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By Indianapolis Liberation Center Staff
Ask most people in the United States why the government stations hundreds of U.S. military bases and tens of thousands of troops around the world, you’ll likely hear that it’s in order to “defend against any threat to world peace”.
But ask Wookbin Moh, a longtime activist with the Korean peace and unity movement, and he will explain how the American presence in South Korea shows this to be a lie. He will tell you that both the governments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic Of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) want to declare peace and reunite as one nation. And yet, it is the United States who signed the 1953 armistice agreement in place of South Korea, and who to this day refuses to sign a permanent peace treaty.
The Forgotten War
The Korean War is known as the “Forgotten War” in the United States, because although the war, currently in its 72nd year, continues to affect the lives of people all across the Korean peninsula, the average American knows nothing about the 3-5 million Koreans killed during the conflict, many of whom were civilians who died from starvation and lack of shelter, nor the fact that more bombs were dropped on North Korea in less than 3 years than during the entire 4-year Pacific Theater of WWII.
To commemorate the 69th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War Armistice on July 27, 1953, the Party for Socialism and Liberation held a press conference to show solidarity with the Korean people and to correct the falsehoods promoted by the U.S. government and media regarding the ongoing role of the United States military on the Korean peninsula and in Asia more generally.
Moh, who spoke at the event, emphasized that there is a significant difference between a mere armistice and a peace treaty. He said, “The [Republic of] Korea has a National Security Law, which was first put in place by the Japanese colonial governors, and which has been in place for over a hundred years.” Under that law, anyone can be imprisoned if they speak out against the war. Moh alluded to his personal experience, as his father, who had been a soldier for South Korea, was then imprisoned by the military dictatorship of South Korea when he demonstrated against the war for eight years when Moh was a middle school and high school student.
Moh, a pastor who works with United Church of Christ and a longtime resident of Indianapolis, remarks, “I announced this event a couple of weeks ago [to the Korean community in Indianapolis], however they are very afraid of the National Security Law, which is still alive in South Korea…Some Korean-Americans, when they tried to talk about this issue in Korea, even though they had American citizenship, they were arrested and kicked out [from the country]. The law is still being used today.”
“We do not view them as enemies.”
Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation delivered historical analysis to contextualize the Korean War and how it is that the Korean peace movement can be such a “lonely struggle” for its activists even today, as Derek Ford, an organizer with the PSL, put it.
Ford compared the “Forgotten” Korean War with the equally incredibly unpopular, incredibly deadly and destructive, incredibly unjust Vietnam War. While both wars were wars of U.S. aggression against the “communist threat”, Ford stated that “the main factor is that there was a massive and militant anti-war movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Millions of people took to the streets to protest the war, many fled the country or were imprisoned to avoid fighting in it. Many actions that stimulated the movement were led by military veterans of the war itself. By 1971, it was estimated that half of all enlisted troops in the US military had defected to the GI resistance movement.”
By comparison, the Korean War began at the height of the “red scare” repression in the U.S. There was no space in the country for a massive anti-war movement to put pressure on the U.S. government to sign an actual peace treaty. The repression faced by American peace activists in the 50s is identical to the repression legitimated by the South Korean government’s National Security Law from the 1950s through today. In each case, the call for peace is squashed and must resist against all odds.
In his speech, Ford recalled a delegation he led to the DPRK in 2017. When they visited the border between the two states and saw the soldiers in the south across the border, the Korean soldiers from the north said, “We do not view them as our enemies. They are our brothers.”
The Role of the United States
Today, the U.S. military garrisons 28,000 troops in South Korea, “preparing” for a threat which it has concocted itself. Riley Bove is a second-generation Korean American and member of the PSL who recently co-edited Socialist Education in Korea. Bove pointed out that the peace movement is also a movement for a united Korea, as the division into North and South is artificial, separates families which remain unable to meet under the terms of the armistice agreement, and was manufactured by Harry Truman’s “containment policy.”
The Korean people desire peace and unity, two things it can never have until the United States agrees to sign a peace treaty. In support of peace, and in solidarity with the Korean people’s popular demand, the people of the United States and Indianapolis must stand up against the unceasing calls for war from Washington and demand the recall of all troops from the hundreds of U.S. military bases worldwide.