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DPRK : Korea and the enigma of the West Printer friendly page Print This
By toni solo, editor, Tortilla con Sal
Tortilla con Sal
Thursday, Jun 6, 2013

Editor's Comment: This comprehensive history of US interference in the domestic affairs of Korea and waging war, dividing and occupying the country is especially important during this time when Northern Korea is again being villainized and threatened. Over the last few months, the western governments and media have stepped up their propaganda with misleading information and outright lies about Korea. The following essay by Toni Solo gives us a solid understanding of Korea's history and what has led up to US sanctions, recent "war games" and aggressive rhetoric that has forced Korea to assert its abiity to defend itself militarily. For anyone who wants to know and understand this country that has been so maligned, we think Toni's report is essential reading.

- Les Blough, Editor


Western corporate media descriptions of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea vary between portrayals of irrational, aggressive inhumanity and patronizing dismissals of a bizarre enigma. Nothing more completely characterizes Western intellectual production, especially its corporate news-entertainment production, than this psychotic failure to step outside its own crackpot frame of reference. The real global enigma today is how the populations of North America and Europe continue to swallow their own absurdly false self-image.

The unjust comparative prosperity of North America and Europe derives from centuries of genocidal criminality by the Western elites and their servile populations. That advantage, won by systematic age old pillage, slavery and mass murder is currently sustained through structures imposed on the majority world by those same greedy murderous corporate elites via their political hangers-on and the apathetic populations they dominate. The ideology used to sell the resultant contemporary system of global injustice has been predominantly that of Western liberalism.

The Formula

When the Western oligarchies target a country resisting their will, the modus operandi since 1945 has always been the same. The target government is accused of some variety of being anti-democratic, of betraying the well being of its people, of threatening regional or even world peace and stability. The campaign always begins with these accusations and continues with aggressive diplomatic and economic sanctions, usually applied with a veneer of legitimacy from feeble multilateral organizations, like the various components of the United Nations system, acting on false information supplied by the Western powers themselves and their regional allies

When these measures fail, increasing military threats are made, involving the deployment of intimidating forces and massive fire-power on the target country's borders. Political intervention is built up through domestic opposition groups usually involving sabotage and outright terrorism. If all these means to get what they want fail, the Western elites then use their own or proxy military forces in a direct attack against the weakened target population, as they did against Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Libya, Ivory Coast and now Syria.

This is the immediate context of the continuing campaigns against Cuba, Venezuela and their ALBA country allies in Latin America, against Syria and Iran in west Asia and against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in north-east Asia. In fact, in the case of the DPRK, it makes more sense to talk about Korea as whole. Over fifty thousand US military personnel are based in South Korea, Japan and the island base of Guam equipped with devastating armaments including nuclear weapons.

The US Threat in the Pacific

Related: The U.S. Threat to Attack North Korea,
April 6, 2013 Axis of Logic
The US Third and Seventh Fleets patrol the northern and western Pacific respectively. The Seventh Fleet consists of over 60 ships including carrier and expeditionary strike forces including nine guided missile cruisers and the USS George Washington nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as well as submarines and amphibious assault vessels. These forces are in addition to the military forces of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, all close military allies of the United States.

The main threat to the region, including China, Korea and Japan, is precisely the US military nuclear threat, pending since the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent threat of their use during the Korean war. In that war the US and its allies destroyed every single town and city in northern Korea. Only the solidarity of Josef Stalin's government and the deterrent of the USSR's nuclear arsenal prevented the use of US nuclear weapons against China.

This reality is written out of Western accounts of events in Korea. An appreciation of the falsity of those accounts requires some basic knowledge of Korea's own history and of its historical relations with China and Japan. It also requires an honest and sober appraisal of US and European crimes against humanity since the Opium Wars of the 19th century to their genocidal wars in the 20th century against Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and their support for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of communists in Indonesia in 1965.


Geographically, Korea is a peninsula in the north-eastern part of Asia, bordering China and Russia to the north. On the west of the peninsula lie the Bay of Korea and the Yellow or Western Sea. On the east lies the Eastern Sea, or the Sea of Japan. Just a couple of hundred kilometres to the south-east of the peninsula, across the Korean Strait, lie the islands of Japan.

Korea's mountainous terrain, especially on its western and south western shores and the forbidding cliffs running the length of its east coast, has made its geography especially decisive in shaping the country's history. The peninsula, averaging about 300km wide, stretches about 1000 kilometres from its northern border along the Amnokkang (Yalu) and Tuman-gang (Tumen) rivers to its southernmost point. Korea is also composed of over 3000 islands mainly off its western and southern coasts.

Only about 15% to 20% of the country is available for agricultural production, with the best land located in the south and west of the country. The Nangnim and the T'aebaek mountain ranges run down through the north and south of Korea acting as watersheds and forming a natural impediment between the eastern and western areas of the country. The Amnokkang river flows west into the Bay of Korea. The Tuman-gang river flows out into the Eastern Sea (Sea of Japan).

Of the other main rivers, all important waterways given their low gradient and width, the river Han flows west, the river Kum flows south west and the Naktong and Somjin Rivers flow south east into the Korean Strait. These rivers frequently flood between July and September during the typhoon season. The Korean climate varies slightly between the north and the south of the country.

