Information about Korea, especially about people's movement, is lacking in the American media and often distorted, with false interpretations of events in Korea presented to the American public. Korea Report is published in part to fill this vacuum. This premier issue's focus is on Korean-American relations. Your comments are always welcome.
Korea Report is published monthly by Korea Information and Resource Center (KIRC), an independent, non-profit educational organization in Washington, D.C. with affiliated networks nationwide. KIRC was founded on August 15, 1986 with the purpose of promoting understanding and support for the Korean people's movement. KIRC maintains a substantial collection of resources on Korea in Korean and in English.
- 1 Korea : The Land in Oblivion
- 2 Crisis in Korea
- 3 A STUDENT TORTURED TO DEATH AMID WIDE GOVERNMENT REPRESSION
- 4 Meanings of the Tears
- 5 A Day of a Drilling Machine Operator
- 6 GROWING ANTI-U.S. SENTIMENT AMONG KOREANS
- 7 SERIES Korean American Relations: A HISTORY OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN KOREA
- 8 On Target: '88 SEOUL OLYMPICS: Showcase for Military Dictator?
- 9 Movements in the U S
1 Korea : The Land in Oblivion
Editor of Korea Report
Korea has been forgotten by most Americans. Their knowledge of Korea, if any, derives from the experience of the Korean War-images of the Cold War and the M* A* s• H* series on television. Or they may have come across at Sears or other department st ore clothing, or electronic products made in Korea. Or some of them may even own a Hyundai car.
But the actual reality-of Korean people's lives has been overlooked. It has been often forgotten that Korea is a divided country for over 40 years and that the division was imposed and perpetuated by the U.S. How Koreans suffer from the division and how sincerely they are yearning for reunification hasn't been of any concern to U.S. policy -makers or the general public.
The heavy military build-up in Korea with 40,000 U.S. troops and approximately 1,000 U.S. nuclear weapons endangers not only the lives of the 60 million Korean people but also the very security of the Far East. Unfortunately, the current U.S. policy is to preserve, if not to strengthen, the status quo rather than to reduce the tension or ultimately work for reunification.
True security for north and south Korea and also for the East Asia is most likely to come through the peaceful reunification of the country, a goal shared by nearly all Koreans. The peaceful reunification would require a reduction of military tensions which now face the world with a horror of a possible second Korean War which might trigger a World War 111. The 40,000 U.S. troops in south Korea, the only foreign forces on the Peninsula, are a primary obstacle. It is unlikely that reunification can be achieved if foreign soldiers, allied to one side, remain in Korea. Also, ending the cold war in Korea would bring hope to the world. The U.S. policy, however, favors a permanently divided Korea.
In addition to this, many Koreans are discovering from historical records and current day situations that Korea is overly-dependent on the U.S. though the Reagan Administration and the Chun regime celebrate mutual friendship and a strong bond. The growing anti-U.S. sentiment in Korea reflects the thinking of Koreans which view the true role of the U.S. in Korea as a preserver of the status quo and a supporter of the military and the ruling elite-an·d not the purported supporter of democracy and social justice.
This trend will have serious implications for future Korean American relations. Therefore a reappraisal of past and present Korean American relations and the evaluation of alternative policies are in great need. And voices of the Korean people need to be heard in the process Korea and its people should not be buried in oblivion any longer.
KOREA REPORT, a monthly newsletter published by Korea Information and Resource Center, is a part of the effort to address this need. KOREA REPORT attempts to bring to the American public's attention the reality of Korean-American relations from the viewpoint of the Korean people and to seek viable solutions satisfactory to both Koreans and Americans.
2 Crisis in Korea
Korea is divided North and South by some 155 miles of Demilitarized Zone. There are about 1.5 million soldiers, including 40,000 U.S. troops, facing each other across the DMZ There exist over 600 IJ.S.-deployed nuclear weapons in south Korea. There are as much as 30 megatons of nuclear weapons in south Korea enough to reduce the entire Korean peninsula to radioactive ashes.
The Korean peninsula protrudes out of the Asian mainland into the Japan Sea. It is bordered by China to the northwest, Soviet Union to the northeast, and Japan to the southeast. Due to its rich natural resources and strategically important geopolitical position, Korea has been under constant invasion by foreign powers for many centuries. Yet, Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous nations in the world, and Koreans have maintained a unified kingdom for more than 1,200 years.
This ancient nation is caught in a worldwide crisis today. It is divided North and South by some 155 miles of DMZ. There are about 1.5 million soldiers, including 40,000 US troops, facing each other across the DMZ line, making Korea the most heavily militarized region in the world. Every spring the largest military exercise in the world-code named "Operation held in south Korea Team Spirit"-is involving over 200,000 soldiers including US troops from Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii, and US mainland, as well as Japanese Self Defense Forces. In such militarily tense situation, there exist over 600 US deployed nuclear weapons in south Korea. In fact, Korea is one of the most likely place where the worldwide nuclear holocaust could start.
