[sixties-l] Throwing Stones The US and Korea

From: Ronald M. Jacobs (rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu)
Date: Sun Feb 17 2002 - 08:31:28 EST

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    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

        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

          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, the United States has not kept its 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
    Possibly supplying electricity to the energy-poor North.
    Promoting a return visit to Seoul this spring by the North's leader, Kim
         Since that meeting, things have only worsened, with GW's recent
    comments including northern Korea in a new "axis of evil" the most recent
    foray in the war of words 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 no
    prospect 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. 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.
         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

    -ron jacobs

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