The north tends to have long, very cold winters and short summers, while the south tends to have slightly higher temperatures in winter, with similar summer temperatures to the north. In both parts, the brief spring and autumn seasons tend to have more moderate agreeable temperatures. While the north is geologically quite stable, the south tends to have more seismic activity.

The country has five main volcanos, Baitoushan, Ch'uga-Ryong and Paektu in the north, Ulreung and Halla in the south. Only the Baitoushan volcano, located on the border between Korea and China has been recently active. The last major eruption was in 1903. The Korean peninsula occupies 220,847 square kilometres. The Democratic People's Republic, with a population of about 24 million occupies 120,410 km2, about the same size as Nicaragua. South Korea is about the same size as Guatemala. South Korea's population of over 50 million makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Early Korean civilization

Human life on the Korean peninsula dates from palaeolithic times. Current knowledge suggests that during the neolithic period from about 8000 to 4000 BC migrations from Siberia lead both to the development of settlements in Korea and to movements through Korea to settle the islands of Japan. Around 3000 BC migrations from Mongolia and Manchuria lead to the development of the ethnic groups that compose modern Korea.

One side of this bronze mirror (400 b.c.) is polished to a high sheen to serve as the reflective surface. The other side, seen here, is decorated with a narrative scene in a garden setting, has a knob in the center through which a cord could be looped to suspend the mirror.
The Bronze Age may have begun in Korea as early as 2500BC. It culminated around 700BC with an influx of people from Siberia and eastern China. This period saw the development of walled urban centres and the formation of confederations of states. Around 300BC, the use of iron became common permitting further improvements in agricultural production and other areas of material life such as the underfloor heating system known as ondol.

Korean legend relates that a tribal leader called Tangun founded Gojoseon, Korea's first kingdom, based at what is now Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK. Gojoseon, covering part of Manchuria and northern Korea is the first Korean kingdom to be mentioned in Chinese records. Following the death of Tangun around 1100 BC, Gojoseon faced sporadic conflicts with neighbouring Chinese kingdoms until around 100BC when it was conquered by China's Han dynasty. Throughout this period southern Korea was controlled mostly by the Chin kingdom.

Koguryo, Paekche and Silla were the 3 kingdoms that ruled from about 40 BC to 6th century AD

At the end of this period, around 50 B.C.,the Korean peninsula came to be divided amoung three kingdoms, Koguryo, Paekche. and Silla with a strong Japanese presence in the Kara region on the peninsula's south eastern corner. As Chinese power declined, these kingdoms took over what had been Gojoseon and eventually the Silla kingdom came to dominate most of what is now Korea before 700. It was during this period, around 612 that the Koguryo general Ulchi Mundok defeated a vastly numerical superior army of the Chinese Sui dynasty, a feat remembered to this day in Korea.

From Three Kingdoms to Choson

This period saw persistent military conflict between Koguryo with Chinese invaders, and between Paekje and Silla with marauding forces from Japan. At the same time important cultural changes took place, with Buddhism and Confucianism tending to displace earlier animist belief systems. Silla made Buddhism its official religion around 530.

Important advances were made in agriculture, iron manufacture, and political organization, the development of Korean writing and scholarship, in architecture, and in arts like dance, music and ceramics. During the three kingdom period, Korea exerted great cultural influence on Japan. For over two centuries, between about 670 and 900, Korea, united under the Silla kingdom, accepted fealty to and was heavily infuenced by China's Tang dynasty.

In the early 900s, the control of the Silla kingdom fell apart with the establishment of rival kingdoms, one of which, Koryo, peacefully took control of Silla and later over the whole peninsula more or less at the same time that the demise of the Parhae kingdom in Manchuria meant the end of Korean control there. The Koryo rulers maintained Silla's close ties to China's ruling dynasties.

General Yi Song-gye, later known as King Taijo established the Choson dynasty and established what is now Seoul as his capital.
Korea enjoyed relative peace until the Mongol invasions of the 13th and 14th centuries and continuous attacks by marauding Japanese. General Yi Songgye took power in 1392 to establish the Choson dynasty. Yi Songgye took the name of Taijo and established his capital at what is now Seoul. The Choson rulers allied themselves with the Chinese Ming dynasty.

Under Choson rule, Korea adopted Confucianism as the dominant religion leading to a rigidly stratified social and economic hierarchy headed by the royal elite supported by the yangban aristocracy ruling over the free common class of farmers and fishermen, lower outcast classes and slaves or nobi. Slavery was only abolished in Korea in the 1890s. Under the Choson dynasty, Korea remained a relatively strong and stable nation until the Japanese invasions of the Imjin War at the end of the 16th Century.

By 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi had united Japan after protracted internecine war among its composite states. He then sought to expand Japan's control over Korea so as to threaten China. His forces invaded Korea in 1592, occupying much of the country. The Choson royal elite failed to defend its population, leading to spontaneous organization of a nationwide guerrilla war against the Japanese invaders.

That guerrilla war was complemented by categorical naval defeats for Japan at the hands of one of Korea's national heroes, Admiral Yi Sun-sin. In one battle in the Myeongnyang Strait, Admiral Yi with a force of just thirteen ships famously defeated a Japanese fleet of over 100 warshps. Yi Sun-sin was shot dead while leading his forces to another decisive naval victory over the Japanese at Noryang in 1598. On land, in the same year, Korean and Chinese forces finally drove back the Japanese, forcing them to return home, defeated.

