Korea: is a new war possible?
By Miguel Sorans, Izquierda Socialista (UIT-CI), Argentina.
Since a month ago mutual military threats between the government of North Korea versus South Korea and the USA grow. North Korea declared that it is in a ‘state of war’ and ready to launch missiles if attacked. Military preparations grow. What is the root of the conflict? Is it really possible for a war to start in Southeast Asia?
Few believe that it may lead to an all-out war. Beyond some of the many skirmishes that have taken place in recent years. But neither could it be dismissed completely due to the irresponsible and criminal character of the opponents. On the one hand, an old-style dictatorial Stalinist regime hated by the people, and on the other hand, US imperialism which wants to maintain its role as world policeman at all costs.
What is the origin of this conflict? The historical framework is the division of Korea into two countries, produced after the World War II and the Korean War of 1950, with the armistice of 1953, which consolidated this partition and subsequent conflicts. Now imperialism seeks to put all the onus of the danger of war in the North Korean government, taking advantage of its dictatorial and unpredictable nature. But actually it is imperialism that for years has challenged the sovereign right of North Korea to develop nuclear energy. In February, at the announcement of a new nuclear test, the UN imposed unanimously, including China’s vote, harsh economic sanctions on North Korea aimed at freezing their assets abroad. In this way China distanced itself from its North Korean ally, and joined the sanctions. At the same time, the U.S. and South Korea made joint exercises with nuclear-capable B52 and B-2 bombers. In response, the regime of Kim Jong Un announced their disregard of the 1953 armistice and launched all kinds of threats of launching missiles and possible start of war, if it was attacked militarily.
A capitalist ‘communist’ dictatorship
Of course, we revolutionary socialists do not recognize any right of imperialism and its lackeys, to challenge anyone for their sovereign decisions, since they are the first offenders in the world and developers of all kind of nuclear and mass murder weapons. So if an attack were to occur eventually, we will be on the side of North Korean people.
This does not mean to give any support to the dictatorship of the so-called Workers Party of North Korea, a one-party dictatorship that has been ruling with an iron fist for more than 60 years. A regime that continues to venerate Stalin; which has gone as far as becoming a ‘communist dynasty’ since started led by Kim il-Sung, grandfather of the current president, the young Kim Jong Un. This in turn inherited the post from his father the murderer Kim Jong-Il. It is task of the North Korean people to end this capitalist dictatorship of Stalinist ilk.
The collapse of the USSR and the process of capitalist restoration in China and the USSR have left it politically and economically isolated. This, coupled with two consecutive years of catastrophic floods in 1995 and 1996, and bureaucratic and corrupt administration, produced a severe food shortage in 1997, which resulted in a famine that left the balance of close to four million deaths.
While this was happening the ruling military-civilian bureaucracy continued with their high salaries and privileges, creating the madness of a ‘nuclear industry’. On the other hand, the country was falling apart with food shortages, permanent power cuts and an almost motionless transport for the continuous fuel shortages.
Actually this dictatorship does not have anything of communist or socialist, except the name. Because since the 1990s it has begun a course of restoration of capitalism following the example of its neighbour and advisor, China. With US$ 60-80 wages, no unions and no right to strike, foreign direct investment was authorized since 1999. So they installed in the north of the country Chinese capitalist enterprises and in the south they created a complex agreed with Hyundai, South Korean multinational, and in the rest of the country there are investments by Fiat, Siemens and capitals from Russia, Pakistan, Singapore and Thailand. These investors are turning to mining, oil, nuclear energy, electrical appliances, railways, etc. But with the ‘difficulties’ for the capitalists of power cuts and poor infrastructure (there are less than 10% of paved highways).
The most advanced plan of capitalism in North Korea is the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai, the leading South Korean multinational, which built an industrial complex in Kaesong, in a special zone 7 km from the border with South Korea. In this complex there are 123 factories employing 54,000 workers. They manufacture clothing, shoes, electronic components and watches for 48 hours per week for US$ 57.5 per month. But workers do not receive direct payment, but only a part, which is made Cuban style — via the state receiving money from the companies. In other words, exploitation is greater. To see the profit of Hyundai & Co, one should take into account that a South Korean worker receives monthly wages between US$ 2000 and US$ 3,000.
The entry of capitalism has done no more than deepen the exploitation and misery of the North Korean masses and the economic and social crisis. Thus the dictatorship lives using the ‘blackmail’ of its ‘nuclear industry’ and ‘tests’ to seek negotiations with U.S. imperialism for concessions such as massive food delivery (which happened several times under the Clinton administration) and seeking to negotiate a commercial and capitalist status like China or Vietnam.
Imperialism uses North Korea to strengthen its military presence in the region
The US has a permanent military presence since 1953, with nearly 40,000 soldiers stationed in South Korean bases, its beachhead in Southeast Asia, and they have long declared the North Korean regime as one of the ‘axis of evil’, as a ‘terrorist’ State. And they refuse, since the George W. Bush era, to reach a political and economic agreement, while they have done so with China and Vietnam.
Actually imperialism exaggerates the alleged North Korean power to have the justification to further strengthen its military presence in South Korea and throughout the region. Each North Korean ‘threat’ has served to increase its presence in troops, aircraft and ships in a key region. Furthermore, they suspect that North Korea has not the nuclear missile power that they claim, and if they use it, it would end quickly because it is a country far behind in infrastructure and industrial technology.
Obama follows the George W. Bush ‘doctrine’ of creating the ‘axis of evil’ and of having North Korea as one of his favourite scapegoats to keep using it for its own arms race. It was a minister of Bush, General Colin Powell who said, after the Gulf War, ‘I’m left without baddies. I only have Castro and Kim Il Sung’ (Quoted in book North Korea, South Korea, by John Feffer, page 10).
The revolutionary socialists, without giving any political support to the disastrous North Korean dictatorship, we demand an end to UN economic sanctions against North Korea, we reject any imperialist military attack on North Korea and we call for the immediate withdrawal of the imperialist military presence in South Korea and throughout the region.