Liberation Day Rally for Democracy & Peaceful Reunification in Seoul
It was another wonderful day as more than 10,000 people gathered in two lanes of a city street in Seoul today for a big rally to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Korea's liberation from the imperial Japanese.
While many in the country seem satisfied with the official government patriotic show the Korean Alliance for Progressive Movement put together this beautiful rally and march that I was lucky to be invited to speak at. (See my brief talk below.)
I have been able to see several people again that I'd met on previous trips to Korea such as Young-Je Kim Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) leader who calls me brother and Eun-A Choi who I visited while she was in jail when I visited Korea in 2009. Eun-A was one of the key organizers of the events today. See her story here
After about an hour of walking the march that followed the rally was ended abruptly in the shadow of the massive Samsung building in the heart of the financial district of downtown Seoul. The police blocked us from moving any further so people sat down and completely closed the already congested intersection. The police presence was massive. (I'll post more photos as I get them.) The organizers moved the international guests out of harms way and we later heard that 3,000 of the marchers were able to break off and headed to the US Embassy where they held another rally.
I can hear the fireworks being set off from the Han River not far from my hotel as I write this. While many people are feeling the 'patriotism' of the day there are still many in this very divided country that keep the fires burning for national reconciliation and for an independent foreign and economic policy. None of that is possible as long as the US has 27,500 troops here and controls the political system.
I was very proud to be among these remarkable fighters for real freedom and true democracy on such an important day. Every time I come to Korea I become even more convinced that the folks here are the best organizers I've ever seen and their spirit of love and determination fills me with the kind of hope that people always ask me to help them find. The Korean movement reminds us that hope comes from determined struggle. Wishing and dreaming don't bring change. It comes from hard work and the willingness to build coalitions and link the issues. No one does it better.
Seoul Rally Talk
I bring you greetings from the US Solidarity Committee and the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. We recently met in Kyoto, Japan for our 23rd annual space organizing conference. We were invited to hold our meeting there by local activists in Ukawa village who are protesting the US deployment of a so-called ‘missile defense’ radar system aimed at China. The US missile defense program is a key element in Pentagon first-strike attack planning.
Today the US is encircling Russia and China with missile defense systems that would serve as the ‘shield’ after a Pentagon first-strike attack. The missile defense shield would pick off retaliatory strikes made by Russia or China giving the US a theoretical victory. The missile defense program is dangerous, expensive and highly provocative. Each year the US Space Command holds a computer war game where they simulate such a first-strike attack on Russia and China.
The Obama administration and the Pentagon are now aggressively pushing for deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea.
THAAD would help detect and track China’s nuclear missiles headed for the mainland of America. This US initiative boils down to Washington trying to squeeze one billion dollars out of South Korea’s treasury for installing a missile system that South Korea does not need – in addition to the $880 million per year that Seoul already pays for maintaining permanent US bases across South Korea.
The US and NATO are also deploying these systems near Russia’s border in Poland, Romania and Turkey as well as on board Navy warships in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas.
Both Russia and China have repeatedly warned the US and NATO that these aggressive deployments will halt any further negotiations for nuclear disarmament. Thus we clearly see the link between missile defense and a new arms race.
All of this US military mobilization is directed to one primary purpose – to ensure corporate control of diminishing natural resources around the world. The Pentagon has become the primary resource extraction service of corporate globalization. The people in the US and South Korea are not benefiting from this militarization.
As the US-NATO globalizes their war machine the peace movement must globalize our opposition to these endless war plans. We must work harder to support resistance movements in places like Okinawa, Guam and Jeju Island where they not only oppose bases but also fight to protect the environment. We must work harder to show the public how the military is the biggest polluter on the planet.
We must demand that our nation’s resources be used to deal with the coming reality of climate change – not be wasted on more war. We must demand the conversion of the war machine to peaceful production.
No missile defense!
No more US-ROK war games in Korea!
Close all US military bases in Korea!
Support peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula!