Ken Kilnam Roh, Minjok-Tongshin Editor-In-Chief
Hello! On behalf of Minjok Tongshin, I’d like to thank you for coming to this event tonight. I’d like to thank the many organizations who co-sponsored tonight’s event, organizations doing the critical work necessary to fight U.S. imperialism throughout the world. I am very pleased to see people gathered here together to denounce U.S. imperialism and build toward peace and social justice in communities of every kind, everywhere.
All of us here understand that U.S. imperialism, be it economic, cultural, political, and military, is a primary if not the primary challenge facing us today, but we have come to this conclusion from different paths, different experiences, and different analyses. My own introduction to what U.S. foreign policy meant for the world came when I fully understood U.S. complicity and support for the calculated slaughter of some two thousand Koreans in the city of Gwangju in 1980—people from every sector of society killed with U.S. support, killed for wanting to throw off decades of authoritarian rule sanctioned and supported by the U.S. government.
My years of working in Korea’s struggle for national liberation and unification have left me with no illusions about what U.S. rhetoric really means for those of us working to survive and live with dignity under the oppression of the U.S. I laugh with some bitterness when I hear Bush Administration officials say that they plan to be in Iraq for only a few years. The U.S. government said the same thing about Korea in 1945 and U.S. troops never left—there are still about a 100 U.S. military bases and installations occupying the southern part of Korea, polluting the land, exploiting the people, maintaining the division between North and South, committing crimes against South Korean people without going to jail as they hide behind the shield of the U.S. military, the list goes on and on. When the U.S. government talks about sending “advisors” down to Colombia or Bolivia, I think about all the “advisors” sent by the U.S. in the late 1940s who were critical in coordinating the extermination of the organized left and suppressing democratization movements even as the U.S. was installing their government against the wishes of a nation that above all, did not want division and forced dependence on another government.
When U.S. officials talk in condescending tones toward the difficulties that Haitians had had to deal with for decades, I think of how many difficulties Koreans have suffered while trying to throw off the yoke of U.S. interference in their lives, and how much easier Korean lives would have been if they hadn’t had to deal with U.S. empire—how much energy and life my people have focused on fighting the U.S. when we could have been laughing, drinking, and loving each other. When I listen to Puerto Ricans talk about the decades long fight to end U.S. military bombing in Vieques, I cannot help but think of those Koreans in Maehyangri whose lives have been destroyed by the same military lobbing the same shells for decades on my people’s land. I wonder sometimes how people who are so different from one another and so far away—from Puerto Rico to Korea—are connected by their deep desire to live their lives with peace and justice, free from U.S. imperial power. When I see the U.S. government claim to support democracy all over the world while trying to control elections and the democratic process all over the world, whether it be in Haiti, Palestine, Iraq, Bolivia, Venezuela, I think of how hard the U.S. has tried to prevent Koreans in the south from electing progressive politicians, and how they are funding conservative organizations and parties.
In so many ways, as different as our terrains of struggle may look, and as different as our histories may be, we fight a common enemy. But more than a common enemy, we share a common humanity and a common desire for peace and justice. I look forward to tonight’s panel because I hope it will enable us to deepen our understanding of one another’s histories and current challenges, so that we can be better and stronger allies, so that we can struggle with one another if struggle there need be, with the ultimate goal of forging a common path that joins our diverse peoples together. I thank you for coming.
Introduction: Ken Roh, Editor-in-Chief, Minjok Tongshin
Harold Hakwon Sunoo, Sunoo Peace Foundation
Preston Wood, ANSWER
Tiffany Burns, CODEPINK
Bus Riders Union & Labor/Community Strategy Center
Korean poongmul pae
Moderator: Alex Ko, Mindullae and host, KPFK’s “Radioactive”
§ “Peru and Bolivia: Progressive Change in the Making”—Juan José Gutierrez, Latino Movement U.S.A.
§ “The Palestinian Elections and U.S. Hypocrisy”—Fadia Rafeedie, Free Palestine Alliance
§ Africa—Tulivu Jadi, African-American Cultural Center
§ “In Search of Morning Calm”—Seung Hye Suh, Minjok Tongshin
§ “Global Situation and Asian Results”—Johneric Concordia, Kabataang maka-Bayan USA (KmB)
§ “The War at Home”—Scott Scheffer, International Action Center
§ “Reportback from Hong Kong”—Megyung Chung, participant on the Korea Exposure and Education Program (KEEP) anti-WTO delegation under the Korean Peasants League
Pyongtaek and Hong Kong slideshow
Question and answer period
Solidarity statement ceremony
Addicted to War,African-American Cultural Center,ANSWER,Bus Riders Union,CODEPINK,Forum for Peaceful Korean Reunification,Free Palestine Alliance
Historical Justice Now,International Action Center,Korea Truth Commission,Korean American National Coordinating Council,Korean American Peace Association,Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA),Labor/Community Strategy Center,Latino Movement U.S.A.,Mindullae,One Korea LA Forum,Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification-USA,People21.org
Minjok Tongshin offers our deep gratitude to:
Jamie Kim,Kang Dooyoung,Harim Kim,KIWA,Korea Education Foundation,Lee Dae Ryong,
Chung Moo,Thomas Kim,Ahn Joongsil,Kim Yongil,Ryu Taeyoung,Lee Joonsoo,Sung Nakyoung,Lee Yundong,Kim Joongsan,Bae Kangwoong,Lee Manyoung,Song Haksam,Korean poongmul pae,Alex Ko,all our co-sponsors and speakers and everyone else who helped in ways large and small to put this event together. Front cover photos thanks to UK Indymedia
“Peru and Bolivia: Progressive Change in the Making”
Juan Jose Gutierrez, Latino Movement USA
<##IMAGE##> Nearly 514 years after the arrival of the of agents of the Spanish
empire, 300 years of brutal, and savage colonial domination and
exploitation, and after nearly 200 or so years of violent and heroic
struggle to secure our true independence from diverse colonial powers,
Latin America finds itself at a historic cross road.
