The real independence is reunification
by Hwang Jeong-eun (General Secretary, ISC)
On Aug. 15th, at Seoul’s Square I participated in “Restoring Sovereignty and Realizing Peace in the Korean Peninsula: 8.15 People’s Peace Action” held in City Hall Square at the 72th Independence Day in Korea. Rain poured from morning until afternoon. Yet, 10,000 people - workers, farmers, women, the poor, students - filled the square. After the candlelight revolution brought down the conservative President Park Geun-hye, I had expected the event would be a celebration of the positive changes in inter-Korean relations and moving towards reunification.
However, the 8.15 People’s Peace Action was held amidst of mounting tension in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea twice launch tested intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in July. In response, on Aug. 5th, the UN Security Council leveled the highest level sanctions against it including prohibiting North Korea from exporting minerals and marine products and keeping other countries from accepting additional North Korean workers. Tensions ratcheted up when North Korea mentioned firing missiles near the US territory of Guam and Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” remark.
Amidst these tensions between North Korea and the U.S., instead of leading the peace process, the Moon Jae-in administration agreed to joint sanctions against North Korea with the U.S and Japan. Also Moon administration proceeded joint military training to strike North Korea’s command. In addition the government changed its position on deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense(THAAD) from securing procedural justification through environmental effects evaluation and ratification of the National Assembly to deploying four additional launch pads. Currently South Korea and the U.S are having The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills from the 21st to the 31st.
Under the summer rains in Seoul Plaza, we shouted “Withdraw Thaad!!”, “Stop Korea-US military exercises!!”, “Discard subordinate Korea-US alliance”, and “No to war.” At the end of the Peace Action, the resolution was read. It said, “Recently the US government mentioned military actions in the Korean Peninsula and Moon administration cannot depart from the previous administration’s policies such as strengthening the Korea-US alliance, unilateral aggressive policies toward North Korea. ….. The government must stop hostile policy towards North Korea as it has proved that sanctions and oppressive policies failed. Instead the government must start dialogue and negotiation to normalize relations and build peace.” It concluded, “The war games between South Korea and the US should be stopped in the face of the military crisis and the deep-rooted evils that have wanted division should be removed. Then, we need to open a path toward peaceful reunification to stop 70-years of suffering.”
After the Peace Action, we marched to the US and Japanese embassies. The original plan to form human chains around the embassies was blocked by the courts that ruled it would hurt the “international situation” and “discomfort the embassy staff”. So, people rallied in front of the US embassy demanding, “Stop the war and the Korea-US joint-military exercises” in front of the US embassy. It was impossible for people to go to the Japanese embassy since the road was blocked.
Even though the Peace Action was held amidst mounting tension in the Korean Peninsula, it was meaningful for me to shout and demand together a stop to war, withdrawal of THAAD, and a peace treaty. Among other slogans, the one that says “The real independence is reunification” hit my head as if I had realized something important. 72 years ago, we celebrated the independence from Japanese imperialists only to be occupied by the US military a few weeks later. For over a hundred years, the Korean Peninsula, and now South Korea has remained under foreign influence. We are still not independent. It is within bounds to say that we haven’t been independent yet after all these 72 years. We need to talk about North-South dialogue, a peace treaty, and a real reunification to achieve real independence. One thing is for sure it won’t simply happen by itself. We need to keep demanding them in unison not only on the Independence day but in our daily lives. It starts to talk with people around us why we need them.