North and South Korea

Broken US promises undermine North Korean nuclear agreement

A deliberate US provocation

By Peter Symonds, 26 September 2008

The six-party agreement on the denuclearisation of North Korea is threatened with breakdown after Pyongyang took a series of steps this week to restart the plutonium reprocessing plant adjoining its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

US beef arrives in South Korea amid protests, lawsuits, and crackdowns

By Adam Haig, 8 August 2008

On July 29, 1.47 tons of US bone-in beef arrived in South Korea from New York for the first time since shipments were banned in December 2003, after the first case of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was reported in Washington state.

Japan-South Korea tension heightens over disputed islets

By John Chan, 4 August 2008

After an attempted rapprochement earlier this year, relations between South Korea and Japan have deteriorated since the Japanese government’s decision on July 14 to include its claim over the tiny Dokdo islets (known as Takeshima in Japan) into teaching guidelines for middle school teachers. The South Korean government of President Lee Myung-bak immediately reacted by stirring up Korean nationalism as a means of diverting attention from widespread opposition to his administration.

South Korean economy faces mounting problems

By John Chan, 24 July 2008

There are signs of growing economic trouble in South Korea. The country, which is currently the world’s 13th largest economy, is particularly vulnerable to the global economic turbulence. The financial shocks that began with the subprime mortgage crisis in the US loans last year, combined with global inflationary pressures, caught South Korea unprepared.

Another huge demonstration demands South Korean president’s resignation

By James Cogan, 8 July 2008

Tens of thousands of South Koreans—half a million according to organisers—defied threats of state repression and marched through Seoul on Saturday in a massive demonstration of opposition to the government of President Lee Myung-bak. The principal demand of the rally, reflected in banners, placards and chants, was “Lee Myung-bak out”.

South Korean government turns to repression to curb protests

By James Cogan, 3 July 2008

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has ordered the police to crack down on the anti-government movement that has developed since his administration’s decision to allow the resumption of US beef imports. The move is a response to fears in the Korean ruling elite that social discontent is spiralling out of control and aggravating an already unstable economic situation.

North Korea makes initial nuclear disarmament gestures

By Alex Lantier, 28 June 2008

By blowing up the cooling tower of its Yongbyon nuclear facility yesterday and publishing a report on its nuclear program on June 26, North Korea signaled its willingness to begin a nuclear disarmament program. In accepting the report, while saying it will make as few concessions to North Korea as possible, Washington is acknowledging its political and military weakness in this crucial region, while leaving itself the option of later returning to a more belligerent policy.

South Korean government tries to stem protests against US beef imports

By James Cogan, 24 June 2008

The South Korean administration of President Lee Myung-bak has announced significant concessions in order to placate mass opposition to the lifting of a ban on beef imports from the United States and broader discontent over falling living standards.

South Korean government besieged by demonstrations and strikes

By James Cogan, 14 June 2008

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak heads a government under siege, facing another week of demonstrations demanding his resignation over his decision to lift a ban on US beef imports, and a national strike by truck drivers over rising fuel prices.

South Korean government unravels in the face of mass political protests

By James Cogan, 12 June 2008

The conservative Grand National Party (GNP) administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is in disarray little more than three months after taking office. It faces popular repudiation of virtually its entire policy agenda, amid the largest anti-government demonstrations since the final days of the military dictatorship in 1987.

Credit crunch impacts on South Korea

By John Chan, 16 January 2008

The global credit crunch associated with the US subprime collapse is impacting on South Korea where incoming President Lee Myung-bak has been forced to deal with a looming credit card crisis and revise his predictions for economic growth downwards.

Right-wing candidate wins South Korean presidential poll

By Peter Symonds, 24 December 2007

For the first time in more than a decade, the candidate of the right-wing Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Myung-bak, won last week’s South Korean presidential election. Far from being a vote of confidence in the GNP, however, the outcome reflected broad hostility towards the current president Roh Moo-hyun, particularly over his pro-market policies and commitment of South Korean troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

South Korean presidential election: right-wing candidate poised to win

By John Chan, 18 December 2007

After a more than a decade of so-called “democrats”, the candidate of the right-wing Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Myung-bak, appears poised to win tomorrow’s presidential election in South Korea. The GNP is the party most closely connected to the military dictatorship that dominated the country for much of the post-World War II period until the late 1980s.