WHY IS KOREA DIVIDED?
Korea was divided at the end of World War II, when Japan, which had invaded and forcefully occupied Korea, surrendered to the Allied Forces. Korea was a victim of the war, much like France, and Japan was the aggressor, much like Germany. Can you imagine post war Europe with France divided and Germany intact? However, that is what happened to Korea as the US occupied the south of 38th paraUel and the Soviet the north. Thus an artificial and unjust division was imposed upon this ancient nation of over 1,200 years of history as a unified country, totally against its people's will. Since then the Korean peninsula became the center of postwar cold war conflicts in Northeast Asia.
SOUTH KOREA AND U.S.
Ever since its involvement in south Korea, U.S. has supported a series of unpopular oppressive dictatorships. For the past two decades south Korea has been ruled by regimes which came to power through military coup. Under such circumstances, U.S. influence over south Korea is indeed very great since almost the entire south Korean military is placed under direct U.S. command.
U.S. economic involvement is also extensive. Hundreds of U.S. multinational corporations such as I BM, Motorola, and Tandy corporation have direct investment in south Korea. Typically, they pay Korean workers less than one fifth of their American counterpart for the same work. Such low wage condition is maintained by brutal and often violent repression of the labor. Necessarily, there exist extensive human rights violations in south Korean society.
Despite this repression, there is strong and growing opposition movement, made up of students, workers, farmers, and Christians. Recently, there is also growing anti-U.S. sentiment among the south Korean people. The crucial event was the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, which occurred in protest of the seizure of power by the current Chun Doo Hwan military regime. The then U.S. Commander, Gen. Wickam, approved the transfer of south Korean troops under his command in order to put down the uprising which resulted in massacre of 2,000 to 3,000 people.
KOREA AND NUCLEAR CRISIS
It is estimated that there may be as much as 30 megatons of nuclear weapons in Korea. This is more than 2,000 times that of the bomb that exploded over Hiroshima, enough to reduce the entire Korean peninsula to radioactive ashes. These nuclear weapons are under the operational control of the U.S. command in Korea, and the U .. S. may make a unilateral decision to use them without consulting Korea-unlike in western Europe where there must be prior consultation with all of the US allies concerned. These weapons are not needed to deter possible north Korean attact since north Korea does not have any nuclear weapons, and south Korea is at· least equal if not superior to north Korea in conventional military strength. However, when considering U.S. world military strategy, the implications of the nuclear weapons in Korea become truly frightening. According to the present Reagan administration's 5-year defense plan, in the event of U.S.Soviet conflict in the Middle East the U.S. may unilaterally start a war in Korea in order to keep the Soviets busy, although Korea may have noth
ing to do with the events in the Persia_i:i Gulf region. When this happens, the nuclear weapons will probably be used since it is precisely this type of maneuver that is drilled in the yearly Team Spirit exercises: massive assault using comprehensive array of nuclear and chemical weapons. What the Soviet Union does, and what happens to Korea and the rest of the world is anybody's guess. The renowned physicist Hans Bethe has termed this U.S. military strategy as "doomsday scenario."
Nuclear nightmare is especially terrifying to Koreans as many Koreans already knew and suffered the horrors of nuclear destructions. At the time of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombrings, there were about 100,000 Koreans in these cities. They were forcefully brought there by Japanese to work in the munition factories and other military supplies factories. 50,000 Koreans were killed immediately after the blast. The rest led the life of slow death suffering "A-bomb diseases" abandoned by the Japanese government and neglected by the south Korean dictatorships.
Some 30,000 Korean A-bomb victims are alive today, suffering, abandoned, and neglected. Also, 60 million Korean people are living as hostages of constant nuclear crisis. All concerned people in the developP.d nations; especially the U.S., need to work toward lasting peace and justice in Korea, because when it perishes, there may not be anyone left around to mourn the loss of this brilliant 5,000 year old civilization.
3 A STUDENT TORTURED TO DEATH AMID WIDE GOVERNMENT REPRESSION
The above is a portion of a poem written by the linguistics sti;dents of the Seoul National University, dedicated to Park Jong-Chui, who was tortured to death by the south Korean goverment. On January 14, another young life had been violated and taken away by the south Korean government. Seoul National University student Park Jong-Chui was killed as he was being interrogated and tortured by the police who were demanding to know whereabouts of a student activist presumably known by
Park. Chun sought to characterize the incident as an isolated case, but in reality police torture has been routine and systematic.
The goverment claimed that there were no political prisoners in Korea when it first started negotiating with the opposition New Korea Democratic
Party over constitutional revisions in 1986. Two weeks later the Chun administration asserted that there were 997 political prisoners and that those not charged under the National Security Law who were near completion of their sentences and those who had repented of their "wrongdoings" might be granted amnesty in the near future.
As one political prisoner, Kim Geun-Tae testified, the National Police Headquarter's Anti-communist Bureau itself stated that this was the usual treatment of anyone indicted under the National Security Law without regard to what people in the West refer to as "due process of law." Again, as is the case with politically motivated arrests, the number of incidents of torture is getting so large, so quickly that it is nearly impossible to fully document.
Another form of torture frequently employed by the Chun regime is "sexual torture." In the case of much publicized Bu-Chon incident in '86, a 22 year old female labor organizer was forcibly raped during interrogation by a police man. Although there were tremendous support for her and demands made for a full investigation, the case was never seriously investigated. Subsequently the woman was jailed for her political activities. This was only one of the cases which leaked to the press and the general public; numerous undisclosed cases exist.
Torture, however, is only one form of institutionalized violence regularly practiced by the Chun regime. Any demonstration, particularly on the grassroots level, i5 dealt with severely by the riot police whose chain of command derives from the military (and the military dictatorship).
On October 28, 1986, over 1,500 students were arrested in the aftermath of a 4-day occupation of the Kun-Kook University in Seoul. The occupation began on Oct. 28, when a group of 2,000 students from 26 universities formed the National Patriotic Students Alliance to oppose government repression and foreign intervention. The peaceful rally became violent when they were attacked by 3,500 riot police shooting tear gas.
They retreated into 5 separate buildings in order to protect themselves from the police attack. The police then surrounded the students, cut off the water and electricity and dropped leaflets from the air encouraging them to surrender.
After a 4-day occupation, without food, water or sleep, the government ended the occupation with excessive force, using tear gas bombs dropped from helicopters and raiding the buildings with about 8,000 riot police armed with electric clubs, steel pipes, etc.
A total of 1,476 students were arrested and were led from the buiidings, tied together at their waists with heads bowed. Over 50 students were injured in the attack and many of them were severely burned or braindamaged. The government still denies without any credible evidence the unconfirmed claim of killing 20-30 students in this incident.
After the Kun-Kook occupation, numerous support demonstraions followed and a student burned himself to death protesting the Chun regime. The self immolations by students and workers are ever increasing in the midst of the struggle to fight the dictatorship.
Between January and September '86, -the Chun regime spent over 6.6 million dollars on tear gas bombs- 49% increase from the 1985. Also according to the Department of Interior, the average number of prisoners was 53,970 while 406 prisoners died in their cell in the last decade.
In light of the human rights violaton record of the Chun regime, the government's insistence that Park Jong-Chul's case is an isolated incident is ridiculous. In first confirming Park's death on January 17th, the police claimed that park had died of "shock." However, following disclosures by the newspapers, police chief Kang MinChang later claimed that he was misinformed and had discovered that the cause of Park's death was an accidental suffocation during the interrogation process.
The official account tended to downplay the extend of bruises and blemishes on the body, rejecting earlier reports of extraneous water in the lungs. It attributed the swelling of Park's abdomen to a temporary phenomenon due to respiratory efforts in the interrogation room and later by a physician. Other reports indicate that Park had been tortured with electric shocks, though the prosecutors looking into other possible causes of death have denied it.
Human rights organizations report that over the past 2 months they have learned of about 60 people who have disappeared without a trace and who were later discovered to be in detention. The failure of authorities to follow prescribed legal guidelines alarms the human rights groups. They are still deeply troubled by the disappearance and subsequent deaths of student activists Woo Jong-Won and Kim Sung-Soo and labor activist Shin Ho-Soo in '86. In all three Incidents, the bodies of the victims were discovered a week or more after their death and in each case the police claimed that they had committed suicide. A human rights source said, "If this case had not been publicized, then maybe Mr. Park would have been a suicide victim as well."
4 Meanings of the Tears
Following are excerpts from a Jetter written by an imprisoned student activist to his mother. It shows his pure love for his people and his nation. -Editor -
Mother, I have seen many kinds of tears; there were .tears of overflowing joy, and tears of a deep sigh like yours. There were tears that cried the darkness of the time., and tears that were not_truthful.
I remember the tears of those poor who were driven away last winter from their shanties. Only to be left without any other place to go. I remember the tears of a young man from the countryside who, while exchanging drinks, with bone-chilling calmness, wished the end of the world. I remember the tears of countless youths in this land who were lured into the stream of factory production lines, into the stomach of evil, under the name of industrial growth and export economy. I remember so vividly my tears of anger and powerlessness while watching my friends being driven away with blood all over their bodies as their homes, work place and community of learning were violently stamped down. These are tears of our people,_ and our land, whose bodies have been cut into half. All these tears are the tears of the same. These are the tears of the poor, the tears of those who have nothing left but tears, and tears that cry all the time. And these are the tears of today's reality and tears of you, mother.
At the same time, I have seen the tears of those filled with the holy spirit who preach to those who suffer in this society that this reality is false and that only God's world and God's life is the truth. I am sure the evil who belongs to the same lot with these shed the same tears. These tears are so detestable that they amount to nothing more than washing away the body's unwanted excrements.
But mother, all these tears can no longer remain only as tears. For us who are poor, tears· are no longer tears. Tears serve no purpose. And there is no place to appeal with tears. To whom shall we appeal? Our history teaches us that countless tears of poor are stamped down by violent military boots. The tears of our barren time that tremble with anger must be transcended to a concrete power of the people. At the same time we must explore the true character of the deceitful atrocity of the oppressors.
We must see clearly the blood-shot eyes of those who cover their thirst for blood with cold brutal smiles. The suffering of the time that transcend to a pow.er must drive away the tears -and sighs of this land, all the tears and grief from the very bottom of the barren time; and deceitful tears of the wicked group that· rule in this age of indigence. Only by then, the time of true happiness that you've longed for so long, mother, will come; truly and fully.
5 A Day of a Drilling Machine Operator
South Korea presents itself to the world as a showcase of economic development. But many are not aware of the darker side of the unbalanced economic growth-the plight of exploited workers who work the longest hours in the world for minimal wages. Here is an example of a life of a South Korean worker, written by the worker himself. Translated from "Democratic Labor" (June 1984), published by Assoc. of Korean Worker's Welfare, Korea. - Editor -
Morning has come. But it's not a very pleasant morning because I am still fatigued with everyday's hard work. I reluctantly force myself to get up and have breakfast which I prepared last night. Kimchi , pickels, and a glass of cold water are all I can afford for breakfast. Whether I like it or not I've got to eat them in order to work. I leave for work at 7 A.M .. Waiting for a city bus I look at the commuter buses of other factories passing by with great envy because city buses are always tightly jammed with people.
I work at the xxx valve as a drilling machine operator. When I get there, I change to my work clothes, an old Tshirt smeared with sweat and iron rubbish the drilling machine has stained. My co-workers come to work one by one wearing ragged work clothes looking exactly like beggars. They don't even say hello to each other though there are only 17 of them. Addording to my boss's theory, they should be like a family. They are concerned only with their work because they are sick and tired of their poverty and of the people in similar situation.
Even if you work hard for 15 hours a day, one is left with only the trinity of yuntan (coal briquettes used for heating), ramyun (a cheap instant noodle), and Kimchi . One of my co-workers was forced to resign only because he asked for a small raise while the boss pockets profits greater than the wages of the 17 workers combined.With my daily wage I have no choice but to eat 600 Won (60 cents) noodles at the factory cafeteria for lunch. To eat the cheapest meal, costing 1,500 Won at the fast food shop across the street, would eat up half of my daily wage. The situation at other factories isn't any better. There are people who enjoy 100,000 Won lunch whereas people like me have to eat 600 Won noodles.
Once I start operating the machine, the master of the work is the machine, not me because all my movements must follow those of the machine. My job is to lift up and down valves too heavy for any person to handle. I fall sick from fatigue once in every 10 days. A latheman next to me calls me. He has his thumb in bandages. I ask him in surprise, "What's wrong with your hand?" "I got hurt working overtime last night. My thumb nail got cut off by the machine." "How could you come to work today with your hand like that? You should really take a few days off." "Who's gonna pay me if I take days off when I can hardly pay for this medical treatment?" I feel sorry for him, but at the same time I resent him for I have to do my work and cover for him as well.
I have to fight drowsiness in the afternoon. I would often fall asleep while operating the maclline. Even if the drill, able to make holes in thick iron plates, comes between ;ny fingers and makes holes in my gloves, it's almost impossible to awaken myself because I am already too tired.
Yet I ought to work overtime today because I didn't do overtime work yesterday. We would exchange jokes till lunch hour, but we wouldn't even look at each other during overtime work for we are just too tired. It's already 8:50
P.M. when I am almost finished with the day's (and night's) work. I leave the factory at 9:40 P.M. after cleaning up the place. I spend 15 hours a day at the factory and the rest of the day is .scarcely enough for sleeping and eating. Standing in a homeward bus, I fall asleep dreaming of a day when I tan live like a human being, not like a machine or a chained animal.
6 GROWING ANTI-U.S. SENTIMENT AMONG KOREANS
CHANGES IN THE U.S. ATTITUDES TOWARD KOREA
"The biggest change in recent U5- Korea relations is the fact that the nature of the relationship between the two nations is being 'broadly disussed' among Koreans," Richard Walker, the former U.S. ambassador to south Korea, pointed out in his statement to Koreans on July 4th, 1986. He added, "Though questions are raised regarding the US. policy and its intentions in the process, we view them as 'the expression of hopes for the development toward more natural and equal U5-Korean relationship'." The statement shows a slight change in the U.S. officials' attitude toward Korea especially when compared with Secretary of State George Shultz's remark on May 7, 1986: "It can't be denied that anti-U5 sentiments among Koreans are based on the 'false idea' of the US."
Gen. William Livsey, commander in chief of the U.S. Forces in Korea (USFK), asserted in a speech on June 6, 1986, "anti-US. slogans are advocated only by extremely few Koreans." Contrary to his assertion, however, the USFK ordered commanders of their units to give the U.S. soldiers a special education on "the danger of the present situation." Contents include some do-not's, e.g., do not visit Korean universities, do not resort to violence in case of personal disputes with Koreans, and do not overdrink in order to reduce the possibility of conflicts.
The changes in the U.S. attitude coincide with the fact that the anti U.S. sentiment among. Koreans is a result of their refusal of the unequal Korean-American relations, not of ignorance and misunderstanding and the fact that the anti-Americanism is an object of "broad discussions" among Koreans rather than a slogan of the extreme few. And the U.S. is beginning to take note of it.
CURRENT ANTI-U.S. SENTIMENT AMONG KOREANS
Growing anti-lJ.S. sentiment among Koreans is a result oftheir refusal of the unequal Korean-American relations, not ' · of ignorance or misunderstanding.
In the spring of 1985 when students occupied the U.S. Information and Service building to protest the Kwangju massacre of 1980, a student representative answered to reporters, "We are not asserting antiAmericanism. We are only asking the US. about its responsibilities in tacitly supporting the massacre." A year later, however, students and workers started shouting such anti-U.S. slogans as "Kick out the US.," "Yankee Go Home," and "Anti-War, Anti-Nuke." Last spring alone, at least three students set themselves afire protesting U.S. intervention in Korea.
On May 3, 1986, 10,000 people demonstrated in the streets of Inchon, a major port city close to Seoul, when the opposition New Korea Democratic Party (NKDP) planned to hold a mass meeting for constitutional reforms which have been the issue of heatd debate in the political arena _recently. The contents of 30 different leaflets, distributed by various groups on that day, displayed the wide, seemingly almost chaotic, diversity of opinions and demands of the Korean people. Beneath the diversity, however, was a stream of coherent demands flowing in one direction-"anti-U.S. intervention."
"The US. supported the brutal military suppression of Kwangju People's Uprising from behind and has betrayed the Korean people's desire for independence and democracy while at the same time taking away profits at the cost of Korean people's suffering. Is the U.S. our eternal ally?"
The question, raised in one of the leaflets, summarizes how the U.S. is being perceived by Koreans. The U.S., "the democratic nation" whom the people of Kwangju turned to for the last hope in 1980, was criticized in those leaflets as "the prime mover who drove workers to unemployment and poverty by pressuring Korea to open its market to the U.S." and as the one which "cooks up the shufflings between its first son, Democratic Justice Party (the ruling party), and its second, New Korea Democratic Party, over constitutional reforms and deceives the people's thirst for genuine democracy."
On the same day, violent confrontation occurred between 13 U.S. soldiers and about 100 Koreans in Seoul. Inflamed with anger at the soldiers' abuse and sexual exploitation of Korean women, some Korean youths started attacking them and civilians nearby joined the youths in the fight shouting "Yankee Co Home. 11 This incident left 8 soldiers injured. Alarmed at the incidents in Seoul and Inchon, the U.S. Commander forbade his soldiers to leave their quarters next day even though it was a Sunday.
Since then there have occurred numerous incidents which indicate the degree of Koreans' antipathy towards the U.S. Students and workers have been the most outspoken in their sentiments and demands, but they are not alone. Peasants, most inactive and apathetic to politics, have begun to side with the students and workers.
A statement issued by a peasant organization last April declared: "The U.S., like a devil in disguise of an angel, destroyed the base of Korean agriculture on the pretence of agricultural assistance . .. It's now forcefully imposing on us imports · of 350 kinds of agricultural products and livestocks, driving us all to death." A month later, the Korean Catholic Farm Workers Association and the Federation of Korean Christian Farmers Union, two largest peasant organizations, declared in a joint statement, "The U.S. has continuously supported military dictatorship, and is now pressuring it to import agricultural products. The U.S. is driving us, the 10 million farmers, to bankruptcy, and it can no longer be regarded as our ally."
