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Friday, June 18, 2010

Some truth about South (Republic of) Korea

Last week I posted an article “Why we must oppose aggression against the DPR (North) Korea” and while I’m sure those with an international and anti-imperialist outlook can understand that position, I noticed a lot of hostility against the DPRK from common Americans when I posted it at a more mainstream site. We did fight a war with them, so to some vets and jingoists, it’s not hard to see why they feel so strongly against the government in Korea’s North. But there are a few progressives who keep raising the issue of human rights. “How can we support a government which we all know imprisons people under harsh conditions and controls what people can watch for news or entertainment.
However, a few facts about the South (Republic of) Korean government need to be remembered. This government is almost entirely US made. It did not exist until the US, under President Harry Truman, came up with the idea that we could bolster a rightwing leader in the south and then try to roll back the indigenous government in the North. The Kim Il Sung government came from a real anti-Japanese coalition of parties that set out to remove all foreigners from Korea’s soil. When the US started to prop up a puppet government in the South, Kim decided the US was just one more imperialist power that had to be dealt with. All this information is contained in an article by Bruce Cumings who added it to a text book, America Interpreted, by Randall Woods and Willard Gatewood.[1]
Another important point is that South Korea’s human rights record is not that much better than the North. They have imprisoned people for speaking out against the regime. They have reacted violently to protest by students and others who oppose their repressive nature. Their elections allow only certain parties to participate. The country has improved in recent years, but for far to long South Korea has been a capitalist dictatorship.
The following is one example of South Korean repression, from the Kasama project: -សតិវ អតុ

The Kwangju Uprising and US-Sanctioned Massacre
This was originally on the Foreign Policy in Focus website.
“In Kwangju and other nearby towns in the Cholla region, the rebellion ushered in a week of collective sharing and citizen solidarity that some activists and historians later compared to the Paris Commune of 1871.”
“The Carter administration, concerned that the crisis in South Korea could destabilize U.S. security interests and possibly trigger “another Iran” — a revolution overthrowing a U.S. ally — gave tacit approval to the Korean military to use force to put down student and worker protests, while warning generals not to use excessive force. Then, when the Kwangju citizens fought back against military atrocities, the same officials approved the dispatch of Korean troops under U.S. command to put down the rebellion. Carter’s actions helped pave the way for nearly eight more years of repressive military rule in South Korea and triggered a wave of anti-American feeling throughout South Korea that persists to this day.”
The Lasting Significance of Kwangju
By Tim Shorrock, June 1, 2010
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Kwangju Citizens’ Uprising in South Korea, a pivotal event that inspired the Korean democratic movement through its ultimate victory in the late 1980s. In Kwangju, where hundreds died in the uprising, the event was marked by solemn remembrances and the presence of political leaders from both left and right, including representatives of President Lee Myung-bak, South Korea’s most conservative leader in over a decade. But the event drew hardly a passing glance in the United States, which is South Korea’s closest ally.
The silence is understandable, because Kwangju represents U.S. foreign policy at its worst. The uprising created the most severe crisis in U.S.-Korean relations since the Korean War ended in 1953 and was the largest challenge ever to the US-backed South Korean military, which had effectively controlled the country since 1961 and had fought alongside U.S. forces in Vietnam. Yet the U.S. administration of President Jimmy Carter, despite its public commitment to human rights and its vocal criticism of Korea’s authoritarian government, chose the wrong side and supported that government’s decision to put the rebellion down with lethal force.
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[1] Randall Woods, Willard Gatewood, America Interpreted, Volume II, (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Fort Worth,) 1998, Bruce Cumings, The Course of Korean-American Relations, 1943-1953, pp 847- 859.

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