Uncertainty hangs over deal to disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities

By John Chan, 10 October 2007

Last week, there was considerable euphoria in the media about peace on the Korean Peninsula. An agreement between the US and North Korea to disable the latter’s nuclear facilities by the end of the year was finalised at six-party talks in Beijing. The deal was followed by a summit in Pyongyang between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, at which the two leaders agreed to work toward a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan ends

By John Chan, 12 September 2007

The long-drawn out saga involving 23 South Korean missionaries held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan since July 19 finally ended late last month. But the political reverberations will continue. The episode has again provoked popular opposition to the South Korean government’s support for the US “war on terror” and its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Talks over North Korea’s nuclear programs fail to make any progress

By John Chan, 31 July 2007

A second round of six-party talks over North Korea’s nuclear programs ended in Beijing on July 20 without any agreement on the next steps to be taken in implementing the broad deal reached in February. While the Bush administration is pushing Pyongyang to rapidly disable all of its nuclear facilities, North Korea is demanding economic assistance and, above all, the normalisation of relations with Washington, including a security guarantee.

North Korea announces shut down of nuclear reactor

By Peter Symonds, 29 June 2007

More than four months after the US reached an agreement with North Korea over its nuclear programs, Pyongyang announced on Monday it had finally received $25 million in funds previously frozen in the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) and would proceed to shut down its small nuclear research reactor at Yongbyon. A team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors arrived in North Korea this week to make the technical arrangements to verify the shutdown and seal the reactor and adjacent plutonium reprocessing plant.

Trains cross the Korean border for the first time in six decades

By John Chan, 23 May 2007

Two trains made short, symbolic trips across the heavily militarised border between South and North Korea last week, in what was acclaimed as a step toward reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.

Who missed the deadline on the North Korean nuclear deal?

By John Chan, 25 April 2007

The April 14 deadline for North Korea to shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors back into the country came and went. Washington has highlighted Pyongyang’s “failure” to keep its promises and pressed it to do so soon. The international media has dutifully echoed US concerns and paid scant attention to the Bush administration’s failure to keep its side of the bargain.

North Korea nuclear talks break down over funds transfer

By John Chan, 6 April 2007

North Korean delegates walked out of the last round of six-party talks, held in Beijing on March 22, after the Bush administration failed to return $25 million of frozen North Korean funds held in the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA) bank. No date has yet been set for the resumption of talks. The dispute over the funds transfer threatens to derail the deal on North Korea’s nuclear program that was negotiated in February at six-party talks with the US, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. April 14 marks the deadline for the first phase of the agreement, including the suspension of North Korea’s nuclear programs.

US-North Korean nuclear agreement: clearing the decks for Iran

By John Chan and Peter Symonds, 16 February 2007

The deal reached between the US and North Korea at six-party talks in Beijing on Tuesday has been variously described in the international media as a “landmark” and an “historic agreement”—holding out the prospect of ending more than five decades of confrontation between the two countries.

Six-party talks on North Korean nuclear program reach dead end

By John Chan, 28 December 2006

Six-party talks in Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear programs broke up on December 22 without any progress or any firm proposal to reconvene. The latest round of negotiations, which involved the US, China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and Japan, were the first since late 2005 and ended in deadlock after the US refused to budge on North Korea’s demand to lift financial sanctions.

North Korean nuclear test opens up political divisions in South Korea

By Adam Haig, 23 October 2006

North Korea’s nuclear test on October 9 has fuelled a sharp political debate in South Korea. Despite considerable US pressure, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun has indicated that his government will continue to pursue its so-called Sunshine policy aimed at ending tensions and opening up North Korea to investors. The opposition Grand National Party (GNP), however, has demanded the imposition of tough economic penalties and South Korea’s participation in the provocative US-led plans for the interception and search of North Korean ships.

