YHB/If we go first, they will come along

This page was last edited on 6 July 2019, at 10:57.

A number of civic associations were fighting against nuclear weapons in America and Europe. Simultaneously, political groups from weaker nations were making their appeals to the international society. Yoon and the YKU, joined in the movement for international peace. “If we go, they will come, too.” – This was Yoon's slogan for international solidarity.

Yoon started the Foundation for International Solidarity Against Wars and Nuclear Weapons. This international organization was a milestone in the history of the Korean-American progressive movement. Although many politicians had gone into exile overseas while Korea was under Japanese control, no one had founded an organization to promote international solidarity. But Yoon recognized the importance of international, cross-cultural solidarity from the start.

In both Seattle and L.A., Yoon witnessed activism from many different groups of people. A number of nations engaged in their own activities for their country's civil rights. Yoon was also impressed by movements dedicated to ending discrimination in America. He said:

After arriving in America, I witnessed activists from third world countries such as the Republic of South Africa, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Palestine, and the Philippines come together. I also met Americans who were allies to these causes. I learned from the labor movement and the blacks’ civil movement in America.

“To change the world is to change the way people think; to change the way people think is to change language.” This principle led Yoon to coin a new Korean term, meaning “International Solidarity Movement.” He defined the movement as “a movement that aims to mutually support activism in other countries in order to achieve human coexistence and co-prosperity.”

Yoon was enthusiastic about this international solidarity movement. He paved the way for Korean activism on a broader scale. First, members of the YKU began to translate documents into English in order to publicize Korean issues. They also translated English files into Korean to distribute them among Korean immigrants. They published about a dozen different types of leaflets, dealing with matters such as nuclear weapons, American forces in Korea, Korea’s division, human rights in Korea, and Korea’s labor movement. These leaflets were distributed during meetings. They also created and distributed buttons and stickers with their slogans.

They also dealt with these issues in depth; for instance, they manufactured a slideshow titled 'Destruction or Survival', dealing with the issue of the American forces in Korea. They dubbed all sorts of Korean audio-visual material with English dubs. They also produced pictures and banners to raise awareness of the Gwangju Uprising.

Yoon believed that a lobby should pressure the U.S. Congress so that they would not back up the military dictatorship in Korea. To create such a lobby, members of the YKU set up the “Korean information agency in America” in Washington D.C. Originally, there hadn’t been a YKU branch in D.C. because there weren’t a lot of Korean immigrants in the area. But other branches contributed donations to create a branch in D.C.

Given the circumstances, the YKU branch in D.C. had to look for a cheap office. The one they could afford was in the red-light district. It was a dangerous place to be at night. Nonetheless it was the first lobby space acquired by a private Korean organization.

The lobbyists visited the U.S. Congress to raise awareness of the human rights abuses of the military regime in Korea. They also held demonstrations.

The YKU began publishing a paper in English, the <Korea Report>, to distribute it to international associations. <Korea Report> dealt with a wide range of relevant issues in Korea, such as the movement for democracy and unification. The YKU also manufactured and propagated <Korea Today>, which was written in English as well.

Members who had been sent to D.C. had to work full-time. As with all YKU work, none of it was for pay – in fact, the YKU relied on donations from its members. Choi Yang-il, Lee Ji-hoon, Lee Jin-sook, Seo Hyuk-kyo, Hong Jeong-hwa, Seo Jae-jung, Yu Jeong-ae, Lee Seong-ok, and Jeong Seung devoted their youth to this task.