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Korea Youth Demand Unification

By Brian Taylor, The Militant, Vol.60 no.31, 9 September 1996

Thousands of students in South Korea engaged in a nine-day confrontation with the government authorities, demanding reunification of the Korean peninsula. The protests began with a demonstration of 7,000 students in Seoul August 12.

The rally was a commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the victory of the Korean people in throwing off the yoke of Japanese colonial domination. Such annual celebrations have been organized for decades, but South Korean authorities declared them illegal under the National Security Law, which forbids any political activity favorable to the North or in support of reunification. Every year Korean youth refuse to accept this rule and see it as their right to express pride in their fighting history.

The government deployed up to 10,000 police—in riot gear, equipped with tear gas, batons, and armored vehicles—to break up the activities. The cops were met with airborne firebombs, slabs of stone, and lead-pipe-wielding students. During one particular assault, 100 riot police were overpowered and pummeled by angry students, one Associated Press journalist writes. Several [cops] were beaten unconscious, while 30 were held hostage and stripped of their padded fatigues, helmets, shields, and clubs before being freed.

A group of at least 1,000 students occupied a science building on the Yonsei University campus where the conflict took place. They held their ground by bringing out a propane tank, which they threatened to set on fire if police tried to storm the building. After a stand off they slipped by the police blockade of the building. The cops said they let the youth pass for fear the students would use toxic chemicals from the lab against them.

Vowing to crack down on such demonstrations, especially after a cop was killed in one of the clashes with protesters, the Seoul regime authorized the police to use guns instead of batons. So far, nearly 6,000 students have been detained for questioning. Some 3,300 are still in custody, with 460 placed under arrest. Reuters reports that cops continue to search campuses all over the country. They say they have seized seven truckloads of leftist leaflets, gasoline bombs, iron pipes, and other items used in the face off.

The rulers of South Korea also face resistance from workers. Government authorities arrested 54 people July 4 who were participating in a march of workers and youth, demanding the reinstatement of fired workers and a wage increase.

Reunification has been a central demand of working people and youth in Korea ever since the partition of the country by Washington and Moscow following World War II. The government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the North, founded in 1948, has consistently declared as its goal the reunification of Korea.

The U.S.-backed South Korean regime in Seoul, however, has striven to halt even the most minimal political contact by students, workers, and other political activists with the North. South Korean president Kim Young Sam insists that peace is maintained only by strength and unification is only possible under the free democratic system.

Some 37,000 U.S. soldiers accompany a South Korean army of 650,000 troops deployed near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), an area that separates the DPRK from South Korea. This line was drawn in 1953 based on a stalemate in the U.S.-led Korean War.

Launched by the administration of Democratic president Harry Truman in 1950, that war left 4 million people dead, some 13 percent of the entire Korean population. Washington's bombers leveled Pyongyang and other cities in the north with napalm, and even threatened to use atomic weapons on North Korea, while a brutal campaign was being carried out to suppress the pro- unification forces below the 38th parallel. The U.S. government, to this day, remains officially at war with the DPRK.

Washington currently has 100,000 troops stationed in Asia. They train F-15 pilots and do war simulations based on combat against North Korea. Gen. Richard B. Myers, assistant to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Gen. John Shalikashvili said, quite often the scenarios used by our F-15s will be threats that replicate what the North Koreans have and the tactics we've seen them execute. Shalikashvili maintains that North Korea is the region's biggest security threat and calls for having a high state of preparedness. U.S secretary of defense William Perry admitted last year to planning military strikes against North Korea in 1994. A U.S. helicopter was shot down last December for crossing into North Korean territory.

Washington has also sabotaged and withheld United Nations food relief that helps to offset the recent floods that destroyed North Korea's rice crops. Kim Kwang Jin, first vice minister of the DPRK armed forces, said the South Korean government viewed the natural catastrophe as, a chance for northward invasion and to spread false rumors about collaps in the north.

The Committee for Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland in Pyongyang issued a statement August 2 protesting Seoul's repression of pro-reunification activists. It condemned the arrests in July of Yi Sung-hwan, vice-chairman of the South Korean Council of Democratic Youth Organizations, and Cho Song U, chairman of the Policy Committee of the National Congress for Independent and Peaceful Reunification. Yi Sung-hwan was charged with having met with activists from North Korea while abroad in order to plan events calling for reunification. Cho Song U is accused of having arranged contacts for the meeting.

This repression, the statement said, is a downright challenge to the nation's desire for reunification and an unpardonable anti-national, anti-reunification crime aimed at stifling the pro-unification forces of South Korea. It continues, The patriots and other people of South Korea who fight for national reunification will never yield to separatists' crackdown but will fight more courageously to accomplish national reunification.