US pushes through UN resolution against North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 16 October 2006

The US administration has prepared the way for an escalating confrontation with North Korea over its nuclear test last Monday, by pushing tough new sanctions against Pyongyang through the UN Security Council. After a week of US arm-twisting, China and Russia dropped their objections to Washington’s draft and joined the unanimous vote for the resolution.

Behind the UN debate on North Korea: growing Great Power rivalry

By Peter Symonds, 12 October 2006

Despite intense pressure from the Bush administration for tough sanctions against North Korea over Monday’s nuclear test, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have not yet reached any agreement.

Bush administration leads chorus of denunciations against North Korea’s nuclear test

By Peter Symonds, 10 October 2006

The Bush administration has responded to North Korea’s announcement yesterday that it had tested a nuclear device with denunciations and threats of tough new sanctions. While Pyongyang’s actions are certainly reckless and threaten to trigger a dangerous nuclear arms race in North East Asia, the chief responsibility for the current situation rests squarely with the White House, which has deliberately and provocatively heightened tensions in the region over the past five years.

Washington threatens North Korea over announced nuclear test

By Peter Symonds, 6 October 2006

The Bush administration eagerly seized on North Korea’s announcement on Tuesday of a planned nuclear test to heighten tensions in North East Asia and menace the small, impoverished state with severe consequences.

US pleased with “compromise” resolution on North Korea

By John Chan, 18 July 2006

After 11 days of diplomatic standoff following North Korea’s testing of seven missiles on July 5, a last-minute agreement in the UN Security Council resulted in the passing of resolution 1695, imposing limited sanctions on Pyongyang.

US and Japan exploit “missile crisis” to heighten tensions in North East Asia

By John Chan, 11 July 2006

With the strong backing of the Bush administration, a Japanese-drafted UN resolution on North Korea’s missile tests last week is further inflaming tensions in North East Asia.

US and Japan seize on missile tests to tighten noose around North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 6 July 2006

In a move that plays directly into the hands of the Bush administration, the North Korean regime test-fired seven missiles yesterday—six short-range rockets and its longer-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile. Washington and Tokyo immediately condemned the tests and called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council, due to meet today, to impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on Pyongyang.

North Korean “missile crisis”—another example of unbridled US militarism

By John Chan, 29 June 2006

The belligerent response in Washington to a possible North Korean missile test has provided another graphic example of the way in which militarism and the manipulation of public fears play a central role in official American politics.

The Bush administration backtracks on North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 22 September 2005

Despite Washington’s efforts to dress up the outcome as a win, the six-party agreement on North Korea’s nuclear program reached in Beijing on Monday is a significant backdown by the Bush administration. Embroiled in a deepening quagmire in Iraq and a political crisis at home over Hurricane Katrina, the White House has sought to take North Korea off the agenda, temporarily at least, by agreeing to a general statement of principles that previously it would have emphatically rejected.

Food shortages leave millions of North Koreans facing starvation

By Carol Divjak, 20 August 2005

While US officials from Bush down regularly accuse the North Korean dictatorship of “starving its people”, the protracted food shortages in the country are being aggravated by Washington and other powers and are being exploited to further their political ends on the Korean peninsula.

Six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program in deadlock

By John Chan and Peter Symonds, 13 August 2005

Six-party negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program broke up last weekend without any resolution or official communiqué. In order to avoid a complete collapse of the round, the parties—the US, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas—agreed to resume discussions in the week beginning August 29.

Bush administration intensifies pressure on North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 8 June 2005

Further signs are emerging that the US is moving toward a more aggressive stance over North Korea. While there are internal differences over timing and tactics, the Bush administration has taken a series of new steps to isolate and menace Pyongyang over its nuclear programs.

US steps up provocations against North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 3 May 2005

The Bush administration has put North Korea back on the agenda with a series of provocative statements over the last fortnight designed to heighten tensions in North East Asia.

North Korea pulls out of nuclear talks

By Peter Symonds, 14 February 2005

North Korea effectively scuttled attempts to restart six-party talks on its nuclear programs with a statement last Thursday declaring that it had “manufactured nukes for self-defence” and was suspending participation in negotiations “for an indefinite period”. No date had been set for a new round of talks involving China, Russia, Japan and South Korea, as well as the US and North Korea, but Washington had been pressing for an early resumption and a tougher line on Pyongyang.

South Korean government cracks down on public sector strike

By Carol Divjak, 24 November 2004

The South Korean government of President Roh Moo-hyun last week meted out savage repression against striking workers opposed to planned changes to the country’s labour laws in line with the demands of big business and foreign investors.

South Korea admits to carrying out secret nuclear experiments

By Peter Symonds, 6 September 2004

South Korea’s confession last week that its nuclear scientists secretly conducted experiments into uranium enrichment in 2000 has served to highlight the rank hypocrisy surrounding the Bush administration’s stance on the proliferation of so-called weapons of mass destruction.

South Korean government uses police measures against striking workers

By Terry Cook, 3 August 2004

Under pressure from international and domestic investors, it has not taken long for the government of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, whose impeachment was overturned by the Constitutional Court less than three months ago, to show its true colours.

US backflip over North Korean nuclear programs

By Peter Symonds, 28 June 2004

The latest round of six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs in Beijing last week produced what amounts to a diplomatic about-face by the Bush administration. After adamantly declaring for more than a year that it would not negotiate with Pyongyang or bow to “blackmail”, Washington put a series of proposals on the table offering North Korea economic and political incentives to dismantle its nuclear capability.

Beheading of Kim Sun-il fuels South Korean protests over troop deployment

By John Chan, 26 June 2004

The brutal beheading of 33-year-old South Korean translator, Kim Sun-il, in Iraq on Wednesday has polarised public opinion and deepened the crisis surrounding the administration of President Roh Moo-hyun. While right-wing groups have seized on the murder to promote anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, public outrage has also been directed at the government’s plans to dispatch another 3,000 South Korean troops to bolster the US-led occupation of Iraq.

South Korean court overturns presidential impeachment

By Peter Symonds, 18 May 2004

South Korea’s Constitutional Court last Friday overturned the impeachment of President Roh Moo Hyun by the country’s National Assembly in March. While the court decision was widely expected, it confirms the setback suffered by the right-wing parties that sought to oust the president. Not only has Roh been restored to office but the pro-Roh Uri Party has gained control of the National Assembly, following a voter backlash against the impeachment in general elections last month.

South Korean voters reject right-wing establishment parties

By Peter Symonds, 17 April 2004

South Korea’s general election on Thursday produced a major political upheaval. Voters gave a parliamentary majority to the Uri Party, which was formed less than six months ago, and delivered a stinging rebuff to the established parties—the right-wing Grand National Party (GNP) and the Millenium Democratic Party (MDP) of former president Kim Dae-jung.

President impeached as South Korean democracy unravels

By James Conachy, 26 March 2004

South Korea has been plunged into a constitutional crisis by the March 12 impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun. Not prepared to wait for another election, Roh’s opposition in the Grand National Party (GNP) and Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) have used their two-thirds majority in parliament to try and end his presidency just 13 months into his five-year term of office.

Standoff continues over North Korea’s nuclear programs

By James Conachy, 2 February 2004

Despite various diplomatic efforts to restart six nation talks over North Korea’s alleged nuclear weapons programs, no concrete date has been set. The Bush administration continues to reject a North Korean offer to freeze all aspects of its military and civilian nuclear projects in exchange for simultaneous US economic assistance and security guarantees. Instead, the White House has restated its ultimatum that the North dismantle its nuclear programs before the US offers anything in return.

Washington scuttles six-nation talks over North Korean nuclear crisis

By Peter Symonds, 27 December 2003

Attempts to negotiate an end to the ongoing confrontation over North Korea’s nuclear programs have effectively been scuttled by US Vice President Richard Cheney in a move that threatens to significantly raise tensions in North East Asia next year.

South Korea begins to deport migrant workers

By Terry Cook, 8 December 2003

The South Korean government has launched a vicious campaign to deport 120,000 so-called illegal migrant workers—more than half the country’s 230,000 foreign workers. Roundups by 50 specially-formed squads of immigration officials are to take place for 10 days each month up to June next year.