For Latin America the question is, down which political and economic
path to insure that its majority populations finally attain their second
and true independence for which they have already fought and died more
Tonight, I will focus my remarks on two South American countries Peru,
Peru is a country with a population of slightly more than 40 million
people. For nearly 20 years, successive governments have undertaken to
dismantle the public sector of their economy, and replaced it with near
total privatization. The result, the multinationals, and the local elite
have prospered at the expense of the working majority. Today, the
official unemployment rate is 10%, but when underemployment is factored
in, 30-35% would be a truer percentage. Always confronting difficult
living conditions, these became acentuated, and since the 1980"s,
workers and peasants confronted dire living conditions. In desperation,
many became radicalized, and joined a myrad of leftist organizations
including the Shining Path, and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
guerrilla organizations. According to some estimates, by the early
1990"s, more than sixty percent of the country was under guerrilla
control. In desperation, successive Peruvian governments, but especially
that of Alberto Fujimori, unleashed a brutal military campaign designed
to erradicate or at least control the power and influence of the
The favored military tactic of the government campaign was general
butchery against the people. In the process, tens of thousands of
workers, peasants, and students were tortured, and killed. Other
atrocities included the total destruction of villages where the people
were suspected of supporting revolutionary change.
Eventually, the people tired of Fujimori and, in their quest for
progressive political change, elected Alejandro Toledo as their
president. The fact that Toledo had humble, and indigenous, origins
seems to have given the Peruvian people reason to hope for a better
future. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In spite of his personal background other facts indicate Toledo to be a
political opportunist willing to serve the interests of Peru"s political
elite, and of U.S. multinationals. Since he was 16 years old he worked
and studied under the direction of members of the U.S. Peace Corp.
Eventually, he earned a Ph.D in economics and education at Stanford
University. Over time he worked for the World Bank, the Inter American
Development Bank, the International Labour Organization, and the
organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Since Toledo became Peru"s President, his foreign, and economic policy,
has been totally subservient to U.S., other foreign, and national elite
interests. The results speak for themselves. When he was sworn into
office in 2001 he was said to command about 60% popular support. Today,
no more than 7% of the population support him.
Aware that Peru holds its Presidential election this coming April 9,
when I was invited to travel there, I accepted. Recently, I spent three
days in Lima and Cuzco. There, I was able to observe the three main
presidential candidates. In my view they are Lourdes Flores of the
Unidad Nacional Party, Alan Garcia of the APRA Party, and Ollanta Humala
of the Peruvian Nationalist Party. Of the three, I was most impressed
with Ollanta Humala. Why?
Ollanta Humala has a very interesting background. He is the son of a
prominent member of Peru"s Communist Party, and most of his personal
formation took place in Peru"s military. He"s organized military
uprisings against the currupt Fujimori government, and served as
ambassador to France and South Korea. He"s an avowed nationalist who has
managed to win the political support of President Hugo Chavez, and Evo
Morales in Bolivia. It is not clear what"s his political program. He
stated it is still evolving. But what is clear is that he"s committed to
taking on government corruption and abuse. He has expressed serious
reservations about the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (ALCA), and
has stated on the record that if elected president he would proceed to
nationalize the country"s industries.
As things stand right now, I believe Mr. Ollanta Humala represents the
best hope for the people of Peru.
Unlike Peru where no one can say with any degree of certainty who will
preside over the destinies of its people, in Bolivia there is no such
I went to Bolivia to participate in ceremonies marking the assumption of
state power by Evo Morales. Unofficially, I went to take as close a look
as I could possibly muster at the Bolivian political process of change.
I"m pleased I did.
Bolivia is a beautiful country rich in natural resources, and has a
population of nearly 10 million people of which nearly 70% are either
Amayra or Quechua indians. Juan Evo Morales Ayma, and his Movimiento al
Socialismo--Movement towards socialism (MAS), were placed by the people
of Bolivia in charge to the country"s highest office, and its
government. This process took President morales nearly 30 years of
struggle. The election took place on December 18 of last year, and he
was sworn as President on January 22, 2006.
When I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, the entire City as well as El Alto,
where the airport is located, seemed to be in political ecstasy. The
entire population were mobilized and celebrated the election of Evo as
their new president. Almost one third of Bolivia"s population reside and
work in the adjacent cities separated only by the main road that crosses
from the altiplano into La Paz.
