Tim Shorrock is an American researcher who will be spending May and June in South Korea working in the city of Gwangiu adding his collection of declassified documents on the 1980 uprising in the city to their archives.
|The Gwangiu uprising was a protest against the South Korean military government of the time. It was put down with the loss of many lives. Shorrock was made an honorary citizen of Gwangiu for his reports on the protest. After arriving in South Korea, Shorrock noticed the sharp contrast between American and South Korean coverage of the dispute with North Korea.|
U.S. coverage is all about the rising tensions between the U.S. and the North. The U.S. is sending an aircraft carrier group with the USS Carl Vinson to Korean waters. The US discusses the possibility of U.S. preemptive strikes against Korea. Shorrock notes that CNN broadcasts the alarming buildup of tension in South Korea where it is widely available. U.S. news media even speculate whether the U.S. will send Seals to assassinate Kim Jong-Un.
Shorrock notes that most U.S. reporting lacks any historical context of the dispute and almost all favor a confrontational approach adopted by Obama and now accentuated by Donald Trump. Bruce Cummins, professor of history at the University of Chicago noted in a recent interview with Democracy Now how North Korea keeps tabs on what is happening in Washington and engages in what it considers appropriate action. While Japanese PM Shinzo Abe was having dinner with Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un initiated a missile test as reported in U.S. media:
But what wasn’t pointed out in our media is that Abe is the grandson of Kishi Nobusuke, who was a war criminal, a Class A war criminal in World War II, according to the U.S. occupation, and had been one of the people fighting against Kim Il-sung in Manchuria in the 1930s. He was responsible for munitions production. So you have Abe, who reveres his grandfather, and Kim Jong-un, who likewise reveres his grandfather, Kim Il-sung. And, basically, 70 or 80 years of history is represented by that particular missile test. But Americans think that’s a bunch of irrelevant minutiae. They don’t realize that Japan and North Korea have terrible relations, no diplomatic relations.
U.S. news media even picks up and spreads false reports that only help to foster fear. On April 13th NBC cited "multiple senior U.S. intelligence officials" as saying that Trump was “prepared to launch a preemptive strike with conventional weapons against North Korea should officials become convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapons test.” Yet the report was repudiated by other sources and even the Trump administration repudiated it. The North Korean response was also extreme suggesting that it would attack U.S. bases in South Korea even with nuclear weapons.
Shorrock receives emails from his 93-year-old father in California and friends urging him to come home immediately. Shorrock's reply was not to worry that ordinary South Koreans are not worried.
They are to some extent worried about what Trump might do rather than Kim Jong-un whose exaggerated threats are quite familiar to South Koreans. A friend who taught engineering at a local university told Shorrock: “I’m much more worried about anything President Trump might do than the threats of war and retaliation from North Korea." Two Wall Street Journal reporters wrote from Seoul: “For many South Koreans, the concerns about the North can feel like a rite of spring, along with the rain showers or the cherry blossoms that crowds flock to see this time of year.”
Many Koreans are concerned about ensuring that their new president will end right-wing rule and that there is punishment of resigned president Park. On May 9, South Koreans will choose their next president. The two leading candidates are liberal Moon Jae-in and centrist Ahn Cheoi-soo who are far ahead of conservative Hong Jun-pyo. U.S. military officials are worried that the left opposition could win.
Moon Jae-in is calling for direct dialogue with the North, and wants renewed cooperation. This position was championed by former president Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung, the opposition leader who was president during the late 1990's and early 2000s. This contrasts with the position of Trump who claims that the era of strategic patience is over. Many Koreans approved Kim's so-called "Sunshine Policies" towards the north. While Ahn, supports the immediate deployment of the THAAD missile system unlike Moon, both candidates expressed opposition to a unilateral U.S. strike such as Trump has suggested. Both stress that South Korea should play a lead role in any dealings with North Korea. Either candidate could win the presidency as they are running neck and neck in the polls.
There are some signs that the Trump administration may be changing policy direction subtly. Vice-President Mike Pence, came to South Korea on Sunday to consult with the government. H.R. McMaster, Trump's national security advier said on ABC: “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”
The war talk coming both from Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump is a cause of concern among South Koreans. The Hankyoreh newspaper said in an editorial: “A military clash on the Korean Peninsula would have disastrous consequences not only for North and South Korea but also for all neighboring countries. That is why we will never agree with hardliners who are willing to go to war and who see war as inevitable. The brinkmanship of the U.S. and North Korea, which appear to be engaged in a battle of nerves, is tantamount to taking hostage the entire populations of North and South Korea.”
While western media almost always charge North Korea with being the cause of the failure to achieve a peace treaty and come to a political agreement, not all commentators agree as evidenced in an article in Global Research. The article points out that in the 64 years since the truce Washington has not entered direct talks with the North but depends upon putting pressure on the Chinese to get the U.S. to do what it wants. The U.S. has done everything in its power to punish North Korea including cutting the government off from foreign markets and capital, strangling its economy with crippling sanctions and installing missile systems and military bases on their doorstep. There is no similar presence of the Chinese military in North Korea. The article asks:
if a hostile nation deployed carrier strike-groups off the coast of California while conducting massive war games on the Mexican border (with the express intention of scaring the shit of people) then they might see things differently. They might see the value of having a few nuclear weapons to deter that hostile nation from doing something really stupid.
The hatred of the U.S. in North Korea comes in part from their experience in the Korean war. In the early 1950's the U.S. dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific area during World War II. Carpet bombing included 32,000 tons of napalm. It is estimated that around 20 percent of the population were killed:
Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops……Americans may have never known of the extent of the damage they caused and certainly any who did have long forgotten it but in North Korea the regime still keeps the memory alive in every citizen so that Kim Jong-un's rhetoric rings true to many North Korean citizens.