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Monday, July 27, 2015

North-Korea: Socialism is Not Only Anti-Imperialism


A Short History of US Imperialism in Korea

Always ready to encourage serial killings in a new imperialist intervention, the bourgeois press agitates on a regular basis for a new war against North Korea. The popular portrayal of North Korea is a country whose people (who should be freed by Western imperialists) are enslaved and starved by an unpredictable and paranoid leader (that we should eliminate) who is allegedly preparing the first global atomic war. This discourse of an imminent threat would justify “our troops” going there to provoke a “regime change” no matter what it will cost in terms of human losses.

After Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to the mood of the moment, the next target for imperialism could be Syria, Iran, or North Korea. The bourgeois media, however, are careful not to speak of the previous imperialist interventions that are the main reason for the North Korean regime and its population’s hostility. Below we will examine, through a brief history of US imperialism, the nature of this threat.

Japanese Occupation and Resistance (1910-1945)

At the end of the 19th century, Korea, like many other parts of the world, was the victim of Japanese German, American, French, and British imperialists who were competing for control of the country. Japan finally won out and, in 1910, Korea was annexed by the Japanese Empire.
Under this occupation, the peasants were massively expropriated while workers suffered exploitation as they saw their food rations decreased by almost half. The people underwent continual exactions from Japanese settlers who were acting in almost complete impunity under the extraterritorial rights doctrine. 1 The situation worsened up until the Second World War when millions of Koreans were enslaved, many dying in the mines or sequestered in brothels reserved for Japanese soldiers.
It is in this context that a powerful resistance movement emerged, which would see one of its highest points in the March 1st Movement of 1919 that brought together more than two million people over three months in some 1,500 street demonstrations. Seven thousand demonstrators died at the hands of police officers, many under torture. Fifty thousand were put behind bars under Peace Preservation Law, 2 and thousands more escaped repression into neighbouring Manchuria, which soon was also occupied by the Japanese Army.
The unbridled exploitation of the peasant and working masses thus led the nationalist movement, initially limited to the old fallen nobility, to extend and radicalize, inspired by the wave started by the October Revolution and fed by the revolutionary struggles in neighbouring China.

The US Occupation of South Korea

• The “Liberation”
In August 1945, following the Japanese surrender to Allied forces, the Soviets, at the request of the Americans, halted their advance in the zones occupied by Japan. On September 8, US forces landed on the Korean peninsula and set up a military government south of the zone where the Soviet were stationed, north of the 38th parallel. But the Americans, despite being part of the war against Germany and Japan, recognized the Japanese as their natural allies in Korea since their objective was to contain the Communist progression.
Thus, on Sept. 9, 1945, John Hodge, head of the US military government in Korea, announced the restoration of the former colonial authorities. The widespread outcry that this decision aroused forced him to retract it, but he nevertheless appointed Japanese advisers to the Americans in management positions. The old colonial police was also rebuilt; a significant part of its new staff was recruited from the still active fascist youth leagues. Finally, in December 1948, the Peace Preservation Law was restored under a new name: the National Security Law. So-called “Liberation” was in fact the beginning of a new occupation.
• Phony Elections
In November 1947, in order to ensure a minimum of “democratic legitimacy” to their regime, the U.S. proposed that the UN oversee elections in Korea. But upon arrival, the UN observers voiced their concerns about the validity of the process. The Australian delegates warned that the elections were “appearing to be under the control of a single party”—the then Korea Democratic Party.
Despite opposition from France, Canada and Australia for the immediate holding of elections in Korea, the United States managed to get the support of other delegates.3 Elections were therefore held. The American military government had indeed planned the “democratic transition” in 1945 when they oversaw the formation of the Korea Democratic Party (Han-guk Minjudang), which consisted of large industrial magnates and landowners all closely related to Japanese interests. The Americans thus established an interim government in 1946 at the head of which the Han-guk Minjudang was placed; one year later, the same party was responsible for overseeing the elections.4

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