Not even two hours after deplaining, I was on my way to the ancient
sacred temple at Tiwanaku where then President-elect Evo Morales
participated in an indigenous spiritual ceremony. At Tiwanaku, and along
with over 30,000 people from many countries of the world, I witnessed
how he was crowned as Apu Mallku or Supreme Leader of the indigenous
people of the Andes region. Through symbolic gifts, various
representatives of Indian nations of the Americas transferred mystical
powers to him. There and then President Morales proclaimed the end of
the colonial period, and the beggining of a new ERA. I don"t think I
exagerate when I say that the words of President Evo morales at Tiwanaku
are of historical importance, and there is no doubt in my mind that
their full political and cultural weight will be felt by the whole world
for generations to come.
My entire emotional being was moved as it had not in a long time. And as
I observed, and took in the rest of the ceremony, I could not think of
anything else but of the fact that thirty-nine years before, at the age
of thirty-nine, Ernesto "Che" Guevara"s life was taken by bolivian
soldiers, and agents, at the service of the CIA, in La Higuera, Bolivia.
There, in that sacred place, right over by the Sun Gate of Tiwanaku, I
felt Che"s eternal, and revolutionary presence.
The following day President Morales was invested with the power of the
Presidency during a formal ceremony. Later that day he spoke to the
people of Bolivia in the main City Plaza. I was there, and I can tell
you that the moment was magical.
There are significat reasons to be optimistic about the election of Evo
Morales as President in Bolivia. All speculation aside, let me mention
three. The first two are contained in public statements he"s made.
(1) "The worst enemy of humanity is capitalism. That is what provokes
uprisings like our own, a rebellion against a system, against a
neoliberal model, which is the representation of a savage capitalism. If
the entire world doesn"t acknowledge this reality, that the national
states are not providing even minimally for health, education and
nourishement, then each day the most fundamental human rights are being
On a different occassion he stated:
(2) "The ideological principles of the organization
[MAS]anti-imperialist and contrary to neoliberalism, are clear and firm
but its members have yet to turn them into a programmatic reality".
The last point has to do with President Morales choice for
vice-president. He chose Alvaro Garcia Linera. I don"t think there is
any argument amongst the informed public that Mr. Garcia Linera is
deeply committed to a progressive/revolutionary ideology, or that he is
a highly educated and recognized sociologist, mathematician, and
political analyst. But most important, in his immediate past, he fought
alongside Felipe Quispe as part of the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army
(EGTK). In my view a most impressive political credential.
Based on what is going on in Latin America today, I believe the entire
Third World, and the working class of the United States, can be said to
be justified in their growing belief that a wave of progressive change
is under way in the American Continent. As the entire planent is
interconnected, this change will ultimatelly influence political and
economic change in the rest of the world, and vise versa. There are many
reasons for feeling optimistic about the future of all of our respective
peoples, but above all there is one reason which is of paramount
importance. It has to do not forgetting what President Evo Morales said,
that is, we are now living in a new ERA.
The people are rising up, taking to the streets, will continue to do so
in ever growing numbers; human solidarity, and social justice will
prevail because we are condemned to do away with all that threatens the
human species. That is, sooner or later, the people of the world will do
away with all forms of imperialism and capitalist exploitation. Thank you.
“The Palestinian Elections and U.S. Hypocrisy”
Ramiz and Fadia Rafeedie·, The Free Palestine Alliance
<##IMAGE##>Now that the arm-flailing and panic attacks in the West surrounding Hamas’s electoral victory in Palestine have abated, we must examine the larger context within which this defeat of the governing Palestinian Authority occurred. Despite the elections, the fundamental reality underpinning the conflict has remained unchanged: The Zionists, with U.S. backing, have succeeded thus far in establishing a racist Jewish state in Arab Palestine to the ongoing detriment of Palestine’s native, non-Jewish inhabitants.
At the threshold, one must take note that while the turnout for elections was high, and while the Palestinians again have proven their fierce will to survive against all odds and determine their own destiny, these elections (like those in Iraq) happened under occupation. Palestine is not free. Iraq is not free. To the extent that elections call to mind sovereign and free electorates, this is not the case in Iraq or Palestine. In fact, although the Palestinians have been proud supporters of democracy and self-determination throughout their 58-year struggle against Zionist colonization, the vast majority of Palestinians live as exiles or as refugees outside the confines of the West Bank and Gaza, and they did not participate in the elections. Their voices – long silenced – cannot be ignored in any analysis of the current state of affairs in Occupied Palestine or in any holistic analysis of the just plight of the Palestinians more generally.
The danger in the election result is not that Hamas has assumed power, but rather that the elections, like the façade of the Gaza withdrawal before them, will create a convenient smokescreen distracting us from the continued Israeli atrocities committed against the Palestinian people. Indeed, while the media has focused on Hamas and its purportedly deadly power and baseless malice, the Zionist state has continued to use its very real military might – and the ideological underpinnings that drive it – to continue to strangle the Palestinians into submission.
Aside from that overarching reality, these elections have highlighted (yet again) Western hypocrisy as it relates to politics and life in the Arab World.
There is perhaps no clearer example of recent U.S. hypocrisy than the Bush Administration’s reaction to Hamas’s victory. After touring the globe as the self-proclaimed worldwide lecturer on democracy, George Bush was at a characteristic loss of words following the election. Rather than respecting the national will of the Palestinians, the Administration has sought to isolate and collectively punish them for engaging in what many agree to be the most free and fair elections in the history of the modern Arab World. The United States, and its European lackeys, have threatened to cut off desperately needed aid to the Palestinians unless and until Hamas (a) renounces violence, (b) recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and (c) accepts the signed agreements between the Israelis and Palestinians. Of course, the U.S. places no reciprocal conditions on the obscene amounts of military and economic aid given to Israel by the United States, even though the Zionist state not only brazenly conditions citizenship on religion, but has been cited time and again by international human rights organizations and the United Nations for its egregious violations of human rights. To expect a resistance movement to renounce violence and at the same time fight a nuclear power bent on uprooting non-Jews from Palestinian Arab land is absurd. To force recognition of a political body that itself has no constitution, no respect for the civil, social, religious, and cultural rights of non-Jews, and no moral basis for its exclusionary political philosophy, is to expect of the Palestinian resistance movements what is expected of no other oppressed people in the world.
Israel will get its aid – assistance that amounts to more than what all of Latin America and black Africa has ever received from the United States – despite that it continues to regularly assassinate Palestinians, gun down innocent civilians, bombard defenseless towns and villages, trap Palestinians into Bantustans behind an illegal and racist Apartheid wall, and build illegal Jewish-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land, all in flagrant violation of even the “signed agreements” between the old and debunk Palestinian leadership and its cabal of Israeli puppet masters. Despite all this, Israel still helps itself to nearly five billion dollars in US military and foreign aid, all at a time when non-defense related federal programs have suffered from slashed or frozen budgets. What’s more, Israeli crimes enjoy tacit and overt diplomatic protection by Western nations, such that the casual observer of Near Eastern affairs now believes that Israel is the victim of Palestinian aggression and fundamentalism!
The elections have also demonstrated the moral depravity of the Zionist regime (as if its record over the last six decades were not enough). Since 2001, Israel has succeeded in physically and diplomatically isolating the Palestinians from the rest of the world. That is nothing new. What is new is that the election of Hamas, and the attendant glossy Zionist public relations campaign that has followed, will work to legitimize Israel’s actions in the eyes of the rest of the world. For one, Israel has refused to turn over millions of dollars in tax money collected by Israelis for Palestinians on the pretext that it does not give money to “terrorists.” The effect of this policy, which amounts to little more than state-sponsored robbery, is that desperately needed cash will not reach the Palestinian territories. Israel, which still controls the borders of the West Bank and Gaza, has refused to allow essential goods into the Occupied Territories, which has severely exacerbated an already desperate situation for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. This cruel blockade will continue to malnourish the Palestinian population and to severely cripple Palestine’s fragile economy.
Just think what would happen if the United Kingdom decided to impose a military blockade on U.S. shores and borders to punish the American people for their re-election of George Bush!
Anyone who doubts Israel’s murderous intentions should bear with caution the following quote from a high-level Israeli government official, Dov Weisglass, who, when asked about the effects of terminating aid to the Palestinians, replied, “it’s like a meeting with a dietitian . . . we need to make them lose weight, but not die.” Aluf Benn, Haaretz Daily, Israel Won’t Stop Transfer of Aid to Palestinians, 2/16/06. The irony that such a statement would be made by an official in a government nominally led by a gluttonous and grotesquely overfed war criminal is not lost on the Palestinians.
Israel’s response to Hamas’s electoral victory should be seen within a context of continuing, long-time Zionist policies of making living conditions for Palestinians so harsh that they will eventually leave, thus ethnically cleansing Palestine of its native inhabitants. Nothing has changed, neither Israel’s policies nor its rhetoric.
The Palestinians are keenly aware of Israel’s designs, as they themselves are the most proximate victims of Zionism. It was in this larger context that the Palestinians went to the polls last month, armed only with a desire to change the status quo, to choose a leadership less interested in lining its own pockets and agreeing on humiliating capitulations than it is in restoring Palestinian dignity. The victory of Hamas should not be seen as a victory for the party itself or its ideology, but rather as a resounding Palestinian rejection of Zionism, foreign bankrolling of friendly candidates, and the so-called peace process that has brought the average Palestinian nothing more than continued misery.
The world community should respect the Palestinians’ electoral choices, even in the limited context within which it was expressed (no sovereignty, and no participation of the majority of Palestinians). True solidarity starts and ends with recognizing that every people has a right to self-determination and freedom, especially from colonization and from the wrath of the U.S. military-industrial complex. The United States cannot, under the guise of democracy, shove down people’s throats using the barrel of a gun governments friendly to U.S. policy (as in Iraq), or impose a political reality favorable to U.S. interests by withholding aid for sustenance and survival to lawful victors of free elections (as in Palestine), or by imposing a gruesome blockade for decades against a neighbor under the pretext that it deprives people as a means of liberating them (as in Cuba). Respecting democracy means respecting those who aspire to it – here, in Occupied Palestine, and everywhere.
“In Search of Morning Calm”
Seung Hye Suh, Minjok Tongshin Staff Writer
<##IMAGE##>The first time the U.S. government attempted to impose its imperial agenda on Korea, the U.S. Navy gunboat U.S.S. General Sherman wended its way up the Taedong River. The Koreans in 1866 must have been prescient to American designs because they promptly burned down the General Sherman and executed everyone on board for their attempts to interfere in Korea’s self-determination. Alas, that incident was not the end of U.S. military incursion into Korea, nor was it the only American or Western effort to impose itself in and on Asia. In the 1830s and ‘40s, England was the biggest drug pusher in the world, exploiting labor and land in colonized India to grow opium to be sold to Chinese. When China’s leaders objected to policies enriching the English at the expense of the health and vitality of their people, the English waged the devastating Opium Wars in order to force open China’s ports, creating untold misery for the Chinese and untold profit for England and the British-owned East India Company. In 1853, the U.S. threatened Japan with military attack if it did not open its ports and territory, and Japan, not wishing to suffer the fate of China, relented. It is a bitter irony for those of us witnessing the U.S. war on the Iraqi people that guaranteeing a regional monopoly on the supply of oil—in this case whale oil—was one key reason why the U.S. was so interested in securing the Pacific region.
For most of the first half of the 20th century, the U.S. imperial ambitions in the Pacific focused on colonizing the islands stretching from California to Japan. Its genocidal war against the people of the Philippines began in 1899, and is best understood as an extension of the policies of extermination of native peoples that had pushed the U.S. boundary toward its unjust war against Mexico, to the western limit of the continent here in California. On the other side of the Pacific, Japan had spent the second half of the 19th century transforming itself so that it, too, could become an imperial power along with the U.S. and European countries. A secretly negotiated 1905 agreement between the U.S. and Japan ensured that the U.S. would have no interference in carrying out its racist colonization of the Phillipines, and left Korea open to a brutal Japanese colonization that went on for over 35 years. It also allowed Japan to use Korea as a place to launch military excursions throughout Asia until their eventual defeat in World War II.
When World War II ended, the American soldiers were initially greeted as liberators by Koreans, but like Iraqis today, Koreans learned very quickly what it meant to be under the thumb of the U.S. military. Within months, the vast majority of Koreans rightly saw the U.S. as occupiers thwarting the democratic will of the people. Korean joy turned to bitterness as the U.S. installed back into power those who had collaborated with the Japanese, and it grew even more when it became clear that the U.S. was ready, willing, and proceeding with its plans to divide Korea. What was most precious to Koreans in 1945 was their independence as a nation and as a people. What was unthinkable was division after 2000 years of a people’s history together on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. government was the primary force in dividing Korea and denying Koreans their right to national self-determination. The U.S. installed a fiercely anti-communist regime of conservative elites in the south headlined by Syngman Rhee—a man brought in because everyone else willing to work with the U.S. was a hated collaborator with the Japanese during its colonization of Korea. The U.S. backed sweeping massacres of anyone suspected of dissent, and since virtually no one supported Rhee, many courageous Koreans died during this time.
In the North, Kim Il Sung emerged as the leader. The Soviet Union provided support to his government from early on, but he was not their hand-picked choice, as is so often assumed in the west. There were a number of Koreans in the anti-Japanese resistance who had closer ties to the USSR, but Kim had been public enemy number one in the eyes of the Japanese for his role in the guerrilla war against Japanese imperialism and had popular support on the ground. The purges and violence that occurred in the North did not come close to the character or the scale of what happened in the south.
The division of Korea led to open war, officially written as begun in 1950 but realistically already being fought by 1949 as documented by the leading Korean War historian Bruce Cumings. In June of 1950, the United States took advantage of an existing Soviet Security Council boycott to rope the United Nations into its war. The U.S. in 1950 was able to accomplish what it tried but failed to do in 2002: it gained U.N. backing for the U.S. fictions that justified entry into a neo-imperial war, without independent verification of the facts by the U.N. or anyone else, and managed to fight the DPRK in the name of the UN while maintaining strategic control and military authority over all South Korean and UN troops. After having divided, then taken control over half the country, the U.S. was now ready to take over the entire peninsula—all in the name of American freedom. The war ultimately led to the death of three million, and some say five million, Koreans, the vast majority civilians, as well as hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers and over 50,000 US soldiers. An entire 20% of the population of northern Korea, one in five people, died. Mass graves from the period are still being unearthed today. The country was razed to the earth: as one U.S. bomber reported as he flew over North Korea, “There are no more targets.” This is what North Koreans know of the U.S. After three terrible, bloody years, the July 1953 stalemate congealed into the Cold War. And so it is that today, the Korean War is still officially going on, and tens of thousands of U.S. troops still stand in South Korea. Ten thousand families remain separated, and Korea remains divided.
Thanks to the incredibly vibrant and powerful people’s movements that built and struggled for decades against military dictatorship and economic exploitation to forge the path towards a more democratic society, the South Korean government can no longer be called a dictatorship as it was for almost 40 years. The immense changes in South Korea cannot be overemphasized, but as we do so, we must recognize how some of the legacies of the Korean War and U.S. imperial interference during that time have become so normalized and institutionalized that many people don’t even talk about them—yet they structure the lives of the people and the life of the nation in fundamental ways. Because of time limitations, I will offer a single, simple example. The US military has been in South Korea since 1945: over 60 years. Until 1994 the highest military authority in SK was the commander of the US AFK. Higher than the highest SK military leader, the president, the defense minister, anybody. Finally in 1994 they transferred authority over to SK, but only in peacetime. In war, the authority automatically reverts back to the US commander. What does that say about SK national sovereignty? Take a moment and ask yourself: how would Americans feel if a military general of a foreign power held the ultimate command over the entire US military, outranking the US President, the US Defense Secretary, and the US Congress? This has been the South Korean reality for as long as South Korea has existed.
So when we hear that South Korea has sent the most troops to Iraq, after only the US itself and England, we can place it within this context. When we hear of desperately needed fertilizer that south Korea promised to the north being withheld at the demand of the U.S., we can place it in this context. When we hear about the brave residents of Pyongtaek resisting the takeover of their farmland by the US military, resisting to the end, quite literally putting their bodies on the line, bodies brown and wrinkled from decades of work on the land, because Korea is their home, their land, with nowhere else to go, we can place it in this context. And if we see the streets of Seoul flame once again with a burning American flag, we will know to place it in this context. For more and more people in South Korea feel that this has gone on for far too long. To cite but one example, according to a recent respected poll, if the US were to attack North Korea, 48 per cent of young South Koreans ages 18-23 believe Seoul should side with the North, while only 11.6 per cent would support South Korea acting with the U.S. Americans who know little about Korea profess bewilderment at what they call rising anti-Americanism. “Why do they hate us?” they ask. But Koreans do not hate Americans. Koreans both north and south simply want what they have wanted for decades—sovereignty, peace, and reunification.
But we cannot think about U.S. foreign policy in military and political terms alone. We must also incorporate an analysis of neoliberalism, that is, an understanding of the tightly woven ties between the political, the military, and the economic. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has called for a general strike next Tuesday protesting a government bill allowing the expansion of temporary, contingent workers who are hired with lower pay, fewer or no benefits, and no job security. The forced conversion of stable positions to temporary jobs has skyrocketed since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, in which the IMF loaned Korea $55 billion—the precise amount that Korean banks and corporations then needed to pay off transnational banks to service their short-term loans. In other words, the catastrophic credit exhaustion of Korea’s banks and corporations got Korea into this situation and the workers have been paying the price ever since. The media says the economy has largely bounced back, but if the national numbers have climbed back up, it’s because the exploitation of workers has increased to the benefit of the large corporations. For the most part, the economic conditions have not bounced back for Korea’s workers and farmers. Just as during the 1970s, Korea’s economy took off on the super-exploitation of women workers, today the nation’s elites are attempting to salvage south Korea’s economy by making conditions even more difficult for the most marginalized of working people, including peasants, temporary workers, and foreign migrant workers, women and men.
This month the US and South Korea announced that they will seek to conclude a bilateral free trade agreement later this year. It is likely to be the biggest FTA after NAFTA. It will pave the way for even more bilaterals—an escape hatch for the corporations if our global peoples’ movements continue to be successful in our ongoing process of shutting down the WTO. Korean movie stars are protesting side by side with Korean farmers. American transnationals want to privatize public services in Korea, want to flood the screens with Hollywood and more Hollywood, want Koreans to import rice from the US! The drive to build Korea’s economy through export-led industrialization has tied South Korea’s life to the global capitalist economy dominated by US and European corporations. Where in 1965 South Korea was able to provide itself with 93.4% of its own food, now that number is down to 25%. And if the rice market is
liberalized as US agribusiness wants, that number will plummet to 5%. And small farmers who must go deeply into debt to buy one tractor cannot compete against Monsanto or Cargill. These corporations are shutting down farms here in the U.S. as well as abroad. They are pushing to eliminate public-sector jobs here and abroad, so that even the very water we drink each day to survive will only be available through a corporation whose motivation is not to bring people pure water but to pursue pure profit. To be truly free, a country needs to develop its economy such that it can feed its own people. People cannot eat semiconductors or cell phones whose value is only what the market dictates. But food has a value beyond the market: the real value of sustaining life.
As for the North, I often struggle with how to explain North Korea to folks living in the US. After all, we have heard nothing but an unending stream of American propaganda about North Korea that has lasted for over half a century. Of course that is all we have heard—the US, after all, is still technically at war with North Korea, the demonization of North Korea legitimates US military occupation in the South, and Koreans in the North have historically believed in a socialist economy—something anathema to the U.S. government. And so we hear about the axis of evil, outposts of tyranny, letting soldiers eat some of the food aid, human rights abuses, and now the latest, counterfeiting. We see the strategy of deploying human rights language and standards selectively for cynical political ends.
And in the haze of American propaganda, even many of those on the left miss some crucial elements about North Korea. We fail to recognize that for over half a century, the DPRK has stood out as a country that has, without fail, identified the US government for what it is—an aggressive imperial power bent on dominating the lives of others. We fail to recognize why North Korea did not fall after the end of the Soviet bloc—because its people believe in the most powerful way in the importance of their own national independence. We fail to recognize that North Korea has somehow stood up to the US for decades, and is still standing up to them. We fail to recognize that North Korea’s “military first” policy is a direct result of US threats, and that the U.S. military budget is almost 2500 times larger than NK’s military budget. And we fail to recognize that we can actively support the cause of human rights everywhere in the world, including North Korea, without supporting US imperialist ambitions. Supporting North Korea and believing in human rights is not an either/or proposition, but the U.S. government and conservative forces have made it out to seem that way.
And make no mistake, South Koreans are changing even as we in the U.S. are not. I hope through this talk, that I am helping us in the movement here in the US to catch up with what Koreans on the peninsula are doing because there have been dramatic and significant advances toward unification in the past five and a half years. Every day North and South Koreans are finding ways to join hands and bind themselves to a unification process. Our challenge as progressive Koreans here in the US, on the peninsula, or anywhere else in the world, is to struggle not just for a reunified Korea that is independent of US imperialism and neo-liberal economic powers, but to advance a vision of Korean unification that recognizes the human rights of all people: Koreans and non-Koreans living there, men and women, workers of all occupations, farmers, students, youth, people of all religions and no religion, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and straight people, elders and children, in short everyone.
