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From: dujekakwv@wzohugik.org (Justina Kilpatrick)
Subject: What’s Behind Washington’s Hostility Toward Korean Workers State?
Newsgroups: soc.culture.african
Sender: Anne Huiett
Distribution: world
Organization: Johanna Cobbs
Message-ID: <1047102882.669522@news1.lynx.bc.ca>
Date: Sat, 08 Mar 2003 05:21:17 GMT

What’s Behind Washington’s Hostility Toward Korean Workers State?

By Patrick O’Neill, 18 February 2002

Among the countries named by U.S. president George Bush as members of an axis of evil in his January 29 State of the Union address was the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). North Korea, he said, is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens... America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security, he said, including the development and deployment of effective missile defenses.

In five decades of Washington’s hostility toward Korea, the slander that the government of the DPRK is starving its people must stand as particularly outrageous to the workers and peasants of that country. The DPRK, suffering a years-long drought, has appealed to countries of the world for massive food aid. Washington, using food as a weapon, has tied its miserly contributions to pressuring Pyongyang to accept a range of economic and political concessions.

The Korean revolution carried out a massive land reform, a measure opposed by Washington, and extensive engineering projects to increase production of rice and other basic necessities. Korean workers and peasants rebuilt their country from the devastation of saturation bombing by U.S. forces during the Korea War.

The fact that the Korean people have fought for their independence and national sovereignty, made a socialist revolution in the north, and refused to accept the forced division of their country, is a thorn in the side of imperialism. And, like other countries, the ability of the Koreans to build, launch, and export longer-range missiles poses a problem for Washington’s unchallenged world hegemony.

On February 2 the DPRK issued a statement protesting the threat and saying that the U.S. president had made the country the second target of the anti-terrorism war. In another statement, President Kim Jong-Il declared north Korea, home to 22 million people, to be inviolable territory.

Like his predecessor William Clinton, Bush has repeatedly claimed that north Korea has constructed weapons of mass destruction. Neither mentions that for more than two decades the largest concentrations of U.S. armed forces in Asia have been based in south Korea and neighboring Japan.

Some 37,000 heavily armed U.S. troops are stationed at the Demilitarized Zone and at dozens of other Korean military installations, while 48,000 are based in Japan. They are backed up by the nuclear-armed U.S. Seventh Fleet. U.S. forces and the 650,000-strong south Korean army conduct large-scale annual exercises targeting the north.

During U.S. imperialism’s war against Afghanistan the Pentagon revealed it used a new generation of huge bunker-busting bombs that it had been developing for use against north Korea.

On the economic front, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on north Korea in 1950, authorized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. That same year Washington launched its invasion of the peninsula. The sanctions were slightly eased in June 2000, but all exports and imports require express approval by the U.S. government.

Revolutionary struggles in Korea The roots of that invasion and the unremitting hostility of the super-rich U.S. ruling class toward north Korea lie in the revolutionary struggles of working people across the peninsula during and after World War II. Korea, occupied by Japanese troops during wars against China and Tsarist Russia beginning in 1894, had been formally annexed by Tokyo in 1910 with the tacit agreement of Washington. The world war provided an opening to Korean workers and peasants to step up their struggles for national independence and social justice.

Meeting at Yalta in February 1945, representatives of the Soviet Union and the United States, the two major powers allied in the fight against Tokyo, agreed to divide Korea at the 38th parallel. Before Soviet and U.S. troops entered the country later that year, however, local revolutionary committees divested the Japanese authorities of power throughout the country, and a People’s Republic, with its capital in Seoul, was established.

Once deployed in the south, the U.S. command disregarded this government. After abandoning an attempt to reinstate the Japanese authorities--a move which sparked widespread protests--U.S. General Hodge declared that military government is the only government in south Korea.

An order issued by U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur stated: The entire administrative power of the territory of Korea south of parallel 38 is under my jurisdiction. The population should unreservedly obey the orders issued over my signature. Those acting against the occupation or violating order and tranquillity will be mercilessly and severely punished. For the period of military occupation, English is introduced as the official language. In February 1946 Washington installed the dictator Syngman Rhee.

By contrast, the Soviet forces recognized the republic and sanctioned the activities of people’s committees, which had seized Japanese and Korean collaborators’ property. The northern government legalized all peasant seizures of land, and confiscated the land of the Japanese colonialists, their collaborators, and rent-racketeering landlords.

From the start the U.S.-backed south Korean government opposed national reunification, rejecting proposals from the north to merge the two administrations. Unification, meanwhile, was not only universally expected and demanded; it also corresponded to the peninsula’s natural economy. The north was a source of wheat, fish, fertilizer, and heavy industrial products, while the south produced consumer goods and rice.

U.S. invasion and war

With the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, military forces from the north rapidly liberated more than 90 percent of Korean territory, including Seoul, the capital of the south. In those areas where Syngman Rhee’s troops were driven out, land reform was instituted by the northern army, a measure welcomed by the impoverished peasants.

Washington then sent large numbers of troops, ships, planes, and tanks in order to try to smash the north Korean forces and regain domination of at least part of Korea. It was unable to deal a decisive blow to the north Korean army, but it pushed its troops back to the Yalu River, which borders China.

The new workers and farmers government in China responded by sending more than 1 million troops into the war on the side of the north. U.S. forces were pushed back, almost to where the demarcation line had been to begin with.

Washington carried out large-scale bombing for more than two years, especially over the north. Saturation bombing of the north was finally scaled back when it was determined that no meaningful targets were left in the resulting wasteland. Areas in the south were also bombed. The truth about the frequent atrocities carried out or supervised by U.S. forces is still being uncovered through the efforts of survivors and others in Korea.

Almost 6 million U.S. troops were eventually involved, 54,000 of whom died. Up to 4 million Koreans were killed, the great majority of them civilians.

The U.S. rulers, who viewed the war in Korea as the front line of their response to the anti-imperialist revolution throughout Asia, and a stepping stone to aggression against China, were stunned by the resistance of the Korean fighters and hundreds of thousands of Chinese volunteers. It was the first ever such defeat of the U.S. armed forces. Moreover, the mobilizations by Chinese workers and peasants to defend their revolution in the face of imperialist threats culminated in the establishment of the world’s most populous workers state.

No Korean peace treaty was signed, leaving the combatants still officially at war today. The 38th parallel marks the demilitarized zone between north and south—now the site of a 150-mile-long wall built in 1977 by Seoul with U.S. backing—and the most important and explosive unresolved national division imposed by the victors of World War II.

U.S. backs dictatorship in south

In the decades after the war, Washington backed the military government in the south, both in its warlike stance toward Pyongyang and in its repression of struggles by workers, farmers, and students. The U.S. troops stationed in Korea provided backing to the brutal military crackdown on student and labor protests in the southern city of Kwangju in 1980. At the same time the U.S. and Japanese corporations and banks poured billions of dollars of investment into the south, using it as an export platform and profiting from the low wages paid to its workers. The industrial working class grew in numbers and confidence, building powerful unions and winning some significant wage increases.

During the 1990s, the U.S. rulers increased pressure on the north, seeking to take advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated slump in the country’s foreign trade. When agriculture was hit by a combination of drought, floods, and other disasters, Washington acted to sabotage United Nations food aid. In spite of these efforts, however, the workers state did not collapse; nor did its government make the kind of concessions demanded by the imperialists. In recent years, the economy in the north has shown modest growth again, although drought and shortages continue.

In the face of sustained struggles for democratic rights, the south Korean rulers were forced to end military rule and hold elections. The country’s first civilian president was elected in 1993. With support for reunification as strong as ever, the south Korean government has moved to accommodate north Korean proposals for negotiations, as the government in the north continued to advance its perspective of a peaceful negotiated process of unification. In the south, the Internal Security law forbidding any political activity favorable to the north or in support of reunification remains on the books, however, even as current president Kim Dae Jung has participated in talks with Pyongyang.

In 1994, the DPRK government signed an agreement with U.S. representatives declaring a moratorium on its nuclear program in exchange for commitments to build power plants and provide the country with fuel oil until the facilities are completed. More recently, it declared a unilateral suspension of missile testing until 2003. There is no evidence it has reprocessed spent nuclear fuel over the past decade, reported the Washington Post.

Clinton freezes talks with Pyongyang

In late 2001, however, Clinton’s administration put a freeze on its talks with Pyongyang. Throughout his administration Clinton had accused north Korea, along with Iraq, Iran, and other countries, of being a rogue state capable of launching a nuclear missile or a biological attack at the United States. The allegations have been used to justify a renewed effort by Washington to build a missile shield. Bush has maintained the freeze on talks, stepped up the rhetoric, and poured more money into the weapons program.

The north Korean government and people also face hostility from neighboring imperialist Japan. On December 22 a Japanese Coast Guard vessel fired on and sank a ship and its 15-member crew after 29 hours of surveillance and pursuit involving up to four Japanese boats. The incident took place outside Japanese territorial waters. Pyongyang has denied Japanese claims that the sunken vessel was a north Korean spy ship or involved in smuggling drugs, stating that the sinking of the ship was nothing but brutal piracy.

South Korean government figures have expressed unease at these growing tensions, and particularly at Washington’s warlike rhetoric. An official in Kim Dae Jung’s National Millennium party described earlier threats against the north as very disappointing. The United States delivers ultimatums and threats, and of course north Korea feels it has to react.

Citing south Korean analysts and officials, the Washington Post cranked out the usual propaganda portraying the north Korean government as aggressive toward the south. Any military action against the North Korean regime would invite immediate catastrophe for Seoul, a city of 10.3 million that is 34 miles away from the border and within range of North Korean artillery, the paper said. But it added a bit of the truth: Residents of Seoul, where one-fourth of all south Koreans live, seem less concerned about the danger from North Korea than from Washington.