North Korea has long been vilified and condemned by the Western press as bellicose, provocative and unpredictable.
However, to many Koreans, North Korea represents something praiseworthy: a tradition of struggle against oppression and foreign domination, rooted in the experience of a majority of Koreans dating back to the end of WWII and the period of Japanese colonial rule.
This tradition found expression in the Korean People’s Republic, a national government, created by, for, and of Koreans, that was already in place when US troops landed at Inchon in September, 1945. The new government was comprised of leftists who had won the backing of the majority, partly because they had led the struggle against Japan’s
colonial occupation, and partly because they promised relief from exploitation by landlords and capitalists.
By 1948, the peninsula was divided between a northern government led by guerrillas and activists who fought to liberate Korea from Japanese rule, and a southern government led by a US-installed anti-communists backed by conservatives tainted by collaboration with colonial oppression. Bringing this forward to today:
• Park Geun-hye, the current South Korean president, is the daughter of a former president, Park Chung-hee, who came to power in a military coup in 1961. The elder Park had served in the Japanese Imperial Army.
• Kim Il Sung, grandfather of North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong Un, was an important guerrilla leader who, unlike the collaborator Park, fought, rather than served, the Japanese.
North Korea thus represents the traditions of struggle against foreign domination, both political and economic, while the South represents the tradition of submission to and collaboration with a foreign hegemon.
North Korean troops have never fought abroad, but South Korea’s have, odiously in Vietnam, in return for infusions of mercenary lucre from the Americans, and later in Iraq.
[Excerpt of article by Stephen Gowans]