Revolution #219, December 12, 2010

Who's Terrorizing Whom in Korea?

During the week of November 23, North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire. And on November 28, the U.S. and South Korea launched a highly provocative "war games," including a joint naval operation threatening North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea—DPRK). North Korea's small and primitive nuclear weapons program is constantly in the news, but the U.S. maintains a "nuclear umbrella" over South Korea with a massive nuclear arsenal, some of it positioned in the region, that can strike North Korea at any time. There is a real danger of a terrible war erupting out of this situation.

The mainstream U.S. media depict this conflict as driven by irrational impulses of North Korea's ruler Kim Jung Il, and as related to succession issues in his regime. But the roots of this crisis reach far beyond North and South Korea. This conflict is rooted, in the most fundamental sense, in the drive to maintain and enforce the position of the USA as the planet's sole superpower, presiding over a world of exploitation and oppression.

* * *

The history of conflict between North and South Korea goes back to the period during and after World War 2—when defining elements of the global terrain were the confrontation between the world communist revolution and imperialist powers—especially the USA, and the struggle of oppressed nations, like Korea, to break free of imperialist domination. In the aftermath of World War 2, communist revolutionaries led by Mao Tsetung drove the imperialists out of China, and from 1949 to 1976—when a counterrevolutionary coup d'etat restored capitalism—China was a socialist state, and an inspiration for the world revolution.

In 1950, shortly after the victory of the revolution in China, U.S. troops (operating with some allies as a "United Nations" army) invaded Korea to stop forces seeking to drive out all foreign imperialists and unify Korea. The U.S.-UN troops advanced to the Chinese border with Korea and threatened to use nuclear weapons against China. China intervened in the war, and together Korean and Chinese fighters pushed the U.S.-UN invaders back to the 38th parallel. Korea was left divided in half—the U.S. occupied and dominated the south. Two states, North and South Korea, emerged.

In the following decades, the U.S. set up a series of fascistic pro-U.S. regimes that brutalized the people of South Korea (officially known as the Republic of Korea—ROK). South Korea has been a significant economic and political component of the U.S.-dominated imperialist world order. Today, 30,000 U.S. troops remain stationed in South Korea.

North Korea is not any kind of positive model of liberation either. Despite the invocation of "socialist" rhetoric, North Korea was never a socialist state. It is ensnared in and warped by the world imperialist setup, under a regime resembling a feudal monarchy.

Today the Korean peninsula is a flash point for a set of complex and intertwining regional and global power conflicts that have emerged over the past few decades. Korea borders both Russia and China—powers with their own agendas in Asia and beyond. Korea is situated in close proximity to Japan—a major imperialist power in its own right, and a key U.S. ally.

North Korea has felt compelled to, and has been able to develop a very small nuclear weapons program. This program is minuscule compared with those of the U.S., Russia, France, China, Israel, or India. To date, North Korea has never attacked anyone with nuclear weapons, but the U.S. has—killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians at the end of World War 2 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (for a catalog of U.S. nuclear threats and blackmail since that time, see "Obama Speeches at West Point and Oslo: More Troops in Afghanistan and Preserving U.S. Nuclear Dominance... Is This the Path to Ending the Horrors of War?" by Larry Everest, in Revolution).

Nevertheless, in the context of the U.S. violently imposing its domination on the world, U.S. bullying of North Korea plays a role in jockeying with Russia and China for power in Asia.

In his speech to the UN in 2002, in the early stages of what has become an endless war on the world, George W. Bush placed North Korea, along with Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, on the infamous "axis of evil" list. To many, this was simply another illustration of Bush's inability or refusal to engage with reality. But while there was a definite and fundamental element of lying in Bush's speech, he also—inadvertently—revealed something about the actual nature of the so-called "War on Terror." What North Korea had in common with other countries that Bush (dishonestly) claimed were associated with 9/11 is that the North Korean regime and its relationship with other countries is an impediment to the real agenda of that war—to forcefully reassert and embed the U.S. as the world's sole imperialist superpower.

As has been the case with the rest of what was called the "War on Terror," attempts to isolate and subjugate North Korea have not gone particularly well for the U.S. Documents exposed by Wikileaks on November 28 indicate that the U.S. believes Iran is attempting to adapt North Korean rockets for use as long-range missiles. The North Korean regime has been able to find maneuvering room in a world and in a region where many of the world's rival powers are contending. Huge numbers of South Koreans and many U.S. military personnel are within range of North Korean artillery. For U.S. imperialism, North Korea falls into the category of "rogue states"—defined not by how repressive they are, or how brutally their people are exploited, but whether or not they are loyal lackeys of the U.S.

Any U.S.-South Korean military action in Korea is unjust, regardless of who supposedly "shot first." It would be war to enforce and more deeply tighten the chains of a capitalist-imperialist world, presided over by U.S. imperialism. And that is a world of child laborers and massive enslavement of women in the "sex trade"... a world of profit-driven environmental disasters and constant threat of unjust war... a world of brutal repression of dissent and rebellion.

An important part of building a movement for revolution, to bring into being a new kind of world free of all oppression, is for people in the United States to STOP looking at the world as Americans, and start looking at the world from the interests of humanity. And from that standpoint, it is important that people in the U.S. oppose "their own" ruling class in its wars of aggression, including any military moves by the U.S. in Korea.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond