Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....
- Name: Bruce K. Gagnon
- Location: Bath, Maine, United States
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Today I met with Korean activists who have been associated with the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) which the right-wing government of President Park has had banned. The UPP had six members in the National Assembly who were forced out of power. Their great crime? It’s hard to believe but essentially what the UPP did was dared to call for reunification of North and South Korea and the removal of US military bases across their occupied nation.
Under the draconian National Security Law (NSL) it is a crime to call and work for reunification and to challenge US war bases in Korea. President Park, the daughter of former brutal dictator Park Jung-Hee, is drowning the exercise of democracy in her country because Washington does not want a free flowing democracy to happen inside of this military colony that sits in such a strategic spot so close to China and Russia.
The past president Park Jung-Hee had been a Korean collaborator with the imperial Japanese during their long and nasty occupation of Korea. Following the defeat of Japan at the end of WW II the US military occupation forces in Korea put the former Japanese collaborators in charge. This created the dynamic that led to the Korean war that ultimately saw the collaborators taking control of the south (with full US backing) and the liberation forces controlling the north.
The current President Park nominated a former Minister of Justice official (who created the draconian constitution which allowed her father to be president without term limits) as Chief Presidential Secretary soon after she was elected. The Secretary then began a media oriented witch-hunt that led to the arrest of the seven members of the UPP on specious charges of ‘conspiracy of insurrection’. Ultimately the case went to the Supreme Court and the seven party members were sentenced from two to nine years in prison. The UPP was vilified in the corporate controlled media and the party was dissolved. Party workers were labeled and many now find it hard to get work due to the red baiting by the repressive government in Seoul.
I had lunch with two of the wives of now jailed UPP officials. They shared the sad story of their homes being raided by the Korean CIA (who called the media from the raided homes to ensure that cameras were rolling when computers were carted away along with nearly empty boxes giving the impression of mounds of evidence being discovered thus condemning the government critics.)
The women talked about the toll the red baiting campaign has taken on their children and their relationships with extended family, neighbors and friends. Fearing they might be labeled as ‘associates’ many friends turned away. One of the women told a story about going to the local hospital in hopes of speaking to a psychologist to help deal with the stress but the mental health professional suggested she try another hospital.
When one of the husbands arrived at the KCIA office he was told he was arrested for past work against US military bases and other social justice organizing.
The Supreme Count eventually dropped the ‘plotting for insurrection charge’ but maintained the conspiracy charges on the seven UPP activists. Religious leaders, particularly Catholics, backed the jailed UPP members. Jeju Island Catholic Bishop Kang sent a letter to Rome about the case asking for support from the Pope. When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014 members of the families were able to briefly meet with the pontiff. This religious community support helped lead to a reduction in charges and a serious reduction in the final prison sentences for the seven leaders.
I asked the women what message they would share with readers of this blog. One responded:
“My son, now 8 years old, was asked ‘What are your wishes?’ He used to say ‘I want my dad to come home as soon as possible.’ Now he says he wants reunification of Korea. Our suffering is not because of our own doing and can happen to others unless we have reunification – without reunification there will be no justice and no peace.”
The other wife said:
“My daughter is a college senior who came home and packed up and left the house as soon as school vacation started. She is now working on the Comfort Woman issue. Maintaining the peace requires everyone to help with the work and to do his or her own share. We have to link the various issues like the KIA automobile workers struggling for justice to what is happening to the UPP. It is all one struggle for justice.”
Following lunch we all moved to the entrance of March 1st Park (the day that South Korean people had their mobilization against Japanese occupation). Speeches were made in support of the seven imprisoned UPP leaders. I was asked to share some words and I talked about being moved hearing the stories of the suffering families. I stated that democracy means healthy debate, democracy means you are supposed to question authority, and that it should not be a crime to call for US military bases to be closed down and for the reunification of the Korean nation.
I was told that it is believed by many inside South Korea that the US government has to ‘approve’ anyone who wishes to become president of this beleaguered nation. Many are convinced that the current Park regime unleashed this attack on the UPP to divert attention from serious charges that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) directly interfered in the last national election that brought President Park to power.
It is clear that South Korea is essentially a client state of the US military industrial corporate complex. The jailed UPP leaders are being used to send an unambiguous message to the people of South Korea. Don’t you dare stand up and seek an independent and sovereign nation.
The UPP seven should be supported and applauded for their courage to stand up for true peace and justice.