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“Overthrow the U.S. Imperialists and Liberate our Colonized Nation!” [Understanding the Pro-North Faction – I Was a Follower of Juche – #3]

May 3, 2013

Read in Korean

Lee Kwang Baek, president of Radio Free Chosun
Below is the third installment of our NK Vision column, “Understanding the Pro-North Faction – I was a Follower of Juche” (종북주의 해부하기 – 나는 주사파였다) by Lee Kwang Baek, the head of Radio Free Chosun. As in the case of Mr. Lee, many of the founders of NKnet previously had supported North Korea and its Juche ideology. This column appeared on pages 50-51 of the November 2011 issue of NK Vision magazine. Translation courtesy of NKnet intern Jenni Jung. Read Part I here or Part II here.

Warning: the following article contains graphic descriptions.

A dead body was found in a rented room in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi-do, on October 28, 1992. The body was that of Yoon Keum Ee (윤금이), a woman employed at a bar in a U.S. military camp town (기지촌). She was 26 years old. Bludgeoned to death with a bottle of coke, her face was torn and her bones were crushed. She had bled to death. A long umbrella was shoved 26cm up her anus, and the culprit had inserted the coke bottle into her vagina. Her mouth was filled with matchsticks and white detergent powder covered her body. It was a perverse and cruel crime.

“We plant the seeds of resistance when we plant anger against U.S. imperialism within our classmates.”

These words were spoken at an educational meeting by an upperclassman I respected. Whenever a USFK (United States Forces Korea) soldier committed a crime, our student movement organization tried to spread the word to the student body and stir up anger amongst the students. Young college students who had heard about the murder of Miss Yoon Keum Ee were overcome with anger. Miss Yoon was born into a dirt-poor household. She was unable to attend school, and went from restaurant to restaurant in search of a stable job, and from house to house to wash dishes and perform menial labor. Despite her hardships, she had grown into a beautiful woman. Yet before she could have her own family, she died a terrible death at the hands of a U.S. soldier in a dark and dirty room. Many students believed her death to be unmistakable evidence that Korean society had become a U.S. imperialist colony. They believed that the people of a colony would be bludgeoned and stabbed to death, raped, and suffer under the invading forces.

Even after the Keum Ee incident, USFK soldiers continued to commit heinous crimes against Korean women. A soldier did not want to pay a woman, and when the woman protested he slapped her face until she fainted, and then slit her throat with a box cutter. Another was about to head back to the military base when the woman he was with refused to let him go. He punched her solar plexus, killing her instantly. To hide the crime, he burned the bed that she had collapsed on. Another soldier punched and choked a woman to death after she refused to perform a perverse sexual act. Whenever I heard of such crimes, my hatred for the U.S. forces in Korea grew and I was determined to drive out the American imperialists and liberate my country.

150+ members of the Korean Federation of Student Councils (한총련) participated in an anti-US demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Seoul in this undated Yonhap photo.

150+ members of the Korean Federation of Student Councils (한총련) participated in an anti-US demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Seoul in this undated Yonhap photo.

Rising Hatred Against U.S. Soldiers From Reading the Books of Oh Yeon Ho

Oh Yeon Ho. These days he is widely known amongst the Korean youth as the founder of the successful online newspaper “OhmyNews” (오마이뉴스). But to student activists many years ago, he was better known as an investigative journalist who covered crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Korea. In 1989, Oh wrote “To the Son of a Colony” (식민지의 아들에게). The following year he published “Do Not Sadden Us Anymore: A 45-year History of USFK” (더 이상 우리를 슬프게 하지 말라: 발로 찾은 주한미군 45년사), a book that documents the crimes committed against Korean civilians by U.S. forces in the 45 years following Korea’s liberation from Japan.

In the book Oh claims that of the U.S. soldiers who have committed crimes, only a meager 0.2% were punished. He states that due to the humiliating and unfair ROK-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA, 한미행정협정), the Korean government has no right to investigate crimes committed by U.S. soldiers. He also argues that the unfair SOFA and the crimes of the USFK show how our society has become colonized. According to Oh, in order to take action against USFK crimes, we need to revise the SOFA. College students read his books and this fed their growing anger against U.S. imperialism and U.S. forces in Korea. These students then recommended Oh’s books to incoming freshmen that effectively passed on anger towards American troops to new generations.

However, that the USFK commits crimes does not in any way prove that Korean society is an American colony. Unfortunately, such brutal crimes do not happen solely to colonized peoples. American soldiers stationed in Europe and Japan have also committed crimes, but this does not make European countries or Japan American colonies. American soldiers have even committed crimes within their own country. Moreover, Koreans are also guilty of committing violent crimes against each other. Why, then, were some so easily persuaded that USFK brutality meant Korea was a U.S. colony?

Studying the Pro-North Struggle during Freshman Year

The goal of the pro-North movement was to liberate the nation from U.S. imperialist occupation. Students undergoing a typical set of lectures devoted to producing changes in their perceptions and bringing them into the organization would be educated about the struggles of the pro-North followers, otherwise known as the fundamental principles of liberating the nation. Generally, they would undergo this education around the summer of their freshman year at the earliest, and sometimes later on during the winter break.

At the time, a fair number of pro-North forces believed that the National Democratic Front of South Korea (NDFSK, 한국민족민주전선 or 한민전) – in reality a propaganda organization run by North Korea targeting South Koreans – was a South Korean organization focused on advancing the pro-North Korean movement. In the 1980s, NDFSK selected national liberation as a cause for struggle and named three reasons for doing so.

First, Korea is a U.S. colony. The Americans have used the U.S. military to dominate the southern half of the Korean peninsula and have used this military control to become the holder of absolute power in the country. The U.S. has re-modeled Korea’s political structure to fit their strategy for the Korean peninsula, and by tying the South Korean economy to itself, has effectively made Korea a sub-economy under a capitalist system monopolized by the U.S. As a result, Korean society has become a colony with its national sovereignty and methods of economic production dominated by the U.S. Our goals include the withdrawal of the U.S. military from South Korea, and the prohibition of nuclear weapons. This is not because American soldiers and nuclear weapons may ignite warfare, or because we are driven by nationalist feelings, but because the withdrawal of the colonizing power is essential to national liberation.

Second, Korean society cannot fundamentally change without driving out the U.S. The ousting of Syngman Rhee (이승만) and the Park Chung Hee dictatorship (유신독재), the 1980 Kwangju Uprising, the June Revolution, and the entrance of an increasing number of opposition party members in the government were all historical achievements carried out by the people. However, with every achievement, we were unable to focus the arrow of the people on the real culprit, the U.S. Thus we have been unable to claim total victory in any of these historic steps forward. Only by focusing the goals of the struggle on anti-American national liberation can we fundamentally change Korean society.

Third, the key principles behind the movement for transforming Korean society are independence, democracy, and unification. As per the fundamental duties of national liberation, we need to place the anti-American independence struggle first and add democratization and unification on top of this. The anti-American independence struggle seeks the withdrawal of the USFK and denuclearization, with the final goal of establishing an independent national government. The main task is to end the unfair treaty between the U.S. and Korea. The anti-fascist democratization movement (반파쇼민주화투쟁) aims to oust the military dictatorship, and its main goals are to end the National Security Law (국가보안법), release the prisoners of conscience (양심수), uncover and publicize the truth of the Kwangju massacre, and fight the corruption of the Fifth Republic (제5공화국). The unification struggle seeks to establish federal unification based on the three principles of independence, peace, and national unity. The most important goal for this cause is to resist attempts to make the separation of two Koreas appear as an official reality, such as establishing both North and South Korea as separate member states of the UN.

Anti-Americanism propagated by the Pro-North Faction

Changing circumstances resulted in changes to these set goals. In the anti-American independence struggle, demands for U.S. and Korean denuclearization soon became obsolete. In the anti-fascist democracy struggle, ousting the military dictatorship and revealing the truth of the Kwangju massacre, as well as fighting corruption of the Fifth Republic (Chun Doo Hwan regime) were no longer important goals. Moreover, the two Koreas’ simultaneous membership in the UN soon no longer became a cause for opposition. But the students who had once led or participated in the pro-North faction continued to try to systematically study the theories of the National Liberation Movement. The theories these students learned through such education became the basic paradigm through which they viewed society.

The deaths of Mi Sun and Hyo Soon by an American tank in 2002 led to Roh Moo Hyun’s victory during the presidential election. Concerns about mad cow disease also led to a fierce national struggle against importing U.S. beef. These kinds of reactions reflect the seeds of anti-Americanism planted by the pro-North movement. We can expect this phenomenon to continue to repeat itself for a time into the future.

Read the next column in this series:
4 – The Tuition Struggle: College Takeover

Read previous columns in this series:
1 – Learning about Gwangju at Freshmen Orientation
2 – Renouncing Capitalism for a Class-Based Worldview

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