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Korea • Meet Youngsil Kang and Chuck Esser

Working Together to Share News of Peacework in Korea with FPT-AWP

Quakers have been working in Korea since end of the Korean War (1950-1953). Today one of the biggest obstacles to peace comes in the form of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea. Youngsil Kang and Chuck Esser are two Friends who are working to promote peace in the area. They both have agreed to work with FPT in Asia West Pacific’s Working Group to keep us informed of the work they are doing and ways we can support that work.


My name is Youngsil Kang. I am currently visiting USA, but most of time I live in Hongdong, a small village on the west coast of Korea.

I moved back to countryside in 2012 to learn organic farming, seeking sustainable life after 10 years in Seoul, the capital city of Korea. The organic farming school I attended is a small community where students learn organic farming, practical skills like cooking, woodworking and livestock farming as well as how to live together as a community member. After farming school, I lived in the same village working on a small organic farm where we teach special needs students gardening.

Before I moved back to countryside I worked for the Conflict Resolution Center (CRC) in Seoul for more than 4 years. I was a member of the Mediation team dealing with public issues like high voltage transmission towers from nuclear power plants to big cities, and gas station pole sign regulation. While I was working for CRC I got to know about the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). It was an eye-opening experience for me, I got a lot of help from AVP and NVC, that is why I dedicated myself to continue practicing it in my daily life and volunteer to share with others.

We have many visitors from outside. In this photo taken in Gangjeong village during the UN conference in Jeju, 2011, you see a visitor flanked by Choi Sung-hee and Kang Mi-kyung. I am in red on the right, Kang Young-sil.

I became an AVP facilitator in 2013, I have been actively engaging in AVP Korea since then. I have been leading peace classes with middle school students in my village for 2 years, and this year I am hoping to reach out from Kindergarten to High School. For this I am planning to organize a Peace Companion Group with my neighbors so we can lead workshops by ourselves consistently.

After I moved back to the countryside I decided to stop moving around and start rooting in one place, but my journey kept taking me other places. I am thinking I could be a farmer who takes seeds around and plants those seeds for good. Currently, I am working with Memphis AVP group when I visit Memphis, TN, I am trying to join more Conscience Studio workshops with Nadine Hoover, I am attending Quaker meeting in Memphis. I volunteered as a translator for Korea Quaker Annual Gathering in 2016 where I met Chuck Esser and got to know more Korean-American peace working groups.



Dear Friends Peace Teams,

My name is Chuck Esser. I am a member of Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting. I am a pre-school teacher, family counselor, nonviolent trainer, and I work with trauma healing. I have done hundreds of workshops training counselors and activists in the US, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa.

I am pictured here this past fall with Haeng Woo Lee and Jeju Activists at the base. I am in the white t-shirt with Haeng Woo Lee to my right, the vice-mayor of Jeju is to the far left of the picture with a longtime activist who translated for me to the far right.

I have been involved in Korean Re-unification, peace and justice issues in Asia since the mid-1960s. I spent more than a year in 1968-9 in Japan when I worked with the Japanese peace group Behairen. I met the Korean Gandhi and Quaker, Ham Sok Han, a few years later in the US and visited him in Korea and supported the democracy movement in Korea. In the 80’s I started working closely with Haeng Woo Lee, a Reading Meeting Quaker. We worked with the AFSC on the Asia panel developing the QUIAR program in East Asia and the programs in North Korea. Together, we started the Philadelphia Committee for Peace and Justice in Korea and Asia, and formed an organization called the Korea Support Network, which included about 10 different church and political groups. That group furthered many Korean and Peace concerns including: Comfort Women, Labor Rights, Reuniting Families, military tension reduction, and famine relief. We did a lot of lobby work in Washington DC in conjunction with FCNL and developed allies in the US House, Senate and State Department.

In recent years, I have visited Korea and helped start a peer-counseling community there. I have also done workshops for Seoul Monthly Meeting on listening skills, trauma healing, and death and dying. I have done the things to support the Korean peace community that my friend Haeng Woo has asked of me: lobbying congress, assisting Koreas visiting the US, setting up speaking tours, helping with the AFSC work, helping get Korean stories published in the US, supporting Koreans studying at Pendle Hill.

In the past two years Hye Jung Park helped reestablish the Philadelphia Committee for Peace and Justice in Asia, which joined two coalitions: Korea Peace Network and the Anti-Thadd and Military Deployment in Asia Taskforce. We have sponsored a speaking tour for Jeju Activists, held events for Women Crossing the DMZ and are currently working on anti-THADD work (a US deployment of a deep space missile defense, first strike system) which the US wants to deploy in Korea this year.

Our next big event will be a Spring speaking tour in LA, NYC, Philadelphia., DC and maybe Boston, of activists working against THADD from Korea, Guam and maybe Okinawa. We will also be joining the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space at their annual conference this year in Huntsville, Alabama, focusing on THADD and military tensions in the Pacific. Huntsville is where THADD is headquartered.

This past fall I was able to spend some time on Jeju Island with Haeng Woo learning about and supporting the anti-base movement there, meeting Quakers in Seoul and having conversations with anti-THADD activists from the Won-Buddhist Group. I am excited about working with Korean Quakers and peace activists in sharing our stories and building our work with Friends everywhere.

Youngsil and I are looking forward to learning more about Friends Peace Teams.  We hope that it might be a way to keep Quakers abreast of East-Asian peace work in Korea, Japan and how it’s connected to Friends’ peace work in the US, and possibly Australia or other parts of the world.  We also would like to help more Friends get to know the Friends Meetings in Seoul and Tokyo as they engage in peacework. We don’t yet know what else will be possible but are eager to think about this with you.