Workers, peasants, students, and politicians have their own reasons for being resentful at the U.S. policy. But what they all have in common is their desire to end military dictatorship and to stop U.S. intervention in Korea. Indeed those two have been the main slogans put forth in almost every rally and demonstration. Statements issued during the Kun-Kook University occupation summerize their demands and the reasons. "The U.S. and its puppet regime have oppressed and exploited our country and our people over 40 years. Militarization and division of the Korean peninsula, strong dictatorship, economic exploitation . .. the colonial rule of the U.S. and its puppets have continued and will continue . .."
The anti-U.S. sentiments .do not stem from emotional reactions-those are deeply rooted in the analysis of the history and present situati::rn of the U.S.-Korea relations. Also, those sentiments cannot be separated from the U.S. role in the country's division, or from the presence of the U.S. troops and nuclear weapons in Korea. Another reason is that military dictators, who would not be able to survive without supports from outside, have been in power in Korea for decades.
The Reagan administration i.s clearly worried about these changes in south Korea. In addition to beefing up the heavy U.S. military presence and staging military exercises in Korea, Reagan has appointed James Lilley, a former CIA expert on East Asia, as the ambassador to south Korea. His appointment is an attempt to insure that the rapidly changing situations of Korea will be closely monitored by the U.S. However, it still remains to be seen if those changes can be controlled by the U.S. Isn't it time for the U.S. to consider alternatives to its policy towards Korea?
7 SERIES Korean American Relations: A HISTORY OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN KOREA
Initial contacts between Korea and the U.S. were marred by violent encounters as American commercial ships tried forcefully to seek trade with Korea.
The U.S. was, at this time, expanding west into the Pacific and to Asia, to seek commercial relations with the East Asian nations. Korea, then the Kingdom of Chosun, was a declining Confucian kingdom which stubbornly upheld the policy of anti-foreign seclusion in which no contacts with "Western barbarians" were permissible.
Frustrated by the refusal of entry into Korea, the General Sherman, an armed U.S. merchant ship, ignored Korean warnings and sailed up the Taedong River towards Pyongyang in 1866-looting and firing at the shores on the way. It was eventually grounded and set in flames by angry local Korean villiagers.
Whatever the intentions of the crew of the General Sherman might have been (trade or piracy?), their intrusion deep into the Korean territory was clearly a provocation and in violation of existing Korean law.
U.S. MARINES LAND IN KOREA
The U.S. military stepped in, sending a punitive expedition with fire warships and 1230 sailors and marines. They arrived at the present-day port of Inchon in 1871. The U.S. forces destroyed the Korean forts and left 350 Korean casualties. But even with this show of force-a case of American "gunboat diplomacy"-the U.S. failed to obtain a treaty with Korea and withdrew.
This was America's biggest naval engagement between the Civil War and the Spanish-American War; it was the first purely American battle on Korean soil, and U.S. marines set the Stars and Stripes waving for the first time in Korea.
Koreans resent the fact that the U.S., along with other Western powers and Japan, tried to obtain their objectives in Korea by means of brute force.
In 1882, through Chinese diplomatic channels, the U.S. was able to obtain a "treaty of amity and commerce" with Korea-and became the first Western nation to do so. This marked the beginning of the official relations between the two nations. Although the U.S. emphasized the commercial aspect of the treaty, Korea stressed the political implicationespecially the "good offices" clause, which stated thdt the U.S. would c0me to Korea's aid if Korea were threatened by the big powers.
With the American initiative in opening Korea, other European nations followed and sparked a turbulent period in Korean history in which big power politics and internal factional struggle jeopardized the integrity and the sovereignty of Korea as a nation.
External pressures came from China, Russia, and Japan as each tried to gain control over Korea, and led to the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904- 05 both fought on Korean soil.
Internal factional strife among the royal families intensified as each successive ruling families clinged to one of the big powers to stay in control. A military rebellion, a failed coup by the reformists, and the anti-foreign Tonghak Peasant War tried to alter the political climate in Korean, but the old order survived unchanged.
Even though the official U.S. policy toward Korea was that of neutrality and non-interference in Korea affairs, the U.S., under the Theodore Roosevelt Administration, began to favor and later sµpport Japan's attempts to dominate Korea.
Koreans, invoking the "good offices" clause of the Korea-U.S. Treaty of 1882, appealed for American support to repeal Japanese expansionism, but the U.S. remained aloof and instead supported Japan's aggressive policies toward Korea-arguing that a strong Japan would counter the Russian influence in East Asia.
Theodore Roosevelt once said: "Sooner or later, it will be better for Japan to take Korea. I think Japan ought to take Korea. /twill be good for the Koreans and Asia."
During a secret meeting between U.S. Secretary of War Taft and Prime Minister Katsura of Japan in 1905, Japan acknowledged America's interests in the Philippines and the U.S. in return recognized Japan's interests in Korea.
In other words, the two powers agreed not to interfere in each other's spheres of influence. Considering that Korea became a Japanese protectorate four months later, the secret meeting indicates that the U.S. gave early approval of the Japanese plans of making Korea a Japanese colony. This move reflected the U.S. policy of active complicity in Japan's calculated program of annexation of Korea-and not that of passive indifference.
The U.S. was the first foreign nation to recognize the protectorate treaty and hastly withdrew its diplomatic l_egation from Korea. These actions paved way for Japan's ultimate annexation of Korea in 1910.
The Roosevelt Administration sacrificed Korea for its larger interests in Manchuria and the Pacific, but its policy backfired as Japan eventually expanded and threatened America's interests in these areas-and ultimately the war between Japan and the U.S. resulted.
MARCH FIRST MOVEMENT
Koreans wee dismayed at the lack of U.S. support in countering Japan's expansionist moves toward Korea, but even under the Japanese imperialism, Koreans hoped that the U.S. and other Powers would support the Korean independence.
When Woodrow Wilson announced the doctrine of self-determination of nations in his fourteen points in 1918, Koreans believed that this doctrine would also apply to Korea. The doctrine became a part of the inspirations that triggered a national demonstration for independence of Korea in 1919 known as the March First Movement.
But the U.S. and other Powers did not come to the aid of Koreans and did not challenge the brutal colonial policies of Japan in Korea.
NEW U.S. POLICY FORMULATED
The U.S. altered its position on Korea towards the end of the World War 11 as Korea became a candidate of valuable war booty. Korea became a part of the U.S.'s postwar planning and a new policy of direct and intense involvement in Korean affairs was formulated, launching a new era in Korean-American relations and affecting subsequent Korean history greatly.
7.1 Document: NCCCUSA's Statement on Peace and Reunification of Korea
After the liberation of Korea from Japan in 1945, the U.S. was very much at fault in dividing Korea into two. The U.S. churches were also there at that time to provide theological and ideological support for the division of Korea. This may have stemmed from the McCarthy Era hysteria of '50's in accepting anticommunist ideology uncritically and has kept it in its grasp to varying degrees ever since.
Whatever the reason may have been, the churches refused to take any responsibilities for its own role in the division. But in 1986 the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCCCUSA) finally recognized the importance of the reunification of Korea in order to envision world peace and for the sake of the U.S.'s own national salvation.
The following statements are excerpts from the "Peace and the Reunification of Korea: A Policy Statement of the NCCCUSA," adopted by the Governing Board on November 6, 1986.
In a spirit of repentance, and with the desire to promote the cause of peace and reunification of Korea, the Governing Board of the NCCCUSA sets forth the following guidelines for the advocacy and action of the Council and its member communions ...
... the NCCCUSA shall continue to study the cause of conflict and division in Korea and develop concrete programs to assist in the healihg of those wounds.
... the NCCCUSA shall continue and strengthen its efforts to promote peace, justice and participatory democracy tor all Koreans as a fundamental · aspect· of reunification.
... Considering that efforts are urgently needed to reduce tension in the North East Asia region so that the Korean people may proceed to resolve their national question without undue external pressure or interference; the NCCUSA shall ... press for the negotiated withdrawal of all U.S. nuclear weapons in, and all U.S. and U.S.S.R. nuclear weapons targeted on Korea; and press for the creation of a nuclear-free zone in North East Asia ... call tor a mutually balanced reduction of the military forces of both the D.P.R.K (Democratic People's Republic of. Korea) and the R.O.K. [Republic of Korea) ... in order to enhance peace and. security and fo allow for a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces from south Korea
. . . the NCCCUSA calls upon the United State's Government to affirm formally that it is a policy goal of the United States to support the peaceful reunification of Korea
... the NCCCUSA urges the United States to extricate itself from .its commanding role in R.O.K military affairs and its dominance o_yer the political and economic life of the nation in order to achieve a climate in which productive talks could take place on the basis of mutual respect for the independence·ot the other.
... the NCCCUSA urges the United States Government to initiate negotiations. io end the war and bring about a comprehensive peace settlement in Korea as a step toward the reunification of the peninsula.
8 On Target: '88 SEOUL OLYMPICS: Showcase for Military Dictator?
The International Olympic Committee has opted for Seoul as the venue of the summer games in 1988. Fears that this decision will once more lead to political conflicts around the games are already becoming apparent.
Following the announcement from the 1.O.C., Seoul immediately went on to a frenzy propaganda of '88 Olympics and began constructions of additional subway systems, hotels, and Olympic stadium complexes. By September 1986, most Olympic sites were completed for the Asian Games; warming up of what is to come in 1988.
