Obama’s Asia Pivot: Jeju Islanders stand firm against U.S. military occupation of South Korea

Protests against the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island have been held for the last several years. Pictured here, activists from the Jeju Pan-Island Committee to Stop the Military Base block the entrance to the construction site on April 12, 2013. The banner reads “Demand a stop to the Navy’s illegal construction! Conduct a joint investigation into environmental effects!” (Save Jeju Now!)

Philip Fernandez (TML Weekly Information Project) – Sixty-six years ago, on April 3, 1948, the people of Jeju Island rose up against the U.S. military occupation and division of their country and affirmed the Korean people’s right to be. Their historic resistance has been an inspiration to the Korean people and all people who are fighting for their right to independence, self-determination and peace.

The Jeju Island uprising lives on today in the ongoing protest of the Jeju Islanders to demand an end to the U.S. military occupation of south Korea and more specifically an end to the building of a massive naval base on their island which is located south west of the Korean peninsula. For example, on April 13, Professor Yang Yoon-Mo, one of the leaders of the Jeju islanders fight against the building of the naval base ended his fourth hunger strike after over 435 days in prison. At the dinner following his release, he stated that he would commence a national petition campaign to get 10 million signatures across Korea in order to demilitarize Jeju Island and proclaim it ‘the Island of Peace’ by 2017, the next Presidential election in south Korea.”

After their military victory over the Japanese on August 15, 1945, the Korean people wasted no time in organizing themselves as a victorious people to establish the Korean People’s Republic which they proclaimed in Seoul on September 6, 1945. This nascent republic was dismantled by force by the U.S. imperialists who arrived in south Korea two days later to “officially” receive the Japanese surrender and to put in place a “democratic” government that would be subservient to U.S. interests in south Korea. In this way the Korean people, who played a role second to none in defeating the Axis powers in the Second World War, were robbed of their right to independence and a unified Korea. From that moment the Korean people have waged a determined political struggle including guerilla warfare to oppose these high-handed and brutal measures of the U.S. military government in south Korea. Nowhere in the south did this resistance take more concentrated form than on Jeju Island where the islanders established their own political power through People’s Committees and were administering their affairs without outside interference and peacefully. They also opposed the division of their country and demanded that Korea be unified and that the U.S. troops quit their homeland.

The event that triggered the Jeju uprising took place on March 1, 1948 when the islanders not only marked Korean Independence Movement Day but also protested the fraudulent elections planned for May 10 by the U.S. with the support of the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNCOK) aimed at installing a U.S. puppet government in the south. At the demonstration, police from the mainland opened fire on the people, killing six and wounding several others. In response, the people armed with rudimentary weapons such as knives and pitchforks, attacked local police stations, burned polling stations for the May 10 elections and attacked reactionary government and military officials. The U.S. military government and their local paramilitary forces retaliated with massive killings and the imprisonment of suspected “leftists,” “communists” and other patriotic forces.

By April 3, a full-scale rebellion had begun. From then on the people organized themselves into guerilla bands, calling themselves the People’s Army and struck fear in the hearts of the enemy despite the superior military force of their enemy — the U.S. occupation forces and the local paramilitary forces of the puppet Syngman Rhee government installed by the U.S. in the south. The Jeju Islanders waged a guerilla war for a full two years.

Of the 250,000 people living on Jeju Island, it is estimated that up to 80,000 people were killed. Upwards of 5,000 people fled to Japan as refugees. Countless others were “disappeared.” Over 40,000 homes were destroyed and of 400 villages, only 170 were left standing. The bodies of people killed and buried in mass graves are still being discovered today.

Jeju residents await their execution, May 1948.

Recovery of bodies from a mass-grave near Jeju Island Airport 2008.

For over 50 years it was forbidden for Jeju Islanders or anyone in south Korea to speak openly about the Jeju Uprising. Those who did faced imprisonment. Only in January 2000 was a special law passed in south Korea that required the government to look into the truth of what is called the 4.3 Incident. The Jeju Island Uprising and the bloody repression that followed have also been part of the guilty verdict brought against successive U.S. governments since the Second World War for crimes against humanity, crimes against peace and war crimes at various Korea Truth Commission War Crimes tribunals.

Today there is great fear among the Korean people that the building of the large U.S.-south Korean naval base on Jeju, will become a focal launching point for U.S. military aggression and war against China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and further destabilize the political situation in Korea and East Asia, in line with Obama’s “Asia Pivot” strategy. As a consequence, the people of Jeju Island have stepped up their organizing, demanding: that U.S. troops leave Korea, an end to U.S.-south Korea war games on and around south Korea, and national reunification of Korea by the efforts of the Korean people themselves. Their 66-year old fight to free south Korea from the shackles of U.S. military occupation continues to inspire all the Korean people and the anti-war movement everywhere.

(With files from savejejunow.org)

U.S. imperialists and South Korean military must end war exercises!

Banner from 2013 action in Seoul against U.S.-south Korea military exercises which take place annually.

Peace- and justice-loving Canadians and all humanity must raise their voices to demand an end to the annual U.S.- south Korean military exercises. The recently completed Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises, the second part of which was carried out on and around the south of the Korean peninsula, is one of the largest war games in the world. It involves some 200,000 Korean and over 10,000 U.S. troops and is based on computer-simulated exercises for the invasion of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

These war games create an extremely volatile situation on the Korean peninsula, fuelled by the monopoly media’s anti-communist hysteria that accuses the DPRK of being a threat to peace.

The government of the DPRK has condemned these exercises as a grave provocation against the DPRK and all the Korean people. At the beginning of this year the DPRK called upon the south Korean military to stop these annual massive war preparation exercises citing them as an obstacle to normalizing relations between them. This year’s Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercises proceeded despite the DPRK’s proposals earlier this year for direct talks with the U.S. to engage in peace talks to end the Korean War and to sign a peace treaty between them.

As the U.S. and the DPRK are still technically in a state of war because the Armistice Agreement to end the Korean War was not a peace treaty, these provocative U.S.-south Korea military exercises are in fact a continuation of the Korean War. To blame the military exercises on the DPRK is gross U.S. imperialist war propaganda in which the Harper war government and the monopoly media in Canada are also implicated. The activity of the U.S. war mongers and their allies in Canada and elsewhere, to plan for and to justify war and aggression against the DPRK, constitutes “Crimes Against Peace,” which the Nuremberg Declaration — now incorporated into the UN Charter — defines as the supreme international crime. The world’s peoples should demand that those agitating for another Korean War and regime change in the DPRK be charged with Crimes Against Peace!

The government of the DPRK has consistently called for an end to these war games and the conclusion of a peace treaty. It is doing everything it can to bring a state of equilibrium to the Korean peninsula which is what all the Korean people want. This includes bolstering its defence capacity to safeguard its sovereignty and independence and reluctantly spending a large portion of its state budget on defence. Last year the DPRK noted that the unended Korean War has forced it “to divert large human and material resources to bolstering up the armed forces though they should have been directed to economic development and improvement of the people’s living standard.” Peace-loving and justice minded people in Canada and around the world should give that a thought.

The DPRK has no choice but to take all measures necessary to strengthen its defensive capacity and to take these U.S.-south Korean military drills seriously given the whole history of U.S. imperialist designs upon the Korean peninsula and the DPRK’s direct experience of waging war against the U.S. imperialists and its allies during the Korean War (1950-53).

It is the U.S. and its south Korean ally along with an increasingly militarized Japan that is creating disequilibrium in pursuit of its “Asia Pivot” policy — a geopolitical strategy that uses south Korea and other countries, including Japan and the Philippines — to assert its hegemony in East Asia and contain and threaten China. It is now costing close to a billion dollars a year to the south Korean government to maintain 28,000 U.S. troops on its territory. This cost will escalate for the people of south Korea in the coming years. In south Korea, peace and reunification groups have long opposed these war games. They have called for peninsula-wide demilitarization entailing the eventual removal of U.S. troops. As one organization put it, “Unless and until U.S. forces are completely and permanently withdrawn from South Korea, it will be impossible to establish peace on the Korean peninsula.”

All peace- and justice-loving people in Canada and around the world must support the efforts of the DPRK and the anti-war movement in the south of Korea for security, peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and stand with the Korean people in their struggle to rid their divided country of the scourge of U.S. imperialism, to assist them in the peaceful, independent reunification of their country and to end once and for all the constant threat of nuclear war that hangs over the Korean peninsula and the entire world.

(With files from KCNA, warisacrime.org, http://www.chinadailyasia.com)

 

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