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American Studies Association's endorsement of a resolution calling for an end to the Korean War

August 4, 2021



August 4, 2021


Christine Hong:

Monica Kim:

Crystal Baik:

American Studies Association Joins Growing Call for End to Korean War

LOMA LINDA, CA, August 4, 2021 – On August 2, 2021, the American Studies Association (ASA), an academic organization with over 5,000 members in the United States and around the world, announced its support for a resolution calling for an end to the Korean War. Against the perception that the conflict ended in 1953, the organization noted the war’s status as one of the U.S.’s longest-running forever wars. It also committed to organizing one of its “freedom schools” around the unresolved war with the Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective, a group of U.S.-based academics, organizers, and activists who initiated the resolution. As ASA President-Elect Cathy Schlund-Vials stated, “the resolution’s critical engagement and pedagogical investments with what has all-too-often been cast as a ‘forgotten war’ should be at the forefront of what we do as an association, programmatically and otherwise.”

Although its 1951 founding coincided with the battle phase of the Korean War, a war of U.S. intervention in which an estimated 4 million Koreans were killed, ASA’s shift to a more critical position on U.S. power did not take place until the Vietnam War era. Following 9/11, the organization has taken notable stances against U.S. foreign policy, including support in 2013 of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In its unanimous endorsement of the current resolution, ASA’s executive council follows on the heels of the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) membership, which in June 2020 voted in favor of a resolution, also introduced by the Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective, urging the United States to “formally end the Korean War, and replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a permanent peace agreement.”

“Few people in the United States are aware that the Korean War is not over, yet its irresolution negatively impacts the lives of millions of people on the Korean peninsula, in the diaspora, and throughout Asia and the Pacific,” collective member Christine Hong, chair of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz, stated. Although the July 27, 1953 Korean War armistice recommended that the United States, North Korea, and China negotiate a permanent peace agreement in three months’ time, the Korean War persists today in the ongoing division of Korea, the continued U.S. military occupation of South Korea, the U.S.-led sanctions regime against North Korea, and the unabating militarization of the larger region. As collective member Crystal Baik, professor of gender and sexuality studies at UC Riverside, pointed out, for Koreans, the costs of ongoing war are stark: “militarized atrocities and continued separation from family and loved ones, [as well as] militarized sexual violence and ecological devastation.”

In 2020, the Korean War’s seventieth year, the Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective inaugurated a broad-based teaching initiative whose focus on critical approaches to the Korean War contrasts with how the war is typically taught in K-12 and university classrooms. The aim of the initiative is to foster critical consciousness through political education about the far-reaching toll of a war most commonly memorialized as “forgotten” within the United States. As part of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea, some of the initiative’s founding members had earlier brought together over eighty scholars principally in the United States in a 2010-13 teaching initiative on the Korean War. Those scholars committed to teaching at least one class per year on the Korean War. The current Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective, which brings together scholars, both graduate students and university faculty, who work in critical ethnic studies and critical Asian studies, makes an “even more sustained educational intervention,” as collective member Monica Kim, the William Appleman Williams Chair in International History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, stated. The syllabus traces “the ongoing Korean War and its ramifications beyond the Korean peninsula,” and is thematically structured, as Kim observed, around “empire, colonialism, race, and militarism.”

The reach of the current initiative is also far broader. As Baik stated, “Many of us who are a part of this teaching initiative are Korean diasporic scholars and also belong to activist, cultural, and community organizing spaces, so we understand how critically important it is that this initiative reaches and is used by a large audience.” Intended for implementation in academic and activist spaces, “the teaching initiative is designed for those who may already teach the Korean War, as well as those who are interested in exploring vital connections between seemingly disconnected spaces, communities, and geographies.”

The public syllabus project will be launched at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Racial Justice at UC Santa Cruz on Friday, September 10, 2021, and it will be housed on the Korea Policy Institute website. Future events featuring the Ending the Korean War Teaching Collective are scheduled for Yale University this fall and UC Irvine and Johns Hopkins University in the upcoming year.


Korea Policy Institute:

Center for Racial Justice, UC Santa Cruz:


ASA resolution calling for a decolonizing peace and a formal end to the Korean War

Whereas the Korean War broke out in the same early Cold War moment that the American Studies Association (ASA) formed as a scholarly organization dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. history, culture, and politics, thus entailing critical reflection on how the Cold War conditioned knowledge production within the U.S. academy about the massive deployment of U.S. war and police power;

Whereas the ASA, especially in the wake of 9/11, has taken powerful and principled stances against imperialism, the militarization of U.S. universities, and academic collusion with the national security state, emerging as a vital arena for scholarship on and activist organizing against past, present, and ongoing forms of racial and colonial violence:

Whereas 2020 marked the seventieth year of the unresolved Korean War, an asymmetrical war of U.S. aggression precipitated by the 1945 U.S. decision to divide Korea at the 38th parallel without consulting the Korean people and undermining the Korean people’s long struggle against Japanese colonial rule and historic efforts to realize democratic self-governance;