In closing, I want to say something that is so obvious to anyone who understands North Korea, but has been lost in the fear and hatred that US propaganda has been so powerful in generating. Namely this: there are 22 million people in North Korea that understand very well everything that I have just said to you. There are 22 million people living on a land that was bombed to pieces by U.S. chemical and conventional weapons, and very nearly by nuclear weapons, who understand as well as anyone in the entire world what a military attack called “shock and awe” really means to people living on the ground—their families experienced “shock and awe” day after day for two and a half years. There are 22 million people who have suffered greatly because they are a tiny, tiny country on small patch of land who have somehow stood up to U.S. imperialism for decades, refusing to buckle even as the U.S. kept up economic sanctions, ran yearly military exercises at the divided border, kept surveillance planes, radar, and satellites going constantly over their land, and pushed other governments to isolate them. There are 22 million people who, as well as anyone else in the world, understand the meaning and critical importance of solidarity and are willing to stand with Iraqis, Palestinians, Venezuelans, Haitians, Americans, and everyone else willing to stand against U.S. imperialism.
"Global Situation and Asian Results”
Johneric Concordia, Kabataang maka-Bayan USA
I. US Economic Policy. –
<##IMAGE##>1. US must exact their superprofits from any going level of production and circulation of goods as well as from the manipulation of finance capital. Thus, the foreign debt of the underdeveloped countries has continuously increased beyond the level of USD 3 trillion.
2. Under the neoliberal economic policy of imperialism. Under this policy, monopoly capitalism is misrepresented as "free enterprise" and "free market" and the monopoly capitalists reap superprofits and accumulate capital by brazenly using the state to deliver to them productive and financial resources and state contracts and to cut down the incomes and social benefits of the proletariat and other working people.
3. Result to Asian economies-Since the late 1970"s, the majority of the countries dependent on raw-material exports have been hit by the chronic global crisis of overproduction in agricultural and mineral raw materials. The surplus agricultural production in the industrial capitalist countries does not only shrink the global market for the agricultural exports of the underdeveloped countries but also invades the latter"s domestic markets and ruins their agriculture through dumping. The more efficient technology for mineral extraction has also resulted in less employment in mines and in excess supply of minerals in the world market. -
--The ever worsening stagnation, depression and deterioration of the economies of the underdeveloped countries (now expanded as a result of the retrogression of the former Soviet bloc countries) and the erosion of wages and social benefits for the proletariat in the industrial capitalist countries have combined to contract the global market for industrial producer and consumer goods. The winners in the monopoly capitalist competition keep on increasing the organic composition of capital (by increasing the fixed capital for enhancing productivity and reducing the variable capital for wages).
--The economic imbalances and the falling rate of profit in their home countries have driven the multinational firms further to penetrate overseas markets. Thus, they have put up there more assembly plants for cars, home appliances and some basic industrial products and for the marginal but labor-intensive processing of semi-conductors, garments, shoes, toys and the like in the sweatshops of China, India, Southeast Asia and elsewhere. The monopoly bourgeoisie is responsible for stagnating and degrading their own economies and thereafter seeking to maximize profits by putting up plants abroad. But it blames the underdeveloped client countries for the loss of jobs in the imperialist countries and drums up chauvinism and racism against the migrant workers who generally take the bottom jobs.
4. The imperialist powers have used finance capital in the form of direct investments and loans to allow the majority of countries to cover their budgetary and trade deficits, keep most of them as raw-material exporters and a few as reexporters of low-valued semi-manufactures and reduce all of them to the status of debt peons, burdened by ever mounting foreign debt. Most of the superprofits that the imperialist powers draw from the underdeveloped countries are in the form of debt service payments and commercial profits rather than in the form of returns on investments in industrial production.
5. The abrupt slide of the US economy in 2000 had been presaged by the Southeast Asian financial crisis of 1997. The semi-manufacture exports of Southeast Asia were squeezed by China"s export of similar goods. The private construction boom, which was financed by foreign loans from commercial banks, fizzled out because of a huge overcapacity. The speculative portfolio investments in the region flew back to the imperialist countries. The local currencies took a dive in relation to the US dollar. The Southeast Asian crisis was followed by the crisis in South Korea, Brazil, Russia, Argentina and other so-called emerging markets.
Since then, the shrinking global market for consumer electronics, home appliances, cars, structural steel, planes and so on has cramped the economic growth of the US and other imperialist countries. The few underdeveloped countries producing semi-manufactures for export have been far more devastated. But the most devastated are the majority of underdeveloped countries dependent on the export of raw materials. These suffer from the ever widening budgetary and trade deficits, mounting debt burden and are forced to raise taxes even under conditions of economic depression and make further cutbacks on expenditures for even the most basic social services.
II. Political –
1. Under the pretext of a permanent "war on terror", the US has promulgated the USA PATRIOT Act to curtail the civil liberties of the American people and has whipped up jingoism, racism and religious bigotry, especially against the Arab people and Islamic believers.
Result to Asia- The broad masses of the people are rising up to resist US imperialism as their No. 1 enemy as well as other imperialist powers and puppet states that are the closest allies of the US on a global or regional scale. They are building mass organizations on the basis of class, interclass, sectoral or multisectoral interests as well as on the basis of issues such as national and social liberation, economic development, human rights, opposition to war, racial equality, gender equality, protection of the environment, and the like.
They are engaged in movements on national, regional and global scales. The International League of Peoples" Struggle is today the broadest progressive mass movement, paying attention to eighteen major concerns. It contrasts sharply in its anti-imperialist character and objectives with reformist and "civil society" formations, including the imperialist-funded World Social Forum, dedicated to reformism and improving the imperialist system. Philippine democratic mass organizations are outstanding in developing bilateral and multilateral relations with people"s organizations in other countries.
Armed revolutionary movements of the people for national and social liberation are growing in strength and advancing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Nepal, Philippines, Turkey and other countries. They are bound to increase as the global economic crisis worsens and the US gets bogged down deeper in
III. Military Policy –
1.The US under the Bush regime has taken advantage of the September 11, 2001 attacks to whip up war hysteria under the guise of a "war on terrorism" and to launch wars of aggression against Afghanistan and then Iraq in order to use up existing military stock and replenish this through stepped up war production.
--This is described as military Keynesianism aimed at stimulating the stagnant US economy. It is considered as the necessary complement to the continuing policy of "free market" globalization. In this regard, the US has raised the level of its annual military spending to USD 455 billion.
2. The Bush regime does not limit itself to the immediate objective of reviving the US economy through war production. It is trying to push a comprehensive plan, the Project for a New American Century, designed by the so-called neoconservatives in furtherance of Pax Americana in the 21st century.
3. It seeks to use the "full spectrum" of US power, especially high-tech military weaponry, to take preemptive actions against enemies and rivals, including potential ones, expand economic territory (sources of raw materials, markets, fields of investment and sphere of influence) and spread the "free market" and impose "democracy".
--The US has been rapidly overreaching itself since the disintegration of the revisionist-ruled regimes and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the period of 1989-91. It has overplayed its hand as the sole superpower. It has unleashed two wars of aggression against Iraq (not to mention the unilateral US air war cum economic sanctions between these wars) with the intent of taking over its abundant oil resources and establishing bases there for tightening US control over the entire Middle East.
-- It has instigated the break up of Yugoslavia to impose its hegemony over the Balkans, outflank Russia and gain bases in Eastern Europe and along the Mediterranean. It has gained bases and more access to the oil resources in the Caspian Sea and Central Asia in the course of aggression in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Result -But it is very obvious that the US has overextended itself and is showing all-round weaknesses as it is bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq. The Iraqi people are waging armed resistance, having killed more than 2,200 US troops and wounded more than 20,000 US troops and making the US spend more than USD 220 billion in less than three years. The killing of more than 250,000 Iraqis by the US has only served to stiffen the resistance of the Iraqi people. This resistance is exposing the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of US imperialist power.
--The US is bound to further damn itself by staying on in Iraq with its plan to keep a huge fortress of an embassy in Baghdad and an array of 14 military bases. It is obsessed with the oil prize in Iraq and the entire Middle East. Through control of Iraq, it also wishes to perpetuate the US-Zionist dominance against the Palestinian and Arab peoples. But it is being tied down by the armed revolutionary struggle of the Iraqi people and is being forced to pay less attention to its domestic social problems and to the requirements of maintaining hegemony in so many other countries.
1. It has pushed other countries to generate "anti-terrorist" hysteria, to build the legal infrastructure for fascism, to misrepresent national liberation movements and anti-imperialist leaders and activists as "terrorists" and to allow the US military forces and intelligence agencies to kidnap people, torture them in secret prisons and to accommodate more spy stations and military bases on their territories.
Result: The Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe are among the staunchest in defending their national independence and social aspirations. China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been submissive to but are wary over US penetration of Central Asia. Thus, they have banded together in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China and Russia do collaborate with the US and other imperialist powers on as many issues as possible but they also try to look after their national interest. They are such large countries with a significant amount of industry and nuclear weapons that they cannot be easily imposed upon. In fact, they can even maneuver and play off the more powerful and richer countries against each other.
- The US touts China as a great success in capitalist development and eyes it as a prospective rival in the world, especially in East Asia. But China describes itself modestly as a developing or underdeveloped country relative to its huge population. It has privatized its state-owned industrial enterprises and the agricultural communes. The economy has been redirected by foreign investments. It has a huge foreign debt (USD 233.3B) even as it has a large holding of US securities. It is much vaunted for its huge exports, more than 70 percent of, which are low-value, added semi-manufactures for consumers in imperialist countries. But 60 to 80 per cent of the value of the exports belong to China-based foreign companies. Ten per cent of the Chinese population is living it up but ninety per cent are impoverished. Workers thrown out of state enterprises and peasants are among the most impoverished and discontented. Thus, more than 74,000 clashes between the masses and the authorities have occurred since last year.
-China has been assertive of its own national interest with regard to Taiwan and other issues. On several instances it has stood in opposition to the US. It has helped the US in the convening of conferences to negotiate with the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea regarding nuclear weapons. But so far the DPRK on its own has been able to stand up firmly against US nuclear blackmail, threats of aggression and impositions. The ASEAN countries have also found it necessary to develop economic and trade relations with China by way of countervailing US dominance in East Asia.
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