Photo of Women Cross DMZ walk in Pyongyang, North Korea at the Monument of Reunification (Photo by Niana Liu)
By Colonel (Ret) 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, 2023 in Washington, DC, the knives are out again for those saying that after 70 years of an armistice, and the rising tensions in Asia, for the security of the people of Asia and the world, it’s time to call on 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 titled “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 allegations contained in the opinion piece in a comprehensive, well-documented letter to Newsweek which Newsweek has so far inexplicably refused to publish.
The Women Cross DMZ letter to Newsweek stated:
“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.
These are baseless claims. Among the “evidence” Mr. 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 prompt North Korea to react with provocative military actions — is also not evidence of being “pro-North.” Being pro-peace and pro-engagement does not equal supporting any government.”
The Women Cross DMZ letter to Newsweek 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 U.S. 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.”
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 longstanding 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.”
Ann Wright’s response to Peck’s personal attack on her
I was attacked by name in Peck’s article. I responded by email to the Deputy Opinion editor of Newsweek, Jason Fields 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.
Please feel free to email Newsweek Deputy Opinion Editor with your comments:
Jason Fields [email protected]
Join Us For the National Mobilization to End the Korean War, July 26-28, 2023
To counter the malicious war-mongering of people such as Lawrence Peck that have made careers out of stirring up crisis and organizations and corporations that have made hundreds of billions of dollars by urging confrontation instead of dialogue and conflict resolution, I hope that thousands will join us next week in Washington, DC on the 70th anniversary of the Korean Armistice for Korea Peace Action: National Mobilization to End the Korean War, July 26-28, 2023.
The three-day convening in Washington, D.C., is being organized by Women Cross DMZ and the Korea Peace Now! Grassroots Network and a broad coalition of peace advocates, humanitarian aid groups, and organizations representing veterans, POW-MIAs, faith traditions, and Korean Americans whose families remain divided by the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that bisects the peninsula. This action will coincide with similar peace mobilizations in South Korea, organized by Korea peace partners there.
Events for the 3-day mobilization in Washington, DC include:
- July 27 at 9AM: A congressional press briefing with US members of Congress and Korea peace champions at the House Triangle;
- July 27 from 1-3 PM: A participatory, community grief ceremony featuring renowned Korean American performance artist Dohee Lee and author Joseph Han, author of the acclaimed novel Nuclear Family;
- July 27 from 5-6PM: A rally at Lafayette Park with Women Cross DMZ Executive Director Christine Ahn, TikTok creator Nick Cho (“Your Korean Dad”), and other prominent Korea peace supporters;
- July 27 from 6-7PM: March
- July 27 from 7-8PM: Vigil
July 28 from 9AM-3PM: conference at George Washington University featuring renowned Korea scholars and peace strategists:
- Siegfried Hecker, Stanford University nuclear scientist
- Kee Park, Harvard Medical School faculty, Director of the North Korea Program at the Korean American Medical Association
- Joy Gebhart, member of a divided family, humanitarian and peace activist
- Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant general, former deputy commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Korean War veteran
- Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago Korea scholar
- Jennifer Deibert, DPRK program director at the American Friends Service Committee
Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserve and retired as a Colonel. She also served 16 years as a U.S. diplomat in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”