Through his address to the nation on March 20, Korean president Roh Moo-hyun said that he would "make every diplomatic effort to prevent the war from adversely affecting issues involving the two Koreas, including the nuclear conflict."
In response, women and civic groups have said that they will even consider impeachment to stop the now one-month-old administration from supporting the war on Iraq. They have already planned rejection campaigns against the assemblymen who are in favor of dispatching Korean troops to Iraq.
President of the People's Alliance Oh Jong-ryul said during the protest in front of the National Assembly on March 24 that "the government is making a shallow calculation in expecting the US to promise a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear crisis in return for supporting the US's war on Iraq." Oh appealed to the public to oppose the troop dispatch, saying that "if Korea demands other people's sacrifice to protect its own peace and security, it cannot expect the sympathy of the international community when danger strikes the Korean peninsula."
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died of starvation and disease since the Gulf War in 1991. On February 13 that year, a bomb that American troops dropped on an air raid shelter in Baghdad killed 400 civilians. 300 of them were children. And during the war of retribution on Afghanistan after the 9.11 terrorist attacks, some 13 thousand civilians were killed. Despite the massive loss of lives that war inevitably brings, most the world's nations show far more interest in the gains of the victor than the wretched losses of the defeated.
The situation in Iraq as reported by Yoo, Han and Bae - currently in Iraq as part of the Stop the War Coalition's human shield project - is filled with tension and despair that most of the media has failed to portray. "Yesterday (March 16), we had an all-day anti-war performance in al-Tawhid (Liberation) Square. We bought pipes and other stuff to make pulleys and mock missiles. During the performance, I did the traditional Korean dance, slowly moving towards a field of missiles, where I tried to express the destruction and suffering of Iraq. Doubled up with pain, I touched the faces of the Iraqi children and cried. I thought, This is all I can do with the war hours away - put up pictures, dance and cry. I don't remember what I did next. In the end, I took a child and sat on the picture with her. The message we wanted to express was, 'Do not kill our future.'"
'The Last Letter from Baghdad" sent by Yoo shows with heart-wrenching clarity the desperation she feels at being unable to do anything but cry for the innocent children who have no idea why the war is happening.
Yoo's letter pulled at the heartstrings of people put off by media reports that have been criticized for being a mere live broadcast of the war. Korean media companies have sent their own journalists to cover the war, but most of them still subscribe to the American, or CNN-style view of the war. There is a dearth of reports that show the actual situation in Arab nations including Iraq.
Secretary Lee Mi-kyung of the Environment Foundation says that she watched TV news of US missiles raining down on Baghdad with her children. "When I think of how the kids took in the scenes of US planes dropping precision-guided bombs right on target as if flaunting their accuracy, it becomes clear that scenes of the war are in themselves a form of violence." Oh Kim Sook-yi, a member of the Korean Peace Team who returned from Jordan on March 23, said at a press conference, "We have never let go of even the thinnest thread of hope that we could prevent this war. We must now create an even bigger wave of anti-war peace campaigns in order to stop the war that demands the blood of countless Iraqis."
Lee An-na (aged 36), one of the protesters in front of the National Assembly on March 25, stressed, "I heard that half the Iraqi population are children under 15 years of age. The Korean government should realize that it will forever brand Korea as a shameful war criminal by pursuing its own gains in a war that is killing civilians including women, children and the elderly." As if to prove Lee's point, continued mistakes and misbombings by the coalition forces have left civilian deaths in their wake. On March 24, an American bomber bombarded a patriot missile fort near the Islamic city of Nazaf by mistake, but casualties have yet to be accounted for.
When two missiles struck Turkey on March 23, thankfully causing no casualties, the Turkish public protested vehemently. On the same day, a missile fired by American troops near Ar Rutbar in west Iraq hit a bus carrying civilians, killing 5 Syrians and severely injuring another 10.
The Korean Human Rights Commission warned, "Civilian casualties in Iraq have skyrocketed since the US troops began their indiscriminate air raids. This war, launched without UN sanctions, will only take innocent lives." In the past decade, Korea has dispatched troops to support wars fought by the US on six occasions - to the Gulf War in 1991, Somalia in 1993, West Sahara in 1994, Angola in 1995, East Timor in 1999 and Afghanistan in 2001. And today we are on the brink of getting involved in yet another war.