason: "It"s not that we hate all Americans. It"s not even that we hate the country. It is just that we should be allowed to criticize what is wrong, and right now what the U.S. government is trying to do is wrong.
Still, many conservative people in Korea are worried that these kinds of angry protests will have a negative impact on a still-staggering Korean economy, causing U.S. companies and investors to bail out. "I think that is just a whole lot of blackmailing," says Kerr. "I feel that Korean people are under too much pressure not to criticize America. The companies will act in the best interest for their profits, not the country"s."
For better or for worse, the war continues on at the moment, and so do the peace movements. "We will not stop until this blood-shedding crisis comes to an end. And neither will the rest of the world," exclaims Yundoo (Business Administration, 1). Let us all hope that for the sake of peace the peace movements do come to an end soon.