Nodutdol

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Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, is a New York City based organization. Nodutdol is a community of first through fourth generation Koreans living in the U.S. We are a community that has families in both, the south and north of Korea. We are diverse in our backgrounds and perspectives, but bound together by our shared sense of the Korean homeland that continues to suffer under division [with the understanding that the concept of ‘home’ may vary]. We are part of the Korean diaspora spread throughout the globe made up of artists, filmmakers, teachers, students, workers, professionals, young families, etc. who believe in social justice. [1]

History

In April 1999, Nodutdol was founded in New York City. Inspired by the democratic social movements in Korea, there was a desire to create a progressive space in NYC that promotes the self-determination and unity of the Korean people through grassroots organizing and community development. With a critical analysis of the U.S. - Korea history [that is closely linked to war and militarism], Nodutdol began putting together workshops, lectures, and study sessions, believing in the importance of educating present and future generations of Koreans living in the U.S. to be actively engaged in social change.[2]

Mission

Through grassroots organizing and community development, Nodutdol seeks to bridge divisions created by war, nation, gender, sexual orientation, language, class, and generation among Koreans and to empower our community to address the injustices we and other people of color face here and abroad. Nodutdol works in collaboration with other progressive organizations locally, nationally and internationally as part of a larger movement for peace and social change.

Nodutdol seeks to contribute to a global people’s struggle against war and militarism as part of a Korean struggle for national unification and democracy, and as part of a U.S.-based peoples’ struggle for racial, social and economic justice in New York City. In that spirit, we are building a broad base of NYC Koreans who struggle against war and militarism on these two fronts. [3]

Free Mumia Abu-Jamal

In 2008 Hyun Lee, Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, New York signed a statement circulated by the Partisan Defense Committee calling for the release of convicted “cop-killer” Mumia Abu-Jamal.[4]

KEEP

Sun-Mee-Chomet

Sun-Mee-Chomet has been accepted as a member of the 2015 Korea Education and Exposure Program (KEEP-DPRK) peace delegation through Nodutdol, a New York-based organization focused on Korean community development.

Since 2001, KEEP-DPRK has been taking members of the Korean diaspora living in the U.S. and Canada to North Korea to learn about the history, struggles and daily lives of the people there through first-hand experience. She will be heading to DPRK in August with seven other individuals. The group will visit hospitals, schools, farms, the demilitarized zone (the northern part) churches, etc. in various cities.

“The information we receive here in the U.S. about North Korea through the mainstream media is almost exclusively comprised of negative images of the state, its government, and armies,” Chomet said. “We rarely hear from the people of the DPRK. I believe it’s important to learn about the daily lives of North Koreans and get their perspectives on their country and international issues. This summer is the 62nd anniversary of the signing of the armistice between North Korea and the U.S. – we are still at war, and the ramifications of the ongoing conflict are global. When I return to the U.S. I plan to speak and write about the experience, incorporating the research into my playwriting and social justice work as an artist. I also plan to continue working towards peace and reunification of the Korean peninsula.

Chomet received funding from the Minnesota-based arts organization Jerome Foundation, that will go toward the costs of the trip and the research that Chomet will conduct. In addition, she is seeking contributions that will go toward the medical aid the group will bring. Every donation is appreciated – no matter how small.

Each trip, the delegation hand-delivers medical supplies and medicine (antibiotics) to a local hospital. In 2013, the delegation made a donation of $9,000 worth of medical supplies and medicine to the Maternity Hospital in Pyongyang, which serves new mothers and their babies for free. KEEP-DPRK receives matching in-kind donations from Michigan-based World Medical Relief, through which it also purchases needed medicine and medical supplies. Our goal for medical aid fundraising is $7,500. With in-kind donations from World Medical Relief, the total value of the antibiotics we are bringing will be approximately $13,000. The participants of KEEP-DPRK 2015 have started a fundraising drive to purchase this year’s medical supplies.[5]

Meejin Richart

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New York-based community organizer Meejin Richart traveled in August, 2013 to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as part of a delegation of Korean Americans. They went through the Korean Exposure and Education Program-DPRK (KEEP-D), a program of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, whose mission is to increase awareness of and strengthen the global movement for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula. Workers World reporter Greg Butterfield spoke to Richart about her experience.

WW: How did you get involved with the KEEP program?

MR: I first heard about KEEP back in 2010 when I was living in Seattle and working on Korean diaspora issues. I went on KEEP-R [to the Republic of Korea, the capitalist south], where we learned about the South Korean progressive movement. In New York, I became politicized in a much deeper way and decided to go on KEEP-D [for DPRK].

I was encouraged to go by an organizer who I worked with in the anti-police-brutality movement. Since coming to New York, I’ve been organizing around police violence and broader pan-Asian community issues, and I wanted to focus again on issues that affect the Korean diaspora.

The delegation was 14 people, plus six folks who were translators, guides and a driver from the DPRK. We were a very diverse group with lots of identities — adoptees, queer, trans, biracial, and an age spectrum from the early 20s to the mid-50s. There were lots of different experiences and language abilities. It was a lot to negotiate. But we realized on the trip that this is a necessary negotiating and reconciliation process within the Korean-American diaspora to work toward tongil [peaceful reunification].

