Central committee members of the CPGB-ML met with representatives of the south Korean Peace Expedition to the UK in London in September. The representatives were in Britain to rally support for the upcoming actions organised in south Korea, promoting peace on the Korean peninsula and opposing the installation of the aggressive US imperialist Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system on their country’s territory. The peace campaigners are also advocating friendly relations with the socialist Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north, with a view to advancing the peaceful reunification of their country without outside interference from foreign powers.
In south Korea, we were told, there is harsh repression of anybody who opposes the government’s abject submission to US imperialist interests. The National Security Law introduced by the Japanese at the time of their occupation of Korea is still in force. One of the representatives had only recently been released from prison after a two-year term imposed for peaceful protest.
In 2013/14, the progressive UPP (the United Progressive Party) was banned and forcefully dispersed by the president in December 2015. Its five elected members were ejected from the national assembly.
The PDP (People’s Democracy Party) was formed by some former UPP members in 2016 as a legal party to defend similar progressive policies. It was involved in organising a demonstration of 17 million people demanding the removal of former president Pak Geun Hye, daughter of a military dictator, who is now imprisoned for corruption.
The PDP considers that the massive joint military exercises, known as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, which took place in September under the auspices of US imperialism, represent a great danger to the region, and the peace delegation to Britain aimed to raise awareness of the south Korean people’s opposition to US bellicosity. They took part in protests at Trafalgar Square, RAF Menwith Hill (which is used by the US National Security Agency [NSA]), and at US military bases in Scotland and Oxford.
At the same time, the PDP dispatched two other teams, one to Washington and the other to Okinawa, the island south of Japan, where there is a heavy concentration of US troops and military bases. The team sent to Britain also spent several days in Cyprus, another divided country, where they found that people strongly sympathised with the Korean desire for reunification.
The representatives stated that there was general opposition in south Korea to THAAD, but it had still been installed, despite many people trying with their own bodies to block roads to prevent this happening.
We were told that the PDP particularly condemns the US-imperialist-led joint military exercises that take place annually, targeting the DPRK as the enemy and escalating every year in size and power. The threat these aggressive ‘war games’ pose has forced the DPRK to develop nuclear weapons as the only possible guarantee of peace on the peninsula, which, in the opinion of the PDP, it has every right to do in these circumstances.
The present government of Moon Jae In that replaced that of Pak after this year’s elections is not standing with the people, but instead is relying on foreign troops and demanding an increase in sanctions against the DPRK. There have been huge candlelight protests against the government’s actions. Sanctions may well lead to war, which nobody wants.
In order to please the Japanese government, and as part of a deal that was supposed to settle the matter once and for all, the south Korean authorities agreed in 2015 to remove a statue that had been erected in memory of the ‘comfort women’ opposite the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
The women it commemorated had been forced into sexual slavery by the imperial Japanese army during WW2. Since 1992, former comfort women and their supporters have been protesting every Wednesday outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, and the statue was commissioned to mark the thousandth Wednesday protest.
The statue shows a seated young girl bravely bearing her suffering, but the more that the south Korean government kowtows to Japanese imperialism, the more these statues are being erected all over the country, and in other countries with Korean expatriate populations. In September, five buses in Seoul have featured a full-sized replica of the statue sitting in their front seat, and they will also be erected in various public places around the country.
Besides its progressive stance on independent reunification, removal of US troops and armaments from Korea, an end to provocative military exercises and sanctions, and so on, the PDP also has progressive policies demanding the confiscation of ‘black money’ and the provision of free education and healthcare.
The peace delegates also mentioned that the probable cause of the 16 April 2014 ferry disaster in south Korea, in which nearly 300 high school students died, was believed to be a collision with a submarine during the course of the US-south Korean military exercises that took place between 24 February and 18 April, a fact that has been kept quiet by imperialism and the south Korean government alike.
The CPGB-ML expressed its support for the People’s Democracy Party and its progressive policies and thanked the delegation cordially for contacting us and informing us of what is happening in south Korea; information that cannot readily be gleaned from the bourgeois media.