Korea: Sook-Im Kim

Female-oriented peaceful movements, measures, and mind have guided me into a vision for resolving the conflict in the Korean peninsula as a mediator of peace."

— Sook-Im Kim

Sook-Im Kim began empowering women to make a difference in Korea in the late 1970s, in what she calls the "dark ages for women's movements". In the face of military dictatorship, a divided country, and an inflated national defense budget, women's voices were silent. Understanding that women's welfare was at stake, Sook-Im pioneered the women's peace movement by organizing the radical group, Korean Association of Christian Women, for whom she and her husband built a church and kindergarten. For 26 years, Sook-Im has modeled leadership in her quest for peace.

The daughter of a wealthy businessman, Sook-Im Kim was always encouraged by her parents to become socially active. But a quiet reader and musician, Sook-Im preferred to keep to herself. She enrolled in Seoul's Women's University to study literature, and there her life took a sharp turn. A jazz pianist and dancer, her performance of a masque dance caught the attention of the military police. Believing it was a form of government resistance, they sent Sook-Im to prison. Ironically, it was at this point that her true resistance began. She became very ill in prison and an operation on her spine ended her days of dancing. But a new kind of dance was born. Upon her release from prison, she became an activist, fired by her firsthand understanding of an unjust political system. Working with the Korean Association of Christian Women, Sook-Im developed many national unification, disarmament, and peace campaigns. Understanding that the hardships of the people of Korea were closely linked to the division of their country and the exclusion of women in their own and their country's destiny, Kim wanted to learn more. She studied social welfare policy at graduate school. In the years that followed, she reported on Korean women's organizations at the Beijing World Women's Summit, and chaired many committees to ban landmines, reconcile a divided Korea, and end weapon proliferation. Women who had kept silent during the Vietnam War now spoke out against dispatching Korean troops to Iraq. The emphasis of her work has been on daily peacemaking programs, peace mediation, and policies based on a feminist perspective of diplomacy and security. As coordinator for South-North Women's Interchange, she led an effort to rethink old laws that block the nation's reunification.

Peace and Reunification Committee of the Korea Women's Association Unification and Peace in Korean Women's United Association Korea Campaign to Ban Landmines