The '86 Asian Games were used as a temporary showpiece to channel Korean people into a state of twisted nationalism. What the government portrayed as a national celebration brought arrest of 264,000 suspected "criminals." Schools and universities were closed for the period of the Asian Games and over 1,500 families from the slums of Seoul were evicted for the sake of "national prestige." The protesting slum residents were met by police and hired thugs who beat the protesters and destroyed their homes. There were reports of murder and serious injuries of the slum rP<•rl0nts. And this was only the '88 warm-up games.
Since 1.O.C's decision, especially after the '86 Asian Games, there is a growing concern among the people of Korea. The mood of the country has intensified. Korea has a 60 billion dollar foreign debt and the people are concerned about the payment of the costly expenses. Also, the mounting pressure of political and societal conflicts in Korea is another big concern.
Already most of profitable businesses have been contracted by the U.S. corporations including the right of televising the games byN BC. South Korea has to endure all the expenses of providing facilities and the U.S. and Japan will make a profit from the '88 Olympics.
However, the most important factor to realize is that the '88 Olympic will be a vehicle for the Chun regime's positive image-making, just as the '16 Olympic was for Hitler. For the sake of "stabilization and order" the Chun regime has severely cracked down on the opposition movement. At presentonly one and half years before -the Games-political repression and systematic human rights violations have dramatically increased.
On the other hand, north Korea has now suggested either joint-sp0nsorship or sponsoring 5 or 6 games in the North. The joint-sponsorship has been flatly refused by the South, but they agreed that a few games might be held in the North.
This negotiation is still in process. The IOC has been encouraging the South to accept the North's proposal in considering the tense military situation in the Korean peninsula. The IOC is willing to be flexible in their regulation of having the games in one city to ease the possible confrontative sit•Jation during the games.
This move can also be used to refurbish the image for the Olympicsrestoring its original intend-becoming "the games of peace."
9 Movements in the U S
9.1 The Great Peace March and Korean Participants
The Great Peace March started from Los Angeles, California on March 1, 1986 arriving in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 1986. The purpose of the march was to dispel the sense of hopelessness surrounding global peace issues. Hundreds of people walked through the Mojave Desert, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains to talk with the American people about Nuclear Disarmament.
By marching, the part1c1pants hoped that their efforts could generate ripples across the surface of the world to inspire many people, groups and even governments to embrace each other and work together for the common goal of global peace.
A young Korean, Kang Suhk-Kun, participated in the March across the nation. Young Koreans United of Washington, D.C., participated in the GPM Rally, then organized a reception to welcome Kang Suhk-Kun and meet concerned Koreans to discuss the nuclear threat in south Korea. The U.S. has deployed approximately 30 megatons of nuclear weapons (this is more than 2,000 time more than the bombs exploded over Hiroshima) in south Korea and the U.S. commander in 'Korea has full operational control over the nuclear weapons-which means that the U.S. may make a unilateral decision to use them without consulting Korea.
9.2 Wide Protest _Against Torture-Death Case
When the news of the torturedeath of the south Korean student Park Jong Chui reached Koreans in the U.S., immediate reaction of anger and condemnation of the south Korean government spread swiftly across the major cities where Koreans are concentrated.
Rallys were held in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and other cities. Demonstrations in front of Korean consulate buildings were held with people shouting slogans such as "Down with the murder-torture government of south Korea", "U.S. should not export torture equipment to south Korea."
Members of Young Koreans United of U.S. went on a five-day hunger strike in New York City in protest of the torture death of Park Jong Chui by the hands of south Korean officials. □
9.3 Committee for a New Korea Policy
There are numerous organizations aiding the causes of Third World nations in the U.S., but support groups in solidarity with the aspirations of the Korean people number just a few. Here we introduce the activities of these groups in order to publicize their work to the wider American audience. - Editor -
The Committee for a New Korea Policy was formed in January 1981 to protest Chun Doo Hwan's visit to the U.S. as the first foreign head of state invited by the Reagan Administration.
The Committee works in support of human rights, a reduction of military tension, and the right of Koreansnorth and south-to decide their own future without outside interference or control. The Committee's activities include popular education, legislative action, networking, documentation and information, policy oriented research and writing, workshops and seminars.
In addition, the Committee publishes pamphlet series on Korea and produces monthly radio and T.V. programs which are aired on statirrns across the country.
The Committee is a project of , 1e Albany Friends Meeting (Quakers), and the Committee must raise a substantial amount of the total budget each year. The Committee has about seventeen hundred supporters across the U.S. The Committee turns to these persons to write letters, circulate petitions, join their campaigns, and utilize their resources.
About twenty persons from the Albany area, both Quakers and nonQuakers, both Koreans and nonKoreans, make up the steering committee.
The office is located in 221 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206. For more information, call (518) 434-4037.