We were in the DPRK for 11 days, but the entire trip lasted about three weeks. There are no direct flights from the U.S. We had to fly first to Beijing. Getting there was a learning experience in itself.

I was very surprised to meet tour groups and tourists on our flight. For example, there was a group of Zainichi students: ethnically Korean high school students living in Japan. They came for a four-week musical program of traditional Korean music — dancing, drumming, flute and so on. There were other folks from the Korean diaspora, but also Australians and Europeans. For the first few days, everyone tends to go to the same historic sites, so we kept running into the same tour groups from our flight.

WW: What kind of experiences did you have with people living in the DPRK?

MR: The first group meeting we had was with a group of farmworkers, about 30 folks on a collective farm. They were members of the [Kim Il Sung Socialist] Youth League. Our bus arrived late, and eight people had been waiting a long time with flowers to greet us at the junction of the road. A farmer asked if we wanted to pick eggplants. We walked down into a muddy field even though we were wearing professional dress!

We had the opportunity for a lot of one-on-one conversation. There were two questions we were asked a lot. The first was whether women still experience discrimination in the U.S. The other was, what do people in the U.S. think of the DPRK?

WW: That must have been uncomfortable.

MR: It was a difficult conversation. It made me sad that we had to say the perception is not good. But we also explained that the reason we were there was to bring back stories about the reality of the country.

People were very receptive. As someone who doesn’t speak Korean, I was told over and over, “Thank you for coming, doing all of the required learning must have taken a lot of effort.” That to me was the biggest and most important part of the journey — the idea that “we need everyone for tongil.”

WW: As a Korean American, did it feel like you were an outsider looking in?

MR: It was much more of a homecoming. In the DPRK there is an ideology of “Korea is one” or “Chosun eun hanada.” That’s about wanting the Korean diaspora to come and participate in the life of the home country and be united.

It was powerful and so different from my experience in Seoul on the 2010 trip. Despite the fact that we were learning about the South Korean progressive movement, and obviously some folks were more welcoming, overall I felt like a foreigner and not very welcome. In the DPRK it was completely the opposite: open embrace and loving arms.

WW: I understand there was a lot of singing.

MR: I really tried to prepare myself before the trip. Each of us on the delegation was able to choose a song to memorize and have that be our song. In Korea, they say “my 18” — when that song comes on karaoke, you’re really good at it and can hit all the notes.

When we were in Korea, there was talking, meetings, eating, and then our hosts would always get up and do their songs. Which was kind, to put themselves out there first — but then to follow them was a little bit hard and kind of embarrassing!

In the U.S., there is a performance element to singing in front of a big group of people, but in Korea it’s much more about sharing with each other. People start singing along after you make it through the first verse.

Everyone just knew all the songs that we had taken so long to learn. We asked our guides and translators where they had learned these songs. They said in school or with family at home. Singing is very much a part of the culture.

For me, not speaking the language, coming with a song that I had learned was also a way to connect. My song was “Blue Sky of My Home Country.” The lyrics are kind of nostalgic: “When I was young, I lived in my home country and I was happy, I looked up at the blue sky. Now I look up and see the same blue sky and I wish for how it was before.”

There were songs about the desire for reunification. To say it is one thing, but to put it in musical form is very powerful.

WW: As someone raised in the United States, what was the most striking thing you experienced about the U.S. role in the division of Korea?

MR: We had done study sessions prior to the trip, so we had learned a lot about the role of the U.S. But for me it became very clear in two places: when we visited a war memorial/museum and at the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

The Sinchon Massacre Museum has 16 rooms devoted to the memory of people who were part of the Revolution. Tens of thousands of people were murdered in this very small county by the U.S. military. A lot of them were women because much of the revolutionary leadership came from Korean women.

We saw photographs that were taken at the time: women tied up, tortured, mutilated. I asked how the photographs came about, and a woman who was showing us around explained they were taken by U.S. soldiers because they thought it was something to be proud of. It was striking and really upsetting. We saw bones recovered from mass graves, of women who were pregnant or holding their children in their arms. It really hit home – these were U.S. soldiers doing this to Korean people.

Being Korean American, having so many friends who also have family members who live in the north, I knew some of their family members could have been killed, and we’ll never know. It was a very heavy day and also helped inspire me to act upon my return to the U.S., not just reunification work but on a larger scale about the cost of war and U.S. imperialism.[6]

KEEP alumni

Nodutdol for Korean Community Development June 16, 2016;

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obligatory post-event photo! — with JT Takagi, Betsy Yoon, Juyeon Rhee, Meejin Richart, Sharon Chung, Cori Irene Hook, Haruki N. Eda and Sooyoung Lee.


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keep-d alums! — with JT Takagi, Juyeon Rhee, Betsy Yoon, Meejin Richart, Sharon Chung, Haruki N. Eda, Hyun Lee and Sooyoung Lee.

Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea

Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea

In 2017 Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, and several Nodutdol activists endorsed Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea and End Militarism in Asia and the Pacific.

They were Hosu Kim, Yujin Park, Ryan Lee Wong, Nodutdol, New York, Juyeon Rhee, and Hyon Mi Chang, Nodutdol, Brooklyn.

References