Clark, commander of the U.S. forces at the conclusion of the 1950–53 Korean War, was referring to the July 1953 cease-fire agreement signed by U.S. officers and the government of the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The agreement was signed here in Panmunjom, a village that straddles the Military Demarcation Line that today divides north and south Korea.
A Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists leadership delegation, in north Korea to solidarize with the Korean people in face of escalating U.S. government threats and to participate in two national celebrations, visited Panmunjom April 21. We were able to learn firsthand about Washington’s forced partition of Korea and how the U.S. war to conquer the entire peninsula and turn back the socialist revolution in the north was defeated.
Farming cooperatives line the hilly road that leads from Pyongyang to Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border with south Korea. Panmunjom, a farming village, is itself a victim of the imposed division of the country. The demarcation line cuts right through the village and its farmland, separating dozens of families for nearly 50 years. We saw peasants working the land here on a cooperative that butts right up on the border.
Watchtowers and cameras surround the two fortified military buildings that face each other at the border. Soldiers from the DPRK’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) stand guard on one side of that narrow concrete strip, just a few feet away from south Korean troops dressed in United Nations uniforms to disguise the more-than-half-century-long U.S. imperialist military occupation of the southern half of this country.
KPA officers told delegation members that since 1999 U.S. troops have no longer been deployed within eyeshot of the demarcation line. This is an attempt, they said, to obscure the reality that the so-called UN force stationed in south Korea is not only commanded by U.S. officers but is made up almost entirely of U.S. troops.
There are 37,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in south Korea today. Some 40 U.S. military installations dot the southern half of the divided country, with a massive store of armaments including nuclear warheads and delivery systems.
Revolutionary struggles in Korea
Fresh from its barbaric atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and its victory over Japan in World War II, U.S. imperialism in early September 1945 imposed the division of Korea at the 38th parallel with the agreement of the government of the Soviet Union, whose troops had moved into the northern part of Korea at the close of the war. For the previous 50 years Korea had been under the colonial boot of Japanese imperialism. The U.S. rulers hoped that Korea, along with China--the biggest "prize" that was supposed to fall into the imperialist victors’ hands after World War II--would be theirs to oppress and exploit.
At the time, revolutionary struggles were breaking out across the Korean peninsula in the wake of the collapse of the country’s colonial overlord in Tokyo. People’s Committees sprang up throughout Korea to fight for national independence, land reform, labor rights, women’s suffrage, and the nationalization of Japanese-owned industries.
A 1948 document of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency acknowledged the emergence of "a grassroots independence movement which found expression in the establishment of the People’s Committees throughout Korea in August 1945."
On Sept. 6, 1945, people’s committees from around the country met and formed the Korean People’s Republic, with Seoul as its capital.
When U.S. forces occupied south Korea in mid-September, they joined local landlords and capitalists in harshly repressing the revolutionary movement there.
For the next two-and-a-half years the south was directly ruled by the U.S. military government headed by the American army brass. This occupation regime outlawed the people’s committees, refused to recognize the Korean People’s Republic, and launched a reign of terror, imprisoning or killing many thousands of Korean patriots.
"The country is literally in the grip of a police regime and a private terror," said the leader of a U.S. fact-finding team to south Korea covered by the Militant in 1947.
In an attempt to legitimize the division of the country, the U.S. government gained United Nations cover in 1948 to conduct rigged elections that established the Republic of Korea. The dictatorship headed by the U.S. puppet Syngman Rhee governed the south for the next dozen years until Rhee was driven from power by mass mobilizations of workers and students in 1960.
North of the 38th parallel a social revolution was unfolding. A sweeping land reform, nationalization of the mines and factories, and the adoption of laws to advance women’s equality were implemented.
In 1947 the north Korean government began sending tens of thousands of troops to China to fight in the revolutionary struggle unfolding there. The following year, in response to the imposition of the U.S. client regime of Syngman Rhee, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was established. The president of the DPRK was Kim Il Sung, a leader of the anti-Japanese liberation movement since the early 1930s.
Throughout 1949 and the first half of 1950, south Korean forces carried out repeated military incursions into the DPRK, as Rhee collaborated with his U.S. backers to prepare a war to retake the entire country for capitalist rule. Washington also saw the reconquest of the north as a springboard to turn back the Chinese Revolution, which had triumphed in 1949, freeing a fifth of humanity from imperialist domination.
North Korea built up its army in response to the accelerating provocations by Rhee’s regime and its U.S. sponsors. In June 1950 war erupted between the two sides. Washington responded by engineering a vote in the UN Security Council authorizing it to deploy U.S. armed forces and those from 15 U.S. allies under the cover of the UN flag to combat "North Korean aggression."
The KPA quickly liberated 90 percent of the peninsula in an effort to reunify the country. In September, however, tens of thousands more U.S. troops invaded near Seoul, and the KPA organized a retreat to the north. By the end of that month the U.S. and its allied troops had driven to the northern border with China along the Yalu River. U.S. commanders were openly talking about pushing beyond the Yalu in a drive to crush China’s new revolutionary government.
In mid-October, however, the KPA forces were joined by hundreds of thousands of Chinese volunteer fighters who poured down from Manchuria and drove the imperialist forces back to the 38th parallel by the beginning of 1951.
The U.S. government continued the war for two-and-a-half more years, conducting a brutal bombing campaign that leveled nearly every building in the towns and cities of north Korea. The Democratic administration of Harry Truman also threatened the use of nuclear weapons against north Korea. But Washington was unsuccessful in its efforts to bring the DPRK and Korean people to their knees.
During our visit to the DMZ, the Korean Central News Agency interviewed Steve Clark, a member of the SWP and YS delegation. "The Korean people between 1950 and 1953 dealt the first military defeat to U.S. imperialism," Clark told the KCNA.
"This was not just a victory for the Korean people, but for workers and farmers in the United States and for toilers around the world," he said. Following the Korean War, Clark pointed out, the U.S. rulers were defeated by Cuban working people at the Bay of Pigs. They were defeated by the peasants and workers of Vietnam. And they failed in their effort to establish a U.S. protectorate in Iraq to serve as a base of U.S. imperialist operations throughout the Middle East.
Clark also explained that the Korean War was never popular among working people in the United States, and that many U.S. soldiers were repelled by the brutality of both the ground operations and bombing campaign carried out by their officers on orders from the U.S. government.
Opposition to the war grew as the Korean people and armed forces stood their ground. In mid-1953 the newly-elected Republican administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower agreed to sign an armistice with the DPRK.
Roughly 4 million people had been killed in the U.S.-organized war, including some 3 million Korean civilians; half a million north Korean soldiers; more than 100,000 combined south Korean and "United Nations" soldiers (including 54,000 from the United States); and tens of thousands of Chinese volunteers.
DMZ: emblem of a divided nation
While agreeing to sign a cease-fire in 1953, however, Washington did not agree then or at any time after to withdraw U.S. forces from the peninsula and sign a peace treaty with the DRPK. To this day Korea remains the only country with which the United States is officially at war.
Korea also remains the only unresolved national division imposed by the victors coming out of World War II.
The 150-mile-long DMZ is itself an emblem of the partition of Korea as a whole. According to Panmunjom, a pamphlet on the history of DMZ, the dividing line cut through the middle of 122 villages in eight counties. Hundreds of villages had to be moved or simply disappeared, and 3 highways, 24 roads, and several railroad lines were severed. Some 1 million south Koreans have been separated from their immediate family members in the north as a result of the artificial division.
Between 1977 and 1979, south Korean authorities built a concrete wall across the entire peninsula, scarring the country from the Yellow Sea in the west to the Sea of Japan in the east. The wall was dug in as a bunker that can only be seen when viewed from the north, not the south.
U.S. troops out of Korea!
In face of Washington’s unrelenting military threats and attempts to starve north Korea into submission, Clark told the KCNA, "the government and people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refuse to bow down.
"Our party will continue to work with others to do all we can to get all U.S. troops off your soil and out of the seas surrounding Korea, and to demand the removal of all U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems as well," Clark said.
"We’re confident that if the Korean people are left alone, free from imperialist intervention, you will reunify your forcibly divided country and tear down the wall that separates north from south. Then people from across Korea and around the world will visit Panmunjom as a monument to your victorious struggle and sacrifice for reunification."
Sinchon massacre by U.S. military exposed
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