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Korea Marks 50-Year Fight For Sovereignty

By Steve Clark, The Militant, Vol.59 no.34, 18 September 1995

SWP Leader Condemns U.S. Imperialism's Role In Partition Of Peninsula

The annual celebrations of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on September 9, 1948, are taking on added significance in Korea this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that country from decades of brutal and degrading Japanese colonial rule.

Just a few weeks ago, on August 5, the capitalist government of South Korea assaulted some 5,000 students who were marching north to the border with the DPRK. The students were planning to participate in a joint rally with citizens of the DPRK in the border village of Panmunjon to celebrate Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule and to protest the ongoing efforts by U.S. imperialism to perpetuate the forcible division of their country.

According to an Associated Press dispatch, several students were injured when South Korean police sought to block the march by firing tear gas into the crowd. A number of cops were injured as the marchers resisted.

U.S.-imposed partition The partition of Korea was imposed by the capitalist ruling families of the United States in the wake of World War II.

Following Tokyo's surrender to its imperialist rival in Washington in August 1945, people's committees rapidly spread throughout the Korean countryside and major cities. A government was formed on September 6, closely linked to these committees and other organizations that had been involved in the anticolonial struggle and defense of worker and peasant rights. The new government announced plans for a sweeping land reform; nationalization of factories and transportation; broad democratic rights, including universal suffrage; and other radical measures in the interests of the toiling majority of Koreans.

Aiming to block these anti-imperialist and anticapitalist mobilizations, the U.S. government landed its troops in Korea on September 8 and declared that it would accept the surrender of Japanese forces south of the 38th parallel. The U.S. occupation army proceeded to crush workers and peasants organizations in the southern half of Korea and imposed a reactionary government, subservient to the class interests of Wall Street and Washington. The U.S. rulers feared above all that a victory for worker and peasant forces in Korea would encourage revolutionary-minded working people in China and hasten the day when that country, too, would be freed of imperialist domination and exploitation.

In this effort to deny Korea's right to national self- determination, the U.S. rulers had the de facto cooperation of the regime headed by Joseph Stalin, which had usurped power from the working class in a political counterrevolution in the Soviet workers state in the late 1920s and 1930s. Moscow agreed to accept Tokyo's surrender north of the 38th parallel. The U.S. and Soviet governments had already tacitly agreed on the division of Korea into spheres of influence.

Hundreds of thousands of Korean peasants, workers, and youth refused to go along with the deal, however. Washington succeeded in brutally quelling much of the resistance in the south. But in the north, rule by the landlords and capitalists was broken and organized opposition to imperialist domination continued. In September 1948 the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was founded, and from the outset that government declared its determination to win the reunification of the country.

In 1950 the Democratic administration of President Harry Truman launched a war to preserve the partition of the country following the crossing of the 38th parallel by troops of the DPRK. Washington conducted this assault on Korea's sovereignty under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, but U.S. armed forces made up the decisive majority of the so-called UN forces waging the war.

Washington's bombers leveled Pyongyang and other cities, using napalm extensively and on several occasions threatening to employ atomic weapons. It is estimated that 4 million of the 30 million people in Korea were killed in the war.

But the U.S. rulers immediately encountered big obstacles to their assault. A year earlier, the Chinese revolution had triumphed. In late 1950 when U.S. forces attempted to occupy the entire peninsula and threatened to push on into China itself, hundreds of thousands of Chinese volunteers came to the aid of their Korean brothers and sisters

What's more, the Korean War was unpopular among the majority of working people in the United States, despite the anticommunist witchhunting and hysteria that both Democratic and Republican politicians were attempting to whip up in those years.

By July 1953, Washington had been fought to a stalemate and forced to sign a cease-fire agreement with the DPRK. To this day, however, the U.S. government has refused to sign a peace treaty and remains officially at war with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Some 35,000 U.S. troops remain on Korean soil below the 38th parallel. These U.S. forces - despite the Pentagon's refuse-to-either- confirm-or deny disclaimers-are well known to be equipped with nuclear weapons.

We will not enter into any talks with North Korea on a peace treaty, U.S. ambassador to South Korea James Laney recently told the New York Times. Washington hypocritically claims that signing a peace treaty with the DPRK is the business of the capitalist government the U.S. rulers imposed on the southern half of Korea half a century ago and propped up ever since.

Shortly after the U.S. government launched its war against Korea in June 1950, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, James P. Cannon, sent a letter to President Truman and Congress condemning the U.S. intervention as a brutal imperialist invasion and calling for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and the right of the Korean people to national self-determination. Cannon's letter was featured on the front page of the Militant.

On the 47th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the SWP's current national secretary, Jack Barnes, sent a message to the Korean people reaffirming the party's unconditional support for that country's national sovereignty. That message, addressed to Kim Jong Il, president of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, is published below.

Our party reaffirms our solidarity with your struggle to end the forced division of your country and condemns Washington's decades-long effort to politically and economically isolate the DPRK.

Last month, representatives of our party were in Japan with thousands of others from across Asia and around the world to participate in activities marking the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. government's heinous atom bomb assault on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Several hundred thousand residents of Japan were killed or maimed in those bombings, including many Korean immigrants. In the wake of these commemorations, we particularly condemn Washington's record of nuclear blackmail against Korea - from the 1950-53 war to reimpose an imperialist boot on your neck, to the deployment of U.S. nuclear-tipped warheads aimed at the DPRK to this day.

In marking the 47th anniversary of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, we join with the thousands of students in South Korea who attempted to join their brothers and sisters in the North for a rally on August 15 commemorating Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule half a century earlier. We condemn the brutal crackdown on the students by Seoul's cops, carried out with Washington's complicity and approval. And we join with the tens of thousands of women who - from Korea to the Philippines and China - continue to demand justice and reparations for the crimes of Japan's capitalist rulers who forced them into sexual slavery during World War II. The U.S. officer corps continues to organize such degrading practices on a massive scale throughout Asia and elsewhere to this day - one small part of the trafficking in women for domestic and sexual servitude that is part and parcel of the capitalist profit system worldwide.

This year's anniversary of the founding of the DPRK comes at a time when dozens of U.S. planes are carrying out NATO bombing raids in Bosnia, pursuing Washington's attempt to expand U.S. imperialism's influence in the former Yugoslavia. We support the people of Bosnia in their fight to defend their right to self-determination, halt the reactionary ethnic cleansing, and oppose the partition of their land. At the same time, we condemn imperialist military intervention in the former republics of the Yugoslav workers state. Such aggressive actions are a danger not only to all the peoples who had lived and toiled side by side for decades following the Yugoslav revolution - Bosnian, Serb, Croat, and others - but to all those the world over who refuse to live by the dictates of Washington and its imperialist allies.

The Korean people in particular have bitter experience with the outcome of U.S.-organized peacekeeping operations carried out under the United Nations flag.

The Socialist Workers Party pledges to continue telling the truth about the aims of U.S. and Japanese imperialism in Korea and to join with other working people and youth to fight all efforts by the U.S. government to maintain the division of the peninsula.

We look forward to the day when we can join the Korean people in celebrating a united Korea, free from imperialist domination.