Whereas the United States, the primary Korean War belligerent and the world’s greatest nuclear proliferator and detonator, has refused to sign onto a permanent peaceful settlement, despite the temporary July 1953 armistice recommendation that the major signatories--the United States, North Korea, and China--negotiate peace terms within three months’ time, in contrast to North Korea’s numerous requests to end the Korean War;

Whereas without a peace agreement, war can resume at any time in Korea, which stands to destroy the lives of 80 million people on the peninsula in addition to many other Asian and Pacific Islander peoples, and in this era of a nuclear-armed North Korea to inflict catastrophe within the United States and on a planetary scale;

Whereas the ongoing state of war and division in Korea has exacted a massive human toll by keeping millions of families separated, including roughly 100,000 Korean Americans, by legitimating an exploitative system of international adoption, by authorizing a punitive and unrelenting regime of U.S.-driven sanctions that predictably harms North Korean public health and human security, by subjecting the peoples of Korea and the region to the constant threat of nuclear war, and by perpetuating an arms race that diverts resources from human needs and justifies the proliferation of garrison states;

Whereas U.S. military empire in Asia and the Pacific exploits the pretext of a menacing North Korea and the sub-imperial complicity of regional client-states, as in the South Korean deployment of over 300,000 soldiers to fight alongside U.S. forces in the U.S. war in Vietnam and in the strategic incorporation of sites like Diego Garcia, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Hawai‘i, and Okinawa into its “forward-deployed” posture against North Korea;

Whereas the Korean War, as a structure of permanent war, exacts an imperial toll, justifying monstrous trillion-dollar “defense” budgets--in 2015, 54% of the federal discretionary budget-- enabling the United States to wage endless wars and maintain troops abroad, the contamination, resource exploitation, and seizure of Indigenous lands, and the militarization of poor, non-white peoples within its army, correlating to unemployment, austerity programs that deny access to decent education, healthcare, and housing, and the militarization of the police;

Whereas the Korean War, the longest-running U.S. conflict, enabled the United States to consolidate its global military-imperial dominance, inaugurating the U.S. military-industrial complex and justifying its base expansion, while continually justifying U.S. power projection in the region, its encirclement of China, and the ever-expanding U.S. military budget;

Whereas contrary to U.S. government and corporate media claims, U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea continue, rehearsing the collapse, invasion, and occupation of--as well as nuclear first strikes against--North Korea, according to the Pentagon’s operation plans;

Whereas the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must be understood as imposing a commensurate obligation on the United States, given its history of repeatedly threatening North Korea with nuclear decimation and in violation of the 1953 Armistice deploying nuclear warheads to South Korea from 1958 to 1991, thereby requiring the elimination of all nuclear threats to the peninsula;

Whereas only a genuine peace agreement among the main parties to the Korean War, reflective of the Korean people’s struggle for decolonization, self-determination, liberation, and reunification, can reduce the risk of nuclear and conventional war in Korea;

Whereas the leaders of North and South Korea at the historic summit at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018 “solemnly declared before the 80 million Korean people and the whole world that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun,” and pledged to work together for independent unification, and in September 2018, signed an historic military agreement to cease all hostile acts and have taken concrete steps to transform the so-called demilitarized zone (DMZ) into an actual peace zone;

Whereas, since the historic 2018 summit between North Korea and the United States, diplomacy has stalled, escalating threats of war, intensifying the possibility that North Korea will cease its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons testing and full-scale U.S.-South Korea war exercises will resume;

Be it resolved that the ASA:

  • Supports the Korean people who have long fought for peace and the self-determined unification of the Korean peninsula and considers ending the Korean War a necessary step in the decolonization of South Korea;

  • Enacts solidarity with the peoples of Asia, the Pacific, and North America who have long waged anti-militarism struggles against the projection of U.S. war power in and militarized expropriation of their homelands;

  • Calls on the United States to abolish its seven-decade policy of hostility and sweeping sanctions that isolate North Korea and aim to inflict widespread humanitarian catastrophe on its people, formally end the Korean War, and replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a permanent peace agreement;

  • Demands that the United States to stop all military exercises that deploy or introduce its strategic assets on the Korean peninsula, abolish its nuclear umbrella over South Korea, Asia, and the Pacific, and meet its own obligations to create a nuclear-free world;

  • Initiates critical reflection on and collective action regarding the complicity of U.S. universities within the military-industrial complex and our role as socially engaged scholars to analyze the structural moorings of our own conditions of possibility; and

  • Encourages students and scholars to engage in a research and teaching initiative, commenced Fall 2020, that emphasizes critical approaches to and collective inquiry about the Korean War, with a focus on the racial, sexual, colonial, and sub-imperial violence of U.S. war power as well as peoples’ struggles for decolonization.


The Korea Policy Institute (Teaching Initiative page under construction)

The Unending Korean War (2015 special issue of positions: asia critique)

Historical Documents:


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