FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Throwing Stones at Northern Korea

 

The United States has no legitimate business threatening northern Korea. The Pyongyang government may represent a threat to Washington’s plans, but for Bush and his crew to provoke war is irresponsible and wrong. Since the fall of the Stalinist bureaucracies in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe over a decade ago, northern Korea has been left holding the bag. During the cold war, Korea’s southern half sold itself to the highest bidder (not without plenty of internal opposition) as the north solidified its ideological and economic ties to its allies in the ongoing struggle against Japan and the U.S.. Since those allies disappeared from the globe, the Pyongyang government has found itself the target of stepped up attacks. Unfortunately, as testimony from non-governmental workers and others has revealed, it has often done so at the expense of the civilian population

Although the United States maintains one of its largest foreign contingents in Korea’s southern half and stockpiles thousands of weapons (some nuclear) there, it claims northern Korea’s nuclear development and export of weapons to various countries is a threat. This claim is made by a government who has looked the other way countless times when its allies (Israel, for one) are proven to be building nuclear weapons. It is made by a government which makes and sells more weapons of mass destruction than all the rest of the countries in the world. Admittedly, further weapons proliferation is not favorable to world peace, but for Washington to cry foul and demand a halt to Pyongyang’s research rings quite hollow. After all, it was Washington’s political and military manipulations after the Second World War that created two Koreas in the first place. Much to the anger and dismay of the majority of the Korean people.

How did the division occur, anyhow? Near the end of the Second World War, right before the U.S. dropped the bomb on Japan, the Soviet Union moved into northern Korea to fight the occupying Japanese troops. Within weeks of Japan’s surrender, democratic groups of Korean peasants, merchants, and workers formed local governing organizations and begin to organize a national assembly. The U.S. and U.S.S.R., meanwhile, chose to maintain a “temporary” occupation of the country with the 38th parallel as the dividing line. This occupation was to end after the Koreans established their own government, and Korea was to reunite. However, after the United States realized that the makeup of any Korean?organized government would be anti?colonial, it reneged on its promise.

Within weeks of the election of a popular national assembly, the Soviet Union began to withdraw its forces. The U.S., however, increased its military strength and coordinated security with the remnants of the hated Japanese army. At the same time, Synghman Rhee, an ultra?right Korean politician who was living in America, was flown back to Korea (with the assistance of the US intelligence community). He immediately began to liquidate the popular movement in southern Korea and, with the complete support of the U.S. military, refused to acknowledge the existence of the newly elected national assembly. In the weeks following his installment as ruler of southern Korea, over 100,000 Korean citizens were murdered and disappeared. The United States military provided the names of many of the victims.

After realizing that the United States had no plans to withdraw its troops, the Soviet Union put its withdrawal on hold and asked for assistance from the People’s Republic of China. In the days and weeks that passed, military units from the south persistently forayed into the northern half of Korea, testing its defenses. Eventually, although the exact details remain unclear, northern Korean and Chinese troops attacked. On June 25, 1950, the U.S. responded, using the authority of the U.N. Security Council, and the Korean war began. Three years and one month later an armistice was signed between the warring sides. The toll in lives was: 52, 246 US soldiers, an estimated 4 million Koreans on both sides of the parallel (mostly civilians), 1 million Chinese soldiers, and another 4000 soldiers from armies that allied themselves with the United States.

The Situation Today In October 2000, the United States and northern Korea signed a bilateral agreement that read, in part: “Recognizing the changed circumstances on the Korean Peninsula created by the historic June 15, 2000 inter-Korean summit, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have decided to take steps to fundamentally improve their bilateral relations in the interests of enhancing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.

The two sides agreed there are a variety of available means, including Four Party talks, to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and formally end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with permanent peace arrangements.”

Unfortunately, neither northern Korea or the United States appears to have kept either end of the bargain. Most of this is due to the regime change in Washington. Despite the fundamentally imperialist nature of Bill Clinton’s foreign policy, his administration had made genuine steps towards resolving the decades-old dispute on the Korean peninsula and there was a real hope among the Korean people on both sides of the 38th parallel that a lasting peace would come to their land. Indeed, the most optimistic among them began to make plans for the eventual reunification of the country. Then GW Bush moved into the White House and brought with him a number of men and women who had no interest in continuing the Clinton policy of containment or, god forbid, negotiating a lasting peace.