The Japanese occupation devastated Korea and the war itself ultimately contributed to the collapse of China's Ming dynasty. The war formally ended in 1598, but Korea only normalized its relations with Japan in 1606 at the request of Japan's Tokugawa Shogunate. For the next two centuries, Korea maintained peace with China and Japan, remaining largely isolated from other outside influences.

Internal dissent accelerated from the late 18th century onwards. High level dissent among the yangban aristocrats focused mainly on government incompetence and corruption. While the lower classes reacted more and more actively to unjust impositions of the yangban. However, not until the late 19th century did Korea begin to change, largely as a result of reaction to Western expansionism from Germany, France and the United States. At different times, French and US naval forces attacked Korea, engaging in minor skirmishes without success.

But it was Japan, rapidly modernizing under Western influence, that eventually imposed its terms on Korea, forcing the Choson authorities to open up Korea's southern ports under the Treaty of Kanghwa in 1875. To counter Japanese control, Korea subsequently signed trade and diplomatic treaties with almost all the major Western powers including the US, Britain, France and Germany, Italy and also with Russia. This period reinforced Korea's historical pattern as an area of contention among foreign powers.

China and Japan made various moves in their efforts to prevent the other from controlling Korea. Internally, by the 1890s the indigenous religious Tonghak movement, active since the the mid-19th century, was demanding equality for ordinary people and an end to foreign influence. Ch'oe Che-u, the Tonghak founder was executed in 1864. Eventually, rural popular resentment broke out when the Tonghak Rebellion began in 1894 defeating a government army sent to quell an uprising in Kobu in south-west Korea.

To defeat the rebellion, the Korean government asked for military assistance from China. The arrival of Chinese troops prevented a Tonghak assault on the capital Seoul and prompted a negotiated peace. But the terms of the peace provoked Japan, which had sent its own military force to Korea. Increasing tensions resulted in war between China and Japan.

Japan defeated China in that war on Korean soil and Korea then sought assistance from other foreign powers, including Russia. In response, Japan intervened, arranging the murder of Korean political figures opposed to Japanese dominance. Korea's King Kojong was only able to establish some feeble authority in 1897, setting up what was called the Korean Empire, ostensibly independent from both China and Japan. For ten years his government was able to begin modernizing Korea under Western influence, but politically dominated by Japan.

In those ten years Korea built its first railways and telephones, installing modern water and electricity systems in Seoul. Following Japan's momentous defeat of Russia in the war of 1905, Japan forced Kojong's resignation in favour of his son in 1907. That year the Korean army was disbanded.

It is important to note that in 1905, Japan and the United States signed the Taft-Katsura agreement by which the US recognized Japan's dominion over Korea while Japan recognized US control of the Philippines, which the US had recently conquered. Incidentally, Taft, as US President in 1909, ordered US marines to invade Nicaragua that same year.

Japanese soldiers executing any Koreans remaining alive in a mass grave during their 35 year occupation of the country.
In 1910, casting aside all pretence of respect for Korean sovereignty, Japan took over Korea's government, subjecting its people to colonial rule for the next 35 years. Koreans rebelled against Japanese rule in 1919 after the Western powers meeting at Versailles effectively ratified Japanese colonial rule over Korea. Around two million Koreans rose up against the Japanese who responded ruthlessly, murdering over 7000 protestors.

Japan's fascist colonial government imposed extremely harsh policies including the prohibition of Korean language in schools, forcing the adoption of Japanese names and imposing Shinto as the State religion. From 1930 onwards the Japanese used Korea as a base from which to expand aggressively north into China's province of Manchuria and for that purpose developed Korean industry, especially in the north, close to the Chinese border. Korean resistance to Japanese rule was constant throughout this period, but only gained military significance as a result of Chinese and Russian support in 1940s when tens of thousands of Korean volunteers served in the Chinese communist forces led by Mao Tse Tung.

Japan defeated, China at war

China and Japan entered into total war against each other in 1937 at the same time as the truce that temporarily ended China's civil war between the Kuomintang nationalists and the Chinese communists. In 1939, Chinese forces managed to halt Japanese expansion into China. In 1943 the US, Britain and China's Chiang Kai-Shek held a meeting in Cairo in which the leaders agreed to ensure the return of Japan's Chinese conquests to China. They also stated “The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.”

By 1945 the Chinese communists led by Mao Tse Tung were the main Chinese force fighting the Japanese in Chinese territory close to Korea. When President Truman ordered atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it was clear that the United States forces would soon occupy Japan. Forces of the Soviet Union controlled Manchuria and accepted the surrender of Japanese forces both there and in northern Korea. Following the terms of the 1945 Moscow Conference agreed by the US, the Soviet Union and Britain, Soviet forces halted their move into Korea at the 38th parallel, waiting for US forces to receive the Japanese surrender in southern Korea.

By 1946, full scale civil war had again broken out in China, leading eventually to the defeat of the Kuomintang forces. The civil war in China had a decisive influence in the policy of the United States and the Soviet Union over Korea. US President Truman gave massive support to the Kuomintang forces both in terms of arms and troops. 150,000 US troops were deployed in China in support of the Kuomintang forces. Even so Mao Tse Tung's forces defeated Chiang Kai Shek's armies.

Mao declared the People's Republic of China in 1949. The Western powers continued to recognize Chiang Kai Shek's regime on Formosa, now Taiwan, perversely ceding UN representation to this regime rather than to the People's Republic of China. This played an important role subsequently in the United Nations deliberations on Korea, because Russia, in solidarity with the People's Republic of China, refused to take part in what was truly at that time a sham international assembly, dominated by the imperialist powers.

Another decisive decision by the Western powers re-occupying Asia was to use defeated Japanese forces and Japanese collaborators to secure territory that might otherwise be controlled by nationalist communist forces. This happened in Vietnam and in Korea. The Western powers deliberately forced the division of both countries so as to protect their own imperialist economic and geo-political interests That anti-democratic decision, ignoring the views of the popular majority in both countries, led to devastating wars. Vietnam only finally won its reunification in 1976.

US occupation and the Korean War

This is the context in which US forces occupied Korea up to a demarcation line agreed with the Soviet Union at the 38th parallel. The Soviet Union clearly believed the country would be reunited following the surrender of local occupying Japanese forces. It was clear at that time that most Koreans would have voted for an independent Korea led by the Korean communists. In 1945, progressive forces of one kind or another lead the grass roots community and self-help organizations, formed on the defeat of the Japanese to meet local needs and work for Korea's future.

From its outset in 1945, the US occupation of southern Korea worked to consolidate a right-wing puppet regime there and establish a permanent US military presence, just as it did in occupied Japan and occupied Germany. The Joint Soviet-US Commission, originally established by the Moscow Conference to work towards a free and independent Korea, broke down in May 1946. Between 1945 and 1948 the US occupying forces used the Japanese colonial administrative and security apparatus to repress the local population.

In 1946 nationalist Korean organizations held a general strike protesting against the increasingly repressive US military occupation. From then on, tens of thousands of Korean nationalists were imprisoned. Protest against the US occupation was forbidden. The Communist Party was banned. Thousands of comunist supporters were assassinated. The US colonial authorities quashed grass roots organizations they declared to be subversive.

The US military took advantage of their repressive colonial regime to fortify military installations throughout South Korea. They built airstrips for their heavy bombers and developed naval installations in Korea's southern ports, thus building up important knowledge they put to use in the subsequent war which they clearly decided very early on to unleash against North Korea. The US authorities instituted conscription to build up an army of over 100,000 supervised by US military personnel.

To cloak their colonial regime with some pretence at legitimacy, they abused their control of the recently formed United Nations Organization to impose sham elections in open violation of the agreement with the Soviet Union reached at the 1945 Moscow Conference. Their plan to hold elections only in their southern zone of occupation sparked massive protest throughout Korea. In their occupied zone, US controlled forces massacred over thirty thousand people in Cheju island during a mass uprising against the US occupation and their regime's fake elections.

The Cheju and other massacres at this time foreshadowed the string of crimes against humanity by US and United Nations forces during the subsequent war. Beyond Cheju island mass protests took place across the southern occupied zone. The US response was the same as in Cheju. In total over 140,000 Koreans were killed by the US colonial regime between 1948 and 1950. On May 10th, the day of the elections, the US militarized the whole occupied zone in response to a general strike. Not even 20% of the population voted.

Paintings by Northern Korea artists depicting US
war crimes during the US war and occupation

On the basis of this electoral farce, the US proclaimed as President a wealthy US educated collaborator, Syngman Rhee. In the north, in September, Korean guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung was elected leader of the Democratic People's Republic. At the end of 1948, having armed and trained northern Korean forces to defend their territory, Soviet forces withdrew completely from Korea. By contrast the US military continued its build up of Korean forces under US leadership in preparation for an attack against the Democratic People's Republic.

All through 1949, Syngman Rhee, with the clear approval of President Truman and General MacArthur commander of US military occupation, made repeated calls for a military attack on the north. During this period, US controlled forces made over 2000 incursions and attacks across the 38th parallel. On June 19th, President Truman's adviser John Foster Dulles told the southern Korean parliament that the US approved an attack on the north and would provide all the necessary support to render the attack successful.

US controlled forces in southern Korea were fully ready to attack the north when Dulles spoke. US military forces throughout the region were put on full combat alert. On June 23rd, the US led southern forces began a massive artillery barrage along the 38th parallel. On June 25th, they began their attack crossing over 2km into northern Korea towards Chorwon and Kimchong and north of the Ongdin peninsula. That same day forces of the Democratic People's Republic counterattacked. These events have ever since been falsely portrayed by the Western powers as a savage unprovoked attack by the DPRK against the unprepared south.

As soon as it became clear that the US led aggression had resulted in a successful decisive counterattack by the north Korean forces, the US military unleashed all its naval and air power to try and prevent the defeat of its land forces under US command. In a few days after June 27th, the US had overwhelming air and naval superiority over and around the Korean peninsula. Despite this massive advantage, the US controlled land forces suffered defeat after defeat.

In early July, the US moved two of its own infantry divisions from Japan to Korea. These failed to stop the northern offensive. Further reinforcements in mid July also failed to halt the general retreat towards the south-eastern port of Pusan, By late August, US forces and their Korean allies were confined to a small area of the Korean peninisula around Pusan. Only constant heavy US aerial and naval bombardment prevented the northern forces from taking control of the whole peninsula. Had the Soviet Union or China intervened at this time, the northern forces would have completely destroyed the US and Korean forces in all of Korea

But neither Russia nor China intervened, making nonsense of Western propaganda about communist ambitions for world domination. By this time the northern forces, while still operationally highly effective, were exhausted and overstretched. Whereas the defenders of the Pusan pocket were continually being reinforced and protected by US and European naval forces and by US air power which made over 1500 sorties a day during this period of the war from bases in the region and from aircraft carriers. By early September, the northern forces were unable to mount further major offensives.

Reinforced under the legal figleaf of a UN resolution, with troops and equipment arrived from Britain, Australia and the Philippines, the US counteroffensive began on September 15th. By then, the US-UN axis forces held an overwhelming advantage in ground troops, artillery and tank forces, total air superiority and complete control of Korea's coastal waters. The breakout from the Pusan pocket was accompanied by an amphibious landing at the western port of Inchon threatening the rear northern forces.

The US-UN axis offensive, reinforced with troops from Turkey, Canada and other countries, reached the 38th parallel on October 8th 1950 and immediately proceeded to what had always been the ultimate US objective, namely, the complete occupation of Korea. By October 24th much of northern Korea was occupied including the main city Pyongyang and areas along the Chinese border. It was at this point that the Chinese People's Volunteer army entered into combat to halt the US-UN axis offensive.

From this point on, the war was characterized by the superior morale and determination of the Korean and Chinese forces balanced against the overall tecnological superiority of the US-UN axis forces. By early November, a Chinese and Korean offensive had driven back the US-UN forces. Even so, completely underestimating the capabilities of the communist armies, the US commanders counterattacked, foolishly driving their ground forces into an extremely exposed strategic position against which the communist forces quickly mounted a devastating offensive in the harsh Korean winter.

By late November 1950, the US-UN axis forces were in full retreat. By the end of December all of the DPRK was liberated. Through January 1951, Chinese and Korean forces drove towards Seoul. But eventually decided to to retreat back to the 38th parallel so as to avoid the fate they themselves had inflicted on the US-UN axis forces the previous month.

In mid-April, President Truman lost patience with General MacArthur as commander of the US-UN axis and replaced him with General Ridgway, equally ruthless as MacArthur but more obedient. MacArthur was arguing provocatively for an invasion of China and the use of nuclear weapons. The arrival of Ridgway changed nothing. Despite all their advantages, the US-UN axis forces completely failed to break down Chinese and Korean defences.

Through the summer and autumn of 1951 truce talks were held, broken sporadically by US-UN axis forces treacherously opening tactical offensives to win some military advantage. In January 1952, the US military commanders mounted a massive all out indiscriminate aerial offensive. Apart from conventional high-explosives and incendiary bombs, they also made wholesale use of napalm and also used chemical and bacteriological weapons, contravening the very UN norms they falsely alleged they were defending.

The spring and summer of 1952 were taken up in defensive preparations by both sides for any possible ground offensive. In the autumn, US-UN axis forces attacked to eliminate a forward point in the Chinese and Korean defences at Kumwha, enabling them to again threaten Pyongyang. By this time Chinese and Korean forces had sufficient jet fighter cover, thanks to Mig aircraft from the Soviet Union, to deter daytime bombing by US aviation. This offensive was the last major US-UN axis offensive of the war.

After stalling the peace negotiations for over a year, the US commanders finally gave way, perhaps under the influence of their new President Eisenhower, elected in 1952. Eisenhower visited Korea in November of that year. But the US Korean collaborators insisted on their right to continue the war. To demonstrate the folly of that position, Chinese and Korean forces attacked on a broad front in July 1953 advancing in some places as far as 15 kilometres beyond their original lines.

This successful offensive finally forced the US-UN axis forces to agree to a ceasefire before they lost more territory. An armistice was signed at Panmunjon on July 27th fixing the armistice line along a demilitarized zone running from the Imjin River delta in the west to Phoyedin in the east. The war in Korea devastated the whole country and made very clear the deeply racist nature of the imperialist North American and European powers, very little different from that of fascist Germany and of Japan whose Korean collaborators made up most of the US proxy regime in southern Korea.

US General MacArthur instructed his bombers “to destroy every means of communication and every installation, factory, city and village” in North Korea except for hydroelectric plants and the city of Rashin. Two million North Korean civilians, 500,000 North Korean soldiers, one million Chinese soldiers, one million South Korean civilians, ten thousand South Korean soldiers and 95,000 UN soldiers died in the war.
The US dropped more bombs on Korea than it did on Germany between 1942 and 1945 and also more than the total amount used against Japanes forces through the Pacific war. US Generals boasted that their air force and artillery razed every single town in Korea to the ground. Only with the arrival around the middle of the war of Soviet Mig fighters was that genocidal policy to some extent thwarted. Despite their genocidal savagery, the US-UN axis forces completely failed to achieve the US objective, clearly apparent since 1946, of conquering northern Korea.

Plausible estimates of civilian Korean casualties vary from between two to three million people, the great majority in the north. US-UN policy towards the huge numbers of Korean refugees was deliberately inhuman so as to prioritize military operations. General Ridgway notoriously gave orders that any suspect civilian should be shot in case they may turn out to be communist. War crimes by the US-UN forces in Korea are completely glossed over in almost all Western accounts of the war.

After the war

After the war the Democratic People's Republic rebuilt with support from China and the Soviet Union. Until the late 1970s the industrial north was generally more prosperous than the more agricultural south. Politically, the south was characterized for over thirty years by anti-democratic rule under first the US puppet Syngman Rhee and then, in 1960, by the Park Chung-hee dictatorship. Park's assassination in 1979 was followed by the installation of a military dictatorship under Chun Doo-hwan, overthrown in 1987.

After 1980, the southern Korean economy developed rapidly and overtook its northern counterpart in terms of both manufacturing and services. Since 1988 southern Korea has been governed alternately by right wing and centrist governments whose policies towards the north have varied between outright enmity and moderate attempts at reconciliation. All these governments have allowed the continuing presence of US military forces in the country and regularly stage highly provocative military manoeuvres threatening the north.

Park Geun-hye, daughter of the dictator Park Chung-hee is in power in southern Korea supporting US intimidation of the DPRK
The current right wing government, led by Park Geun-hye, daughter of the dictator Park Chung-hee, is collaborating closely with US diplomatic and military moves aimed immediately at the north but ultimately seeking to intimidate China. Whereas the DPRK signed the 1953 armistice, the US supported southern authorities have never done so. Technically, the governments in southern Korea have always been at war with the north.

Whereas US forces continue to garrison their bases in the south, Chinese forces left the north in 1958. Also, the US deliberately broke the armistice agreement by introducing nuclear weapons into South Korea in 1956. This violation is very important because it confirmed the DPRK leadership's belief that no agreement with the US could be trusted. That soundly based belief, reinforced on many subsequent occasions, rightly continues to influence DPRK foreign policy to this day.

Since 1948, the DPRK has been governed by the Central People's Committee of the Korean Workers Party, with elections every five years to the Supreme People's Assembly which chooses the country's leader. Kim Il Sung was the DPRK's Prime Minister until the 1972 constitution created the office of President, a post held by Kim Il Sung until his death in 1994. Following the 1953 armistice, the DPRK instituted a series of economic plans making it one of Asia's most prosperous countries until the 1970s

The DPRK's adoption of the juche or self-reliance policy in the mid-960s kept the country's economy closed to most foreign investment. Until the mid-1970s resources were mainly devoted to heavy industry and to defence. The oil price shock of the 1970s severely affected the DPRK's economic development and provoked serious problems in the country's allocation of resources.

These difficulties eventually lead to a debt crisis in the 1980s leading to stuctural difficulties, compounded in the early 1990s by the break up of the Soviet Union and declining support from China. Even so the DPRK's economy through the 1980s and early 1990s was very diverse. Apart from mining and chemicals, the country produced machinery and machine tools, automobiles, trucks and buses and other vehicles of all kinds, as well as garments and other light industry. The country's main exports have always been minerals of many different kinds, metallurgical products and chemicals.

As in Cuba, the 1990s were a very difficult, even disastrous, period for the DPRK in many ways. The country's leading founder, Kim Il Sung, died in 1994, being succeeded by his son Kim Jong Il, elected as leader by the Supreme People's Assembly of 1998 with Hong Song Nam as Prime Minister. The subsequent 1994 decision to adopt the songun or military first policy coincided with pressure from the US and its allies for sanctions against North Korea for developing its nuclear power program.

The songun policy increased the DPRK's already high allocation of economic resources to the military. So when in 1995 and 1996 the country was devastated by floods displacing half a million people the country's agricultural sector was under-resourced and ill-prepared. A serious famine followed in which around 250,000 people died according to official figures. The DPRK government took the unprecedented step of appealing for international relief. Not until 2002 did the DPRK government declare that it no longer required foreign food aid.

Kim Jong Un, current DPRK leader was elected by the Supreme People's Assembly in Dec. 2011.
Relations with South Korea improved between 1998 and 2008 under the so-called Sunshine Policy implemented by South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. But increasingly aggressive US foreign policy after 2001 undermined South Korean efforts at reconciliation. By 2008 the moves towards reconciliation were defeated by US right wing allies in South Korea. The Sunshine Policy was formally abandoned in 2010. DPRK leader Kim Jong Il died in December 2011. That same month the country's Supreme People's Assembly elected as leader Kim Jong Un, the son of Kim Jong-il.

Currently the DPRK economy is growing at between 10%-12 % a year based largely on investment in light industry, mining and agriculture. The country has developed special economic zones with help from China. Russia is investing in infrastructure, especially railways, and in mining. The country has large reserves of extremely valuable rare earth metals vital for contemporary global high-technology industries. The DPRK has also developed its indigenous aerospace industry, successfully launching its first satellite into orbit in 2012.

DPRK and nuclear energy

Just as in the case of Iran, the US government and its allies have applied a double standard to the development of nuclear power by the DPRK. The government began developing nuclear technology in the 1960s with help from the Soviet Union. Following its juche self-reliance policy, in the 1970s and 1980s the DPRK developed its own nuclear technology, developing a Soviet test reactor and other facilities, mostly based at Yongbyon. In 1985 the DPRK joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

In 1992, the DPRK signed the nuclear safeguards agreement associated with the NPT binding the signatories to work with the UN International Atomic Energy Authority. That authority is dominated politically by the US and its NATO allies who use the IAEA to gather information on countries opposed to the aggressive imperialist global policies of the NATO countries. On the other hand, the IAEA absolves US nuclear allies like India, Pakistan and Israel from the kind of close scrutiny they seek to apply to the DPRK and Iran. The fact that current IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano is Japanese does little to allay DPRK suspicions about IAEA intentions towards the country

Whereas Iran insists it has no interest in developing nuclear weapons, the DPRK has indeed developed such weapons and made clear that it will use them in self-defence. The context of the DPRK decision to develop nuclear weapons is one of clear threats of US aggression in a context where the DPRK cannot rely on either China or Russia for its defence. Furthermore, all through the 1990s. the Western powers have deliberately exploited the DPRK's economic problems to extort concessions from the DPRK in relation to its own sovereign decisions as regards its development of nuclear power and its self-defence.

That reality is clear from the abuse by the US of the so-called Framework Agreement signed between the US and the DPRK in 1994. The US under President Clinton constantly prevaricated and delayed meeting its obligations, just as it did forty years earlier during the truce negotations between 1951 and 1953. Finally, exasperated at patent US insincerity and also intimidated by persistent US aggression against Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the DPRK authorities withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003.

The examples of Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria demonstrate that the US and its allies will attack any government they want to change only if they think that target government and its people cannot defend itself. The US and its allies constantly hold threatening military manoeuvres close to the DPRK, involving vessels very likely equipped with tactical nuclear weapons. They also manipulated the 2010 sinking of the South Korean Cheonan corvette, falsely alleging that a DPRK submarine had torpedoed the vessel. In 2013 they have practiced dummy attacks against the DPRK with nuclear bombers.

Absurdly self-righteous US apologists make the bizarre argument that the DPRK is irrational. On the contrary, the DPRK decision to arm itself with nuclear weapons is extremely rational for a small vulnerable country surrounded by enemies supported by the devastating nuclear arsenal of the US and its NATO allies. At the same time, Russia and China have shown in Iraq and Libya they can by no means be expected to risk the interests of their own peoples in order to uphold the UN Charter in defence of vulnerable countries against vicious imperialist aggression.

For that reason, the DPRK's juche self-reliance policy and its songun military-first policy evidence not irrational paranoia, but extremely prudent sensible policies to defend DPRK sovereignty. On May 23rd the DPRK offical news service Rodong Sinmun wrote: “Since the appearance of the first nuclear weapon in the world there have been many wars, but not a single war between nuclear weapons states. There increased the conflicts of interests between them but they never led to military clashes. If a country is capable of making a precision nuclear strike at any aggressors and their strongholds no matter where they are, they will not dare attack the country. The stronger the nuclear strike capability gets, the more powerful the deterrent grows. It is an essential requirement of the DPRK to beef up its nuclear force both in quality and quantity now that the U.S., the world's biggest nuclear weapons state, poses a constant nuclear threat to it.”

Currently, Western analysts reckon the DPRK probably has about 20 or perhaps more nuclear warheads as well as the missile capabilities to deliver those warheads against US military bases in Japan, South Korea and Guam. It is also probable that the DPRK has copied US and Soviet development of tactical theatre nuclear weapons, especially anti-ship weapons. This threat against regional US bases and powerful warships like the giant nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier and its accompanying guided missile cruisers and large amphibious landing vessels constitutes a truly powerful deterrent.

The inscrutable Western enigma

Western apologists constantly criticize and lampoon the DPRK accusing the country of being uniquely cruel and repressive, hopelessly archaic, pathetically incompetent and inefficient. But at the same time, they also portray the DPRK as uniquely and diabolically threatening and dangerous. This kind of meretricious Western news-entertainment coverage is self-evidently the same psy-warfare propaganda that has been deployed constantly against earlier victims of ruthless Western aggression from Serbia to Libya and, currently, against Syria and Iran.

Turning the psy-warfare propaganda lens around, directing it at the West itself, things look very different. The Western powers have just engaged in the most enormous transfer of wealth to their oligarchic elites in human history. With a fraction of the sums involved, they could end global hunger tomorrow. But they prefer to build up their arsenals of weapons of mass destruction and bail out their completely corrupt corporate elites.

For armaments and corporate oligarchies the corrupt Western governments can find trillions of dollars. A tiny proportion of those sums would eradicate poverty world wide. To alleviate poverty, these same elites allocate completely trifling amounts of money. They prefer to maintain impoverished countries dependent on debilitating aid and trade relationships based on odious debt.

In tandem with this horrific moral failure overseas, the pathetic failure of the Western financial system to meet their people's needs has no historical precedent. Plutocrat western gangster cliques cling to power via fake elections in which they claim a “democratic” mandate often with as little as 20% of the total elegible vote. On leaving office they get comfortable pay-offs from the same crooked corporate elites who bankrolled them from the start.

Uniquely inefficient and incompetent, Western governments are now incapable of meeting their people's basic needs in terms of health care, education, housing and employment. But they devote greatly disproportionate resources to their military, to armaments and to overseas military aggression. They maintain their armed forces in bases around the world, threatening vulnerable countries so as to continue plundering other countries' natural resources on criminally unfair terms.

These uniquely evil governments have been responsible since 1945 for war crimes and crimes against humanity involving indiscriminate massacre, by themselves and the allies they control, of millions of unarmed civilians from Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to Palestine, Korea, Madagascar, Algeria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, to Central America, Chile, Argentina and Colombia, to southern Africa and the Congo.

These Western governments preach democracy and freedom, but whenever their own political system is threatened they apply savage repressive measures against dissidents, as they did in Ireland and in Euskal Herria, imposing censorship and imprisoning tens of thousands of innocent civilians in harsh prison camps. The United States in particular applies vicious repression against its afro-descendent minorities whenever they seek to organize politically outside the exclusive “democratic” system.

Anyone criticizing these governments is regarded as a “subversive” and subject to oppressive surveillance by the secret intelligence services. The US and its NATO and Pacific allies apply global communications surveillance in a way that makes fictional totalitarian dystopias look benign. The United States and Western Europe systematically maintain their populations in a state of constant fear against foreign threats, especially Al-Qaeda.

These unprecedentedly malign Western governments themselves created Al Qaeda terrorism in Afghanistan, Contra terrorism in Nicaragua, UNITA terrorism in Angola and Renamo terrorism in Mozambique. They supported terrorist campaigns against Ivory Coast and Libya. They prop up genocidal tyrants like Paul Kagame in Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda. They support Israeli terror attacks against Palestine, whose population is supposedly under UN protection provided by....the same Western powers that approve Israel's creeping genocide of the Palestinian people.

These odious, genocidal, terrorist Western regimes arm and supply Al-Qaeda and associated terrorists in Syria, Iran and elsewhere. Naturally, the main Western allies in the Middle East are tyrannical feudal monarchies who, with complete justification, sneer at Western hypocrisy at the same time as they bankroll it. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the Western countries have exploited the motif of “terrorism” to roll back civil rights and impose policies typical of totalitarian national security states.

The uniquely diabolical Western powers help prevent their young people from organizing politically by purposefully promoting the international production and trade of narcotics. These governments provide arms, equipment, training and even military personnel to protect regimes producing heroin in Afghanistan and cocaine in Colombia. Hundreds of billions of dollars derived from that trade are laundered through the corrupt Western financial system.

Despite all these extremely well documented facts, the Western corporate news-entertainment industry mass produces false information portraying the demonstrably diabolically evil Western powers as the peace-loving champions of freedom and democracy around the world. It is difficult not to agree with Mahatma Gandhi's famous remark when asked what he thought about Western civilization. He replied “I think it would be a good idea.” Nothing has changed in over seventy years.

DPRK sovereignty

Whatever negative aspects there may be to the social, political and economic system of the DPRK, nothing gives hypocritical foreigners the right to dictate to that country what system it should adopt. Certainly, the Western powers have no moral authority to do so. The United States and their allies, in particular Japan, have a huge moral and economic debt to the people of Korea they are never likely willingly to repay. Russia and China are the only major powers which both respect Korean sovereignty and provide assistance on that basis to the DPRK.

Overwhelmingly, with very few exceptions, Western commentators on the DPRK refuse to accept that whatever social, political and economic arrangements currently prevail in the DPRK are deeply related in the most rational and logical way to persistent elements in Korea's three thousand year old history and culture. Only the Korean people themselves can work out how they want to live and under what system. Western militarization of the region self-evidently uses the pretext of fake concern over the DPRK's nuclear programme to menace China, which has also always been the ultimate motive behind Western menaces against Iran.

China's relations with the DPRK may cool from time to time, but these relations too are rooted in thousands of years of history. The current relationship is clear from a recent meeting beetween China's President Xi Jinping and DPRK envoy, Choe Ryong Hae. The DPRK's Rodong Sinmun news service reports President Xi as saying “The Chinese party and government hope for expanding the friendly exchange and cooperation with the party and government of the DPRK” and “have consistently supported the building of a thriving socialist nation of Korean style”.

Russia's relationship with the DPRK steadily improved after the first presidency of Vladimir Putin from 2000 to 2008. In 2011, President Putin's successor, President Medvedev, met Kim Jong Il to agree cooperation on various economic projects. Russian relations with the DPRK have survived tensions resulting from the DPRK's development of its nuclear programme.

In September 2012, Russia agreed to write off over US$12bn of DPRK's debt to Russia. Russia's proposed gas infrastructure investment in the Korean peninsula is a vital strategic progamme that could resolve the DPRK's long standing energy problems. When it eventually happens, this joint Russian-Korean project will inevitably change the region because it necessarily requires increased economic integration between the DPRK and South Korea.

The DPRK's own position on international relations has been consistent and clear for decades. It was restated in the tradional political New Year message of 2012, “Whatever sudden turn the international situation may take and however frantically the imperialists may behave, nothing can stop our advance towards socialism. We will, in the future, too, hold fast to our Party’s principles of independence, friendship and peace, and strive to develop relations of friendship with countries that respect our country's sovereignty.”

People in the West should insist their governments lift counterproductive sanctions against both the DPRK and Iran. They should also demand their own governments pay reparations to all of Korea for the US-UN axis crimes against humanity committed during the US military occupation of Korea and the ensuing Korean war. Seventy years after Gandhi surmised that Western civilization would be a good idea, the world is still waiting for it to happen.

toni solo is the founding editor of Tortilla con Sal, Nicaragua's leading alternative media website.

Source: Tortilla con Sal


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