The north’s alleged "nuclear program... will bring only isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship," said Bush. In recent weeks his administration has been as good as its threats, reinforcing its air, ground, and naval strength around the Korean peninsula, and maintaining the cutoff of promised shipments of fuel and food. U.S. officials and media have kept up a constant barrage of propaganda depicting the north as a potential aggressor against south Korea, Japan, and even the United States itself.
Bush’s war speech did not mark a new departure in U.S. policy toward north Korea. Nor are the latest moves a response to a specific nuclear threat. In fact, for five decades the U.S. rulers have worked hard to impose "isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship" on the working people of the north--not to mention constant military pressure and threats of aggression.
Since the end of the Korean War tens of thousands of heavily armed U.S. troops have been stationed at the Demilitarized Zone and at dozens of other military installations in south Korea--in spite of frequent waves of protest against their presence. Another 48,000 are based in Japan.
These forces, totaling at least 85,000 men and women under arms, are backed up by the nuclear-armed U.S. Seventh Fleet.
Each year the U.S. forces combine with units of the 650,000-strong south Korean army, which would come under U.S. command in the event of a war, in holding large-scale exercises targeting the north.
On the economic front, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on north Korea in 1950, authorized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. The sanctions were slightly eased in June 2000, but all exports and imports require express approval by the U.S. government. Now Washington is threatening to impose new sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.
Revolution in Korea
The roots of the relentless hostility of the super-rich U.S. ruling class toward north Korea lie in the revolutionary struggles of working people across the peninsula during and after World War II. Workers and peasants used the opening provided by the war to rise up against the Japanese colonial power, which had occupied the country during wars against China and tsarist Russia beginning in 1894.
Japan’s formal annexation of Korea in 1910 had received Washington’s tacit blessing.
Meeting at Yalta in February 1945, representatives of the Soviet Union and the United States, the two major powers allied in the war against Japan, agreed to divide Korea at the 38th parallel. Before Soviet and U.S. troops entered the country later that year, however, local revolutionary committees took power from Japanese authorities. A People’s Republic, with its capital in Seoul, was established.
Once deployed in the south, the U.S. command brushed this government aside. U.S. Gen. John Hodge first tried to reinstate the Japanese authorities but backed off in the face of widespread protests. He then declared that "military government is the only government in south Korea."
U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur introduced English as the official language, and stated that those Koreans "acting against the occupation or violating order and tranquillity will be mercilessly and severely punished." In February 1946 Washington installed the dictator Syngman Rhee.
In the north the Soviet forces recognized the republic and did not block the activities of people’s committees, which had seized Japanese and Korean collaborators’ property. The northern government legalized all peasant seizures of land, and confiscated the land of the Japanese colonialists, their collaborators, and rent-racketeering landlords.
From the start the U.S.-backed south Korean government opposed national reunification, rejecting proposals from the north to merge the two administrations.
U.S. invasion and war
With the beginning of the Korean War on June 25, 1950, military forces from the north responded to threats from the south by rapidly liberating more than 90 percent of Korean territory. Land reform was instituted by the northern army in all liberated areas.
Washington then mobilized massive reinforcements under the UN flag to try to smash the north Korean forces. While U.S. troops predominated, other governments, from Britain to Turkey, committed troops to the invasion. At first the advance was rapid, as the U.S.-led armies pushed the northern troops back to the Yalu River, which borders China.
At this point the tide turned. The new workers and farmers government in China responded by sending hundreds of thousands of troops into the war on the side of the north. U.S. forces were pushed back, almost to where the demarcation line had been to begin with.
Almost 6 million U.S. troops fought in Korea, 54,000 of whom died. Up to 4 million Koreans were killed, the great majority of them civilians. Throughout this period Washington carried out large-scale bombing, especially over the north. Few targets were left when they were done. Areas in the south were also carpet-bombed.
The Korean fighters, backed by Chinese volunteers, had dealt the U.S. armed forces their first defeat. To add to the blows suffered by U.S. imperialism, the mobilizations by Chinese workers and peasants to defend their borders and revolution culminated in the establishment of a workers state in the world’s most populous country.
U.S. backs dictatorship in south
In the decades after the war, Washington devoted enormous resources to keeping the military government in the south in power. The U.S. troops stationed in Korea, for example, provided backing to the bloody military crackdown on a popular uprising in the southern city of Kwangju in 1980.
At the same time the U.S. and Japanese corporations and banks poured billions of dollars of investment into south Korea, using it as an export platform and profiting from the low wages paid to its workers. The industrial working class grew in numbers and confidence. Workers built unions in spite of repression and have fought for an improved standard of living and conditions of work.
In the face of sustained struggles for democratic rights, the south Korean rulers were forced to end military rule and hold elections in 1993.
During the 1990s, the U.S. rulers increased pressure on the north, seeking to take advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated slump in the country’s foreign trade.
Agriculture and industry suffered further blows in the north when the country was hit by a series of one-two punches of drought and floods. In spite of these events, however, the workers state has neither collapsed nor made the concessions insisted on by the U.S. rulers--including the demand to withdraw a large part of their armed forces from the DMZ.
With already widespread support for the reunification growing in strength, the south Korea government has been forced to enter on-again, off-again negotiations with the north. The Internal Security law forbidding any political activity favorable to the north or in support of reunification remains on the books, however.
U.S. aims 125,000 troops at Iraq, boosts Korea forces
U.S. reinforcements head to Korea
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