The return to an antagonistic relationship was met by dismay in both Korean capitols. After southern Korea’s president Kim Dae Jung’s visit to Washington in March 2001 where he met with GW and a number of his henchmen, it was clear that the Clinton policy of rapprochement was dead. According to news reports, the meeting began on a sour note when Bush noted his dismay over Kim’s signature on a letter opposing the “Star Wars” missile defense system promoted by Bush and his defense industry cabinet and advisory staff. One of the targets of this so-called missile shield would be northern Korea. After this beginning, Kim knew there was little point to bring up his agenda, which included:

Signing a joint peace declaration with the North. Formally ending hostilities a half-century after the end of their civil war. Possibly supplying electricity to the energy-poor North. Promoting a return visit to Seoul this spring by the North’s leader, Kim Jong-il.

Since that meeting, things have only worsened, with GW’s recent comments including northern Korea in a new “axis of evil” beginning the latest downward spiral in the relationship between DC and Pyongyang. The hardliners in Washington refuse to even talk about peace, preferring to take a page out of cold war architect John Foster Dulles’ script from the 1950s (written primarily by the defense industry) and revive a decades-old war that most Americans and Koreans would rather forget. Northern Korea, seeing minimal prospects of achieving its desire for a lasting peace and eventual reunification through conversations with Seoul (conversations which need U.S. support, which is not forthcoming), seems to be returning to its previous hardline position, as evidenced by their revelations about their involvement in a previously dormant nuclear weapons development plan. Unfortunately for its population, this means more starvation and poverty, since what little money the government has will go towards maintaining and enhancing its military capabilities.

As for the people of southern Korea and the rest of the region, it means a life where the fear of all-out war underlies every transaction, thanks to GW and his gang of international outlaws and Pyongyang’s understandable distrust about US motives in the region. After all, they reason, why shouldn’t they develop nuclear weapons? The US continues to do so with no intention of stopping and it is the US who is threatening their existence. For the rest of the world, the reasoning on both sides only enhances the fear of nuclear war. Perhaps the only bright spot in the entire scenario is the suggestion that Pyongyang’s actions are a negotiating ploy whose intended audience are the people of Korea (on both sides of the DMZ), most of whom long for reunification and peace for all Koreans.

What are the alternatives? First and foremost, the United States should re-open the three-way conversation between the United States and both Koreas that was begun by the Clinton administration. Washington should recognize the northern Korean government as a responsible member of the international community and lift the economic sanctions against them. Lifting the sanctions would do more towards alleviating the suffering of the northern Korean people more than any other possible action. The people of this country, besides seeing much of their economic production being used to service the military, have also seen their countryside devastated by drought. It is this drought, more than any other factor, which has caused the scenes of suffering that the US news bureaus love to show us as examples of how Stalinist-type bureaucracies fail their populations. Of course, no government can prevent drought, not even capitalist ones, although the average US television viewer would never know that from these news reports. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the United States needs to let the people of the Korean peninsula decide their own fate-a fate which most certainly involves the eventual reunification of their country.

RON JACOBS lives in Burlington, VT. He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
September 17, 2019
Mario Barrera
The Southern Strategy and Donald Trump
Robert Jensen
The Danger of Inspiration in a Time of Ecological Crisis
Dean Baker
Health Care: Premiums and Taxes
Dave Lindorff
Recalling the Hundreds of Thousands of Civilian Victims of America’s Endless ‘War on Terror’
Binoy Kampmark
Oiling for War: The Houthi Attack on Abqaiq
Susie Day
You Say You Want a Revolution: a Prison Letter to Yoko Ono
Rich Gibson
Seize Solidarity House
Laura Flanders
From Voice of America to NPR: New CEO Lansing’s Glass House
Don Fitz
What is Energy Denial?
Dan Bacher
Governor Newsom Says He Will Veto Bill Blocking Trump Rollback of Endangered Fish Species Protections
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: Time to Stop Pretending and Start Over
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Inside the Syrian Peace Talks
Elliot Sperber
Mickey Mouse Networks
September 16, 2019
Sam Husseini
Biden Taking Iraq Lies to the Max
Paul Street
Joe Biden’s Answer to Slavery’s Legacy: Phonographs for the Poor
Paul Atwood
Why Mattis is No Hero
Jonathan Cook
Brexit Reveals Jeremy Corbyn to be the True Moderate
Jeff Mackler
Trump, Trade and China
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Crisis
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Democrats and the Climate Crisis
Michael Doliner
Hot Stuff on the Afghan Peace Deal Snafu
Nyla Ali Khan
Spectacles of the Demolition of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh and the Revocation of the Autonomous Status of Kashmir
Stansfield Smith
Celebrating 50 Years of Venceremos Brigade solidarity with the Cuban Revolution
Tim Butterworth
Socialism Made America Great
Nick Licata
Profiles in Courage: the Tories Have It, the Republicans Don’t
Abel Prieto
Cubanness and Cuban Identity: the Importance of Fernando Ortiz
Robert Koehler
Altruists of the World Unite!
Mel Gurtov
Farewell, John Bolton
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail