South Korea’s Peace Movement Refuses To Give Up

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By Jon Letman for TruthOut. In August, 1945, as Japan smoldered in the ruins of war, the question of what would become of the Korean peninsula after 35 years of Japanese occupation and a Soviet army advancing southward spurred the hasty selection of an artificial division along the 38th parallel drawn by two American officials as a border between US and Soviet “zones of occupation.” That line, never intended to be permanent, hardened like stubborn mud before the newly liberated Korea ever had the chance to form an independent, unified and democratic nation. Today 38°N still marks a potentially catastrophic flashpoint between North and South Korea. Candle light protests have been held outside the Seongju County office nightly since the deployment of the THAAD antimissile defense system was announce in July 2016. (Photo: Jon Letman) Candle light protests have been held outside the Seongju County office nightly since the deployment of the THAAD antimissile defense system was announce in July 2016. (Photo: Jon Letman) The DMZ — demilitarized zone — despite its name, is one of the most militarized places on the planet. This hyper-militarization, in fact, extends south across the peninsula and today, 64 years after an armistice halted (but never formally ended) the Korean war, South Korea remains peppered with scores of US military installations — at least 80 by the Pentagon’s own count.

Urgent Warning: Time To Hit The Reset Button On US-Korean Policy

From ZoomInKorea.org

By Medea Benjamin for Code Pink – Touching down in Washington DC Friday night after a peace delegation to South Korea organized by the Task Force to Stop THAAD in Korea (STIK), I saw the devastating news. No, it was not that Reince Priebus had been booted from the dysfunctional White House. It was that North Korea had conducted another intercontinental ballistic missile test, and that the United States and South Korea had responded by further ratcheting up this volatile conflict. The response was not just the usual tit-for-tat, which did happen. Just hours after the North Korean test, the US and South Korean militaries launched their own ballistic missiles as a show of force. Even more incendiary, however, is that South Korean President Moon Jae-in also responded by reversing his decision to halt deployment of the US weapon system known as THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). President Moon gave his military the green light to add four more launchers to complete the system. South Korea’s new, liberal president came into office on May 10 on the wave of a remarkable “people power” uprising that had led to the impeachment and jailing of the corrupt President Park Geun-hye.

North And South Korea Want A Peace Treaty: The US Must Join Them

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By Christine Ahn for Truthout – Two years ago, I crossed the world’s most fortified border from North to South Korea with 30 women peacemakers from 15 countries, calling for a peace treaty to end the six-decade Korean War. On July 13, I was denied entry into South Korea from the United States as retribution for my peace activism, including the 2015 women’s peace march. As I checked in for my Asiana Airlines flight to Shanghai at San Francisco International Airport, the ticket agent at the counter informed me that I would not be boarding the plane headed first to Seoul Incheon International. The supervisor handed me back my passport and informed me that she had just gotten off the phone with a South Korean government official who had told her I was “denied entry” into the country. “This must be a mistake,” I said. “Is South Korea really going to ban me because I organized a women’s peace walk across the demilitarized zone?” I asked, appealing to her conscience. If there was indeed a travel ban, I thought, it must have been put in place by the disgraced President Park. But she wouldn’t make eye contact with me. She walked away and said there was nothing to be done. I would need to apply for a visa and book a new flight to Shanghai.

South Korea’s New Gov Proposes Rare Military Talks With North Korea To Ease Tensions

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, says he will never negotiate his weapons programmes unless the United States abandons its hostile policy toward his country AP/Wong Maye-E

By Samuel Osborne for Independent – South Korea has offered to have military talks with North Korea in order to ease tension across their border and resume the reunion of families separated by their war in the 1950s. It is the first formal overture to Pyongyang by the government of President Moon Jae-in, which said the two sides should discuss ways to avoid hostile acts near the heavily militarised border. It is unclear if the North would agree to the proposed talks, as it remains suspicious of the South Korean President’s actions, seeing the new leader’s more liberal policy as still resorting to the United States to force North Korea to disarm. The offer comes after the North claimed to have conducted the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) earlier this month, and said it had mastered the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on the missile. South Korea and the United States dispute the claim. It also comes amid a surge in petrol and diesel prices in the hermit state, weeks after a Chinese state oil company suspended fuel sales amid international pressure on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and missile programmes. China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), a state-controlled company, halted diesel and petrol sales to the reclusive state “over the last month or two”, according to Reuters.

Join DC Protest Friday On Korea as President Moon Meets President Trump

From ZoomInKorea.org

By Staff of Yonhap News Agency – SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) — Thousands of South Koreans staged a protest rally in central Seoul on Saturday demanding the withdrawal of the deployment of an American high-tech anti-missile defense system as President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump are set to meet in Washington D.C. next week. “The deployment of THAAD, which is unnecessary for the defense of the Korean Peninsula, should be pulled back,” the protesters said in a rally held in Seoul Plaza at the heart of Seoul. The rally’s organizer put the number of participants at 3,000. The rally came ahead of the first Moon-Trump summit to be held from June 29-30, which is expected to feature the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD). After taking office last month, Moon ordered the deployment to be delayed until an environmental impact assessment is carried out at its deployment site. “The South Korea-U.S. summit to come next week should be a venue where the review of the THAAD deployment should be assured,” the protests said. They also demanded the U.S. stop enforcing the deployment.

‘Shocked’ South Korea Leader Orders Probe Into U.S. THAAD Additions

FILE PHOTO: A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout...

By Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park for Reuters – South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered a probe after his Defence Ministry failed to inform him that four more launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system had been brought into the country, his spokesman said on Tuesday. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system battery was initially deployed in March in the southeastern region of Seongju with just two of its maximum load of six launchers to counter a growing North Korean missile threat. During his successful campaign for the May 9 presidential election, Moon called for a parliamentary review of the system, the deployment of which infuriated China, North Korea’s lone major ally. “President Moon said it was very shocking” to hear the four additional launchers had been installed without being reported to the new government or to the public, presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan told a media briefing. Moon had campaigned on a more moderate approach to Pyongyang, calling for engagement even as the reclusive state pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and threats of more sanctions.

Time For Peace Negotiations In Korea, Not Escalation

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By staff for Center for Peace and Disarmament at People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. The state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula is more volatile than ever, now that President Park has been impeached and new government is to be constituted through an early presidential election in South Korea. The Trump administration, in the meantime, is fueling the escalating tension even further with messages that it will not rule out a preemptive strike on North Korea, and that it will redeploy strategic nuclear warheads to South Korea if necessary. The situation is further destabilized by the Trump administration’s decision to send an aircraft carrier to waters near the Korean Peninsula. The latest military stance and strategy of Washington, however, completely overlooks the desire of Koreans for peace. The Kim Jong-un government in Pyongyang meanwhile has warned of another upcoming nuclear test it intends to conduct, poised as it is to show off its growing nuclear capabilities. An existing crisis is already escalating in Northeast Asia over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that the South Korean and U.S. governments have decided to deploy in South Korea. All these acts of military bravado, taking hostage the lives and peace of Koreans, must cease now. It is time for policymakers to be responsible and return to dialogue and negotiations and stop fueling the growing tensions.

S Korean Activists Discuss Left Priorities In The Moon Jae-in Era, Part 3

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By Staff of Zoom In Korea – In response to his election, KCTU said in its statement, “While we will support the administration when it moves in the right direction, we will not hesitate to criticize it and make it the target of our struggle should it fail to do so.” Moon promised that he would build a country where the dignity and rights of workers are respected. It is our assessment that while his labor policy is focused on creating new jobs in the public sector, it is weak in the area of promoting fundamental labor rights. The key question is how much will Moon be able to control the chaebols, which dominate the country’s economy, and change the existing laws and labor relation practices to ensure the guarantee of fundamental rights for all workers. The Korean economy is deeply enmeshed in the global recession and relies too heavily on the chaebols. Many of the economic problems the country faces—from low growth to inequality and youth unemployment—can be solved under a system where the working class plays a leading role. In this sense, strengthen unity and solidarity among workers is more important than ever.

Reunification On The Korean Peninsula: Toward A Peaceful Confederation

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By Moon J. Pak for Zoom In Korea – In any serious effort to peacefully unite the two Koreas in the future, there will be big hurdles of history and geopolitics to overcome. Due mainly to its unique geopolitical location, surrounded by large, aggressive and ambitious neighbors, China, Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Manchuria and more recently the neighbor across the Pacific, the U.S., the 4,000-year-old history of Korea is tumultuous, to say the least. The country was invaded, occupied, colonized by all of these neighbors. Although Korea fought back, it has never retaliated and invaded any neighboring countries. Despite thousands of years of troublesome and cruel foreign invasions, Korea has maintained its national, ethnic and cultural identity. In the evolution of modern Korea, this ancient pattern of competing for dominance over Korea repeated itself. China, Russia and Japan struggled over the peninsula, which resulted in the colonialization of the country by Japan in 1910. Japan considered Korea to be its geopolitical stepping-stone to the continent. Japan’s ambition for domination over Asia was permanently thwarted in 1945 with the end of the World War II.

The United States Should Listen To South Korea—Or It Will Reap The Whirlwind

From ZoomInKorea.org

 By Tim Shorrock for The Nation – Gwangju, South Korea—On May 2, Moon Jae-in, the Korean politician who is expected to win next Tuesday’s presidential election here, issued a stern warning to the United States. Pointing to the escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States, he told The Washington Post that South Korea must “take the lead on matters on the Korean Peninsula.” Seoul, he added, “should not take the back seat.” Moon, a progressive politician with deep roots in South Korea’s left, has repeated these words throughout his campaign. They signal his wish to change the dynamics of US-South Korean relations and meet his country’s desire for a more independent foreign policy. In particular, he wants to use economic and political incentives to ease tensions with the North—a position anathema to many in Washington. The US government, Congress, and the Pentagon should listen to Moon and his voters. Over the past two months, President Trump has done more to alienate South Korea than any American leader in the past 40 years. If Trump and the American politicians and pundits who support his militaristic approach to North Korea aren’t careful and continue to ignore this country’s wishes, they could spark the most serious wave of anti-Americanism in the South since 1980.

After The S Korean Election: The Movement That Ousted Park Cannot Rest

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By Hyun Lee for Zoom In Korea – Front-runner Moon Jae-in, of the main opposition Minjoo Party, is the greatest beneficiary of the mass protests that led to Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Widespread discontent against Park and the conservative Saenuri party have catapulted Moon to the front of the pack with a significant lead over the other candidates. Moon was Chief of Staff for the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, who served from 2003 to 2008 and continued his predecessor Kim Dae-jung’s “sunshine policy” of engagement and economic cooperation with North Korea. If elected, Moon is expected to reverse South Korea’s policy toward North Korea to one of engagement. He has pledged to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex—the joint inter-Korean economic project that was the last remaining hallmark of peaceful North-South engagement before it was shut down by the Park administration in 2016. The question is: if Moon is elected, will the United States be willing to recalibrate its North Korea strategy to allow Moon to lead? And if not, how much will Moon stand up to the United States to chart an independent path?

THAAD Rocket Fuel: Likely Ground Water Contamination Coming To Seongju, South Korea

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By Bruce K. Gagnon for Organizing Notes – The unwelcome US deployment of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense (MD) system in Seongju, South Korea is not only a significant threat to regional peace but is also a major environmental catastrophe waiting to happen. The reason is that rocket fuel contains a deadly chemical component called perchlorate. And since the Seongju area is a melon farming community the risk of ground water contamination by perchlorate should be alarming to all concerned. Perchlorate, the explosive ingredient in solid rocket fuel, has leaked from military bases and weapons and aerospace contractors’ plants in at least 22 states, contaminating drinking water for millions of Americans. In the US scientists have warned that perchlorate could cause thyroid deficiency in more than 2.2 million women of childbearing age. This thyroid deficiency could damage the fetus of pregnant women, if left untreated. Reports indicate that 20 million to 40 million Americans may be exposed to the chemical.

Protests, Hunger Strike Against U.S. THAAD In South Korea

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By Yamei of Xinhuanet. On Wednesday, about 20 U.S. trucks and trailers carried part of THAAD elements, including radar, to a golf course at Soseong-ri village in Seongju county, North Gyeongsang province. The golf course was designated as the THAAD site. The installed THAAD elements include two mobile launchers, an AN/TPY-2 radar and other equipments. A THAAD battery is composed of six mobile launchers, 48 interceptors, the radar and the fire and control unit. The deployment of THAAD in South Korea has been strongly opposed by regional countries, including China and Russia, as it breaks strategic balance in the region. Following the unexpected deployment, protests have been staged by the general public, residents and peace activists. Residents and peace activists, who had been on the guard right beside the entrance road, tussled with thousands of South Korean policemen on Sunday to block two U.S. oil tankers attempting to enter the golf course.

South Korea’s Likely Next President Warns US Not To Meddle In Nation’s Democracy

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By Jason Ditz for Anti-War – The split between Moon and Trump is so dramatic, in fact, that Moon has felt the need to publicly warn the US against “meddling” in the nation’s politics, not just directly in the election itself, but also with policy decisions made in the lead-up to the election. Indeed, Moon and his allies warn that the biggest problem is the US rushing through measures in the lame-duck government ahead of the election, noting that agreements on things like the THAAD anti-missile system, and then hastily putting the system in place before any public hearings or environmental assessments were allowed to take place. Analysts even suggest that President Trump’s talk of making South Korea pay for THAAD might help Moon,, because he is seen as more likely to stand up to the US on the deployment, and doesn’t feel particularly wedded to any agreements on the deployment, which were made in the post-impeachment, pre-election environment specifically to avoid real political debate.

US & South Korea Force THAAD Through Protesters

Riot Police THAAD Being Forced Through Protesters 4-26-17

By Staff for Zoom in Korea. The residents of Seongju and Gimcheon were caught off guard when the United States Forces Korea and the South Korean Defense Ministry forced key parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system into the former Lotte Skyhill Golf Course in the early morning hours of April 26. Many of the THAAD parts, including the AN/TPY-2 radar, are believed to have been transported into the deployment site. Below is a minute by minute breakdown of the conflict. The environmental impact assessment has yet to be completed, they also noted, yet the key THAAD components have already been transported into the deployment site. A total of 12 protesters sustained injuries and were escorted to the hospital in ambulances. The Defense Ministry reportedly told the South Korean media that it plans to transport the remainder of the THAAD components into the deployment site by the end of this year.