Thousands of workers in South Korea strike against repressive labour laws

By Terry Cook, 19 November 2003

Over 150,000 South Korean workers participated in a one-day strike and large demonstrations on November 12 to protest at the government’s repressive labor legislation. Called by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the protests involved workers from car making, metals, textile and chemicals industries across South Korea demanding the withdrawal of existing legislation and opposing a raft of new laws aimed at giving even greater powers to employers. Strikers also called for measures to protect the rights and conditions of “irregular workers” (casual labourers).

No agreement reached in Beijing over North Korea’s nuclear program

By Peter Symonds, 2 September 2003

Multilateral talks in Beijing concerning the standoff between the US and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programs broke up last Friday with no agreement. Chinese officials tried to put a positive gloss on the meeting, indicating that all parties had agreed to avoid escalating tensions and to meet again in two months time. However, no formal communiqué was issued.

A provocative step towards a US-led military blockade of North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 19 July 2003

Amid escalating tensions over North Korea, a second meeting of the 11-nation group, known as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), decided last week on a provocative new step towards setting up a military blockade of the small North East Asian country. The gathering in Australia on July 9-10 unanimously agreed on a series of joint military exercises designed to “enhance the capabilities of PSI nations to conduct actual air, ground and naval interdictions”.

US prepares military blockade against North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 20 June 2003

US Secretary of State Colin Powell signalled this week that the Bush administration intends to press ahead with plans to impose what amounts to a military blockade of North Korea—an action that threatens to plunge North East Asia into war.

US rejects North Korean proposals for defusing confrontation

By Peter Symonds, 5 May 2003

The Bush administration last week dismissed out-of-hand North Korean proposals to end months of tensions over the country’s nuclear program. Washington’s position sets the stage for a sharpening confrontation as US officials threaten to impose tough new economic sanctions on North Korea—a move that Pyongyang has declared it would consider an act of war.

Pentagon sabre-rattling prior to US-North Korean talks in Beijing

By Peter Symonds, 23 April 2003

“Provocative,” “reckless” and “irrational” are words commonly used in the international media to describe the actions of the North Korean regime and to vilify its leader Kim Jong Il. But as senior US, Chinese and North Korean officials prepare to meet today in Beijing for three days of talks, the terms apply more appropriately to the menacing stance of Bush administration, which threatens to plunge the Korean peninsula into war if its demands for the dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear programs are not met.

US boosts capacity to launch air strikes on North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 18 March 2003

Even as the US prepares to launch an all-out invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration has sharply raised the military stakes on the Korean peninsula by significantly bolstering its ability to launch air strikes on North Korea.

Inadequate safety planning produces South Korean subway disaster

By our correspondent in Seoul, 24 February 2003

On the morning of February 18, a fire in the subway in the South Korean city of Daegu rapidly turned into one of the world’s worst subway disasters. The official death toll currently stands at 133 but the figure could rapidly rise as 385 people are still missing. Another 145 were injured, some seriously.

Washington prepares to tighten the economic noose around North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 18 February 2003

Even as it is preparing to launch war against Iraq, the Bush administration is planning a series of provocative new steps designed to heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Bush threatens military action against North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 8 February 2003

With tensions rapidly spiralling out of control on the Korean peninsula, US President Bush added further fuel to the fire yesterday by bluntly warning North Korea that, while the US was seeking a diplomatic solution, “all options are on the table, of course.” Bush previously insisted that Washington had no plans to attack or invade North Korea. Now a military strike is firmly on the agenda.

Blair blurts out the US agenda on North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 3 February 2003

As it prepares to invade Iraq, the White House has been insisting for weeks that the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program will be resolved diplomatically without any resort to military measures. Last week, however, British Prime Minister Tony Blair let the cat out of the bag—after Iraq, North Korea is next.

