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Susan Green

Korea: Victim of the War for “Liberation”

(25 February 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. X No. 8, 25 February 1946, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Korea, small and indivisible as is its economy, still is divided into two parts – not by choice, but by compulsion. Upon “liberation” from Japan, the armies of Russia moved in and took over the land of the Koreans north of the 38th parallel, while the United States Army dittoed south of that imaginary line. General Shtikov’s military establishment is ensconced at Heijo, while some miles to the south at Seoul the American General Hodge and his forces hold sway.

The importance of Korea to the Russian and American imperialists is not that it is a country for forty years ruthlessly exploited and cruelly massacred by the Japanese imperialists, a country with a fighting people struggling for freedom and independence. To the new conquerors of Korea its importance is in its strategic position for power in the Far East.

Jutting out due south from Manchuria, Korea flanks the Sea of Japan with Nippon on the other shore and also flanks the Yellow Sea with the mainland of China to the west. A fortified Korea could undoubtedly dominate the whole region, closing in famous Port Arthur, the port of Dairen, the Chinese cities of Peiping and Tientsin, to say nothing of the Russian port of Vladivostok directly north and almost contiguous to Korea. And, of course, there are resources to be had and a market to be exploited.

The flame of rebellion burst forth in Korea after the 1945 Moscow conference of the Big Three, where the fate of the Koreans was decided as follows: military occupation to continue above and below the 38th parallel; no independence; a five-year “trusteeship” under the big powers – to “prepare” the Koreans for independence. The Koreans understood the earlier Cairo conference to have promised them independence after Japan’s defeat. They did not take the broken promise kindly, nor was their temper assuaged by assurances that they had “misunderstood” the Cairo conference or that their misunderstanding was due “to a bad translation.”

What the angry Koreans did in the north zone is locked behind the usual Russian censorship. But from the American zone came news of street fighting, of native attacks on the invading American soldiers, of Koreans in the employ of the American military government walking out and leaving officers to stoke their own furnaces, of policemen leaving their posts, of demonstrations demanding immediate recognition of a Korean provisional government. A projected general strike, however, was called off by Kim Koo, leader of the provisional government formed in exile, who yielded to pressure from General Hodge and to intimations from Secretary of State Byrnes that the trusteeship might be dropped.

However, no such thing has happened. Instead, a commission of Russians and Americans met in Seoul, and for three weeks, beginning January 16, the horse trading went on behind the scenes with no word to the public. The commission was supposed to coordinate “in administrative-economic matters.” While the meeting was in progress, there were more demonstrations against trusteeships, more demands for the removal of the 38th parallel boundary which divides southern agricultural Korea from the sources of fuel, power and manufactured goods in the north, and more proclamations for an independent Korean democratic government.

“Democracy” Under Imperialist Guns

Finally, the secrecy was broken and it was announced by the august conferees that a ten-man commission was to be set up in Seoul, composed equally of Russians and Americans but no Koreans, to start work within a month and carry out the decisions of the conference. What were the decisions of the conference? The military occupation, of course, to remain; the 38th parallel boundary to stay; between the two zones there is to be railroad, motor and water-borne transportation, as well as the exchange of mail and the establishment of radio broadcasting frequencies. But the farmers of the southern zone still fear they may not get indispensable fertilizer from the north and that the Russians may at any time cut off the power generated in the north.

The Russo-American conferees magnanimously declared that the ten-man council will consult “democratic political parties and social organizations of both north and south Korea.” At a later date there will be another meeting of the invading imperialists to establish “a provisional government of Koreans on a democratic basis” to face the task of working with “Russia and the United States for the unification of the country.”

A “democratic basis” under the guns of two imperialist vultures! “Unification of the country” torn asunder by the greed of the invaders!

It is not for this that the Korean people – starving on a standard of living only a quarter of the low level of the Japanese, trampled on and massacred – have fought for forty years. It is not for this that they have carried on unrelenting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese beginning back in 1910. It is not for this that they grew to 500,000 strong in the resistance movement against Japan during the war.

Looking soberly at the native forces active on the political scene, what are the chances of the Korean masses getting the freedom and national independence they have struggled to attain?

There are two groupings. One is around the Kim Koo provisional government formed in exile in China in 1940. This is basically of the same character as the provisional government created in Shanghai in 1919 after the gruesome purge of Korean nationalists by the Japanese. The same Dr. Rhee who was president of that provisional government is a leader in the present one. He was a close friend of Woodrow Wilson, believed in the letter’s fourteen points, and had faith in United States intervention on behalf of Korean freedom. This is referred to as the “rightist” group with the Democratic Party as the chief political element. The leaders appear to have one ear open to the demands of the masses and the other to those of Washington.

The other grouping is around the Communist Party. It refuses to have anything to do with the “rightists” – accusing them of violating the “spirit of the Moscow decision” and of being unable to form a representative government, among other things. Dr. Rhee, in turn, declares that the CP is “acting on orders from above” – which undoubtedly it is – and that it demanded a fifty per cent representation on the provisional executive committee, or else.

There have been assassinations of prominent leaders on both sides. The Russian news agency Tass has accused the American military government of inspiring demonstrations against the decisions of the Moscow conference, and MacArthur himself is supposed to have taken a hand in rebuking Tass.

From all reports, therefore, it seems that the leaders of the Kim Koo group lean toward the Americans while the CP, of course, stooges for Moscow. Koreans who align themselves behind one or the other of the invading imperialists will not lead their people to independence. They will help turn their unhappy country into a battlefield of World War III. The fight of the colonial peoples must be directed against ALL imperialists.

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Last updated: 11 August 2018