By Dae-Han Song | November 3, 2020
Greetings from the Korean Peninsula. On behalf of the International Strategy Center, I thank you for the opportunity to address your readers as we approach the November US presidential elections.
It's a tragic condemnation of the long standing US policy towards North Korea that when Trump came into office stating that he'd sit down at the table with North Korea, some of us in the Korean social movement actually harbored hopes he might offer something different from every other previous president (Republican or Democrat). Even as many of us condemned all of Trump's other policies and actions, some of us quietly hoped that (based on some calculus of political and commercial interests) he might be driven to accomplish something previous US presidents had not: a peace treaty. After all, North Korea had been pursuing peace in the Korean Peninsula for decades, and South Korea had just overthrown a president by a citizen's uprising demanding a society based on peace and justice.
Yet, as Trump's actions failed to live up to his grand statements or promises, it was only a matter of time before his former National Security Advisor John Bolton revealed the truth: Trump was swayed by the vicissitudes of short term political advantage rather than any sort of vision (even if politically self-serving) of peace in the Korean peninsula. While we weren't surprised, we couldn't but feel slightly disappointed. Yet, that is the tragedy of the Korean Peninsula. We have been divided by the United States ever since 1945 regardless of our wishes.
The South Korean government is constantly extorted by Trump to pay an ever greater share of the costs of maintaining a US offensive perimeter against China by its troop presence in South Korea under the pretext of a North Korean menace. South Korean society remains marred and misshapen by the division, with a National Security Law that still limits the freedom of expression and thought, and Korean men are forced to spend 18 months of their youth in the harsh and authoritarian military service. Even after the 2016 Candlelight Uprising transformed Korean society and paved the path towards a more progressive administration, the limits of South Korean policy towards North Korea is set by the mighty power of US Empire, not ourselves.
Unfortunately, it seems like the Democratic Party can offer nothing better than a puerile partisan response to Trump's limited diplomatic advances by reverting back to Obama's policy of strategic patience: do nothing hoping North Korea will collapse.
In moments when the future appears dim, we must find the solution not in the presidents of countries but in people that have always fought for peace and justice. Currently, as people in the United States mobilize around the economic impacts of COVID19 as well as the systematic oppression and killing of Black people, it seems a good moment to build ever greater solidarity and education between movements such as these that are building a society based on a just peace. That's why we, in the International Strategy Center, stand in solidarity with the Korea Policy Institute and put ourselves as a resource for bridging movements in Korea and abroad. When hope cannot be found, it must be built.
International Strategy Center
Dae-Han Song is a Korea Policy Institute Associate and the Policy and Research Coordinator at the International Strategy Center (goisc.org/home), an organization in Korea focused on building bridges between social movements in Korea and those abroad.