Organizing Notes

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....

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The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, January 13, 2023

South Korean witch-hunt mounts against Yoon’s opponents


South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol faces low approval ratings. Beset by popular protests, the right-wing administration resorts to outdated, draconian national security laws.

By K J Noh 

The Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s coordination and co-militarization with Japan in the service of the US efforts to contain China, along with its neo-liberal policies and massive labor suppression, and its general incompetence has resulted in fierce opposition by large numbers of South Korean citizens.

To date, they have taken to the streets in mass “candlelight” demonstrations 23 times, on occasion approaching a turnout of half a million according to organizers. The protests show no signs of abating.

These huge demonstrations have demanded President Yoon’s immediate resignation along with prosecution of his wife for alleged corruption. The demonstrations also express strong opposition to US militarization of the country and military exercises, demand the return of South Korean sovereignty, and charge Yoon with selling out and betraying the nation. The Yoon administration has a 24% approval rating, according to recent figures.

To counter this, the Yoon administration has been stifling and shutting down opposition to its policies with allegations that such opposition is derived from pro-Pyongyang sentiment or even alliance with North Korea.

It is currently engaged in a massive political witch-hunt of its opponents. It has arrested key top officials of the previous progressive administration, has raided the opposition party headquarters, raided opposition party candidate Lee Jae-myung’s house many times and has just subpoenaed him, acts unprecedented in South Korean constitutional history. 

It is widely feared that Yoon will try to imprison the former progressive president, Moon Jae-in, possibly for acts of commission or omission in his policy toward North Korea.

Even the South Korean military is alarmed: A former four-star general, deputy commander of the ROK/US Combined Forces Command, denounced Yoon’s administration as a “dictatorial regime” that is “suppressing freedom” – a military first.  

Republic of prosecution

President Yoon, a former chief prosecutor sometimes dubbed a “Korean J Edgar Hoover,” promised during his election campaign that he would create a “republic of prosecutors.”

Needless to say, the US backed Yoon’s candidacy: He received the blessing and endorsement of top US leaders and the US power establishment.

He was commissioned to publish an article – a public confession of the doctrine of the faith – for the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, where he detailed his hawkish concordance with US policy against China and his desire to be a global “pivot state” – a clear reference to the “pivot to Asia.” 

The Barack Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” had started the momentum for military encirclement and escalation against China; Obama’s successor Donald Trump escalated this hybrid war into the economic domain, initiating a trade and tech war against China. 


The current US president, Joe Biden, rebranded the pivot to Asia as the US Indo-Pacific Strategy and Trump’s neo-mercantilist trade war as the IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework), and has since escalated even further with full spectrum sanctions designed to destroy key Chinese industries.

Yoon’s roadmap article for Foreign Affairs was widely welcomed and lauded, celebrated as an early Christmas present in Washington, in effect the fulfillment of Biden’s wish list for its Korean-backed anti-China strategy.

After squeaking into office on the tightest of margins in South Korea’s electoral history, President Yoon has been making good on his promises to the US, shaping, sculpting, and subordinating South Korean military, economic, and foreign interests to align with US policy and goals.

To backstop what are clearly unpopular, dissent-and-hardship-generating, extreme far-right policies – and in fulfillment of his promise of creating a “republic of prosecutors” – Yoon has appointed prosecutors who were subordinate to him to the majority of top administration positions, and prosecuting his opponents without mercy.

Anyone who shows the slightest sign of opposition to his foreign or domestic policy has been put in the cross-hairs of his army of prosecutors.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Yoon has sent his prosecutorial clown car barreling straight down on the road mapped out in his FP article, with “values” attached as a hood ornament, and “democracy” attached to the bonnet as road kill. The vehicle deployed has been “rule of law,” in particular, South Korea’s national-security laws.

For example, Yoon is claiming that the recent labor strikes organized by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) “were upon orders from North Korea,” a hyperbolic claim completely denied by the organizers.

The devil in democracy

South Korea’s national-security laws are a relic of the past red-baiting military dictatorships, and are some of the most draconian in the world. They have been applied to destroy lives and livelihoods, despite their commonsense-and-human rights-contravening extremism and punitiveness.

Revised and massaged several times over the years, they are still imprinted with the core genes of their intent: a political version of the Malleus Maleficarum (a medieval guide for witch hunting) to destroy “subversive” thought and movements in the South and to squelch political opposition.

Like the Malleus, during South Korea’s military dictatorships, they were broadly written, malleable in interpretation and application, and relied heavily on confession extracted under torture. They are outdated and incompatible with any notion of a modern state, let alone South Korea’s much self-promoted  “freedom and democracy” and “respect for individual rights.”

Read the rest of this important article here

~ K J Noh is a journalist, political analyst, writer, and teacher specializing in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific region.


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