Editor's Note: This piece was published by a relatively new Facebook page called Socialist Musings. As their page motto says, "Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer, we'll keep the red flag flying here." Read their new blog post / article about the DPRK.
Any analysis of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) that doesn’t take into account the colonialism and imperialist domination of the US in the southern part of the peninsula is bound to give the wrong conclusions. It must first be understood that the Korean people of both the north and south meet all the features of a nation. Korea in its entirety constitutes a single nation according to the definition given in Marxism and the Nation Question.
A nation is a historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.
Any attempts at an analysis that ignores the historical role the US played in dividing the Korean nation is bound to come up short.
Korea was divided by the US after the Second World War into two zones. The southern part was under formal US military occupation until 1948. The Korean People’s Republic was founded weeks after Japan’s surrender but the US, owing to its commitment to democracy, refused to recognize this indigenous government of the Korean People. The US actively suppressed and broke up this government and in 1948, using the repressive National Security Law, rounded up 200,000 Koreans sympathetic to the north and communism (by 1949, 30,000 communists were put into prisons and 70,000 in concentration camps). The US selectively picked the most anti-communist, western-educated, pro-imperialist leader possible—Syngman Rhee, who had lived in the US for 40 years—to lead South Korea. After Rhee, the South was ruled by military dictatorships for four decades with support from the US. Till this day, the US has thousands of troops stationed right in the heart of the Korean Peninsula (nearly 30,000 troops today), with missiles pointing straight up north which once used to be pointed at the Soviet Union.
The northern part, on the other hand, was overseen by the Soviet Union, who took a more hands off approach, to say the least. The locals were allowed to run the government. Within seven months, the first central government was formed and the next month, a program of land reform was initiated. By September 1948, the DPRK was proclaimed and by the end of the same year, Soviet troops had left Korea.
Economically, the DPRK was ahead of South Korea until the mid-60s and it was only in the mid-80s that the south overtook their northern counterparts, after a heavy funneling of loans, grants, and payments from the US and Japan at the cost of colonial domination. In the 60s when Che Guevara visited the DPRK, he was so impressed by the achievements of the DPRK that he said it’s a model that Cuba should strive to be. Even after economic development had slowed, the difference in the standard of living between the two states were marginal. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union, the biggest trading partner of the DPRK, did it suffer a blow to its economy. This coupled with a series of natural disasters, the scarcity of arable land, and the shortage of fertilizer after the fall of the socialist bloc led to agricultural troubles and food shortages. Add to this the threat of an US invasion after the fall of the Soviet Union against which the DPRK had to prepare itself. This led to funneling money to strengthen the military. With the US patrolling the water near the DPRK’s territory, simulating invasion scenarios, and openly declaring the DPRK to be an enemy, hardly anyone can blame them for trying to mount a defense against the mighty US.
Any defensive action the DPRK takes against the credible threat of Yankee imperialists must be understood in terms of this domination of the Korean Peninsula by the US. The Korean nation has a right to self-determination, to be unified, and to be in control of its own destiny. This obviously cannot happen while the US is occupying one half of the nation’s territory. Any talk of “peace” between the two Koreas and any criticisms of the DPRK must first understand this historical context in which the Korean nation finds itself. The defense of the DPRK from imperialist attacks and the liberation of the southern part of the peninsula is of utmost importance to anyone committed to socialism. Given that South Korea has de facto been a US colony since the Second World War, it’s evident under whose banner the Korean nation must again be reunited.
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Featured image, a picture of Pyongyang, taken from Wikimedia, under creative commons license.