"Revisiting the Report: Documenting Citizen Diplomacy for Humanitarian Engagement with North Korea by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)"

Nan Kim, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) occupies a notable place in the history of civic engagement with North Korea. The Quaker peace-building and lobbying organization was founded in 1917, and regarding divided Korea, representatives of AFSC sought to be involved with peace efforts since the 1950-1953 hostilities of the Korean War. AFSC records note active attempts since at least the late 1960s to send a peace-building delegation to North Korea. In 1980, two AFSC representatives, Maud and David Easter, finally negotiated and participated in the first non-sectarian delegation to North Korea. Subsequent trips - as well as aborted attempts - have been documented in reports catalogued in the AFSC Archives. This paper draws upon both archival and interview data to consider questions about how we can understand these delegations and their reports. The records they created would inform Quaker efforts to establish a program of humanitarian aid and later economic development, which would eventually include the support of four cooperative farms. How were these projects understood as an expression of AFSC's objective to "promote peace and understanding between peoples and ideologies in conflict" during the Cold War era? What forms of data were generated to advance a peace agenda through personal relationships as a form of "quiet/citizen diplomacy"? How did Quaker beliefs and religious values shape the approach by AFSC as a US-based NGO seeking to engage North Korea during the Cold War, despite the challenges and pitfalls that had faced humanitarian organizations working in that context?

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 186. Religion in Social Movements