Pyongyang reacts to US threats by withdrawing from non-proliferation treaty

By Peter Symonds, 16 January 2003

Despite all its talk of a diplomatic solution to tensions on the Korean peninsula, the Bush administration’s aggressive stance towards North Korea is rapidly leading to a full-blown confrontation. Faced with the prospect of deepening economic isolation and future US military action, Pyongyang last Friday announced that it intended to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty—a move that frees its hand to restart its nuclear facilities.

Bush sets course for confrontation with North Korea

By Peter Symonds, 30 December 2002

The Bush administration is preparing to escalate the current standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program into a full-blown confrontation, with reckless indifference to the potentially disastrous consequences for the Korean peninsula and the entire region.

South Korean election reveals deep-seated hostility to Washington

By Peter Symonds, 21 December 2002

The results of the presidential election on December 19 has confirmed a growing resentment in South Korea over Washington’s aggressive stance toward North Korea and fears of military conflict on the peninsula.

South Korean election dominated by debate over US alliance

By Peter Symonds, 19 December 2002

South Koreans cast their vote today in a presidential poll that has been dominated by growing public antagonism toward Washington. While debate has focused on the presence of 37,000 US troops in South Korea, there are clearly broader concerns about Bush administration’s aggressive foreign policies, in particular, its belligerent stance on North Korea and the dangers of war.

US uses nuclear revelations to raise tensions on Korean peninsula

By Peter Symonds, 31 October 2002

Less than a fortnight ago, the Bush administration announced that North Korea had admitted, during bilateral talks in early October, to having established a uranium enrichment program in breach of international agreements. In the midst of preparations to invade Iraq for allegedly possessing “weapons of mass destruction,” the US response to Pyongyang’s confession has been decidedly muted. Bush officials announced that diplomatic, rather than military, means will be used to pressure North Korea to abandon the project.

Pyongyang summit: North Korean prostration answered with more Japanese demands

By James Conachy, 1 October 2002

The September 17 summit between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang marks a significant step in the reassertion of Japan as a political and military power in Asia. Exploiting the desperation and political bankruptcy of North Korea’s Stalinist regime, Koizumi demanded and received Kim’s submission to a series of provocative demands from both Washington and Tokyo.

Noose tightens around North Korea following Yellow Sea naval battle

By James Conachy, 11 July 2002

The short but bloody naval battle on June 29 between North and South Korean warships in the Yellow Sea has been utilised by the Bush administration and the South Korean government to intensify the diplomatic and economic isolation of North Korea. Washington has cancelled a diplomatic visit to Pyongyang this month—the first official talks scheduled since Bush’s installation—on the grounds that the incident was an “armed provocation” by North Korea, which “had created an unacceptable atmosphere in which to conduct the talks”.

US-backed groups push North Korean asylum bids in China

By James Conachy, 24 June 2002

In the past three months, at least 10 groups of North Koreans have been secreted through northern China to make high-profile bids for political asylum at embassies and diplomatic missions in Beijing and Shenyang. The largest group was in March, when 25 North Koreans rushed into the Spanish embassy. This month 26 people have made it into South Korean or Canadian facilities and were allowed to leave China on Sunday. The most recent incident was on June 13. A teenager successfully entered the South Korean consulate, while his father was seized by Chinese security guards.

South Korean unions scuttle power workers strike

By Terry Cook, 6 April 2002

Power union leaders in South Korea endorsed a deal brokered by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) with the Kim Dae-jung government this week and directed more than 5,000 striking workers at Korea Power Electrical Corp (KEPCO) to end all industrial action. The power workers walked out on February 25 to oppose government plans to privatise five KEPCO thermal generating plants and remained on strike for 38 days defying government repression and dismissal threats.

War danger grows on Korean peninsula

By James Conachy, 27 March 2002

Tensions between the US and North Korea are at their worst since 1994, when the Clinton administration threatened military strikes if Pyongyang did not shut down its nuclear power plants. On January 29, Bush included North Korea in his “axis of evil” and made further accusations during his February East Asia visit that it possessed “weapons of mass destruction”. This month, in response to the leaked Pentagon report proposing the use of nuclear weapons in a war on the Korean peninsula, North Korea issued threats of its own.

South Korean president threatens to sack striking power workers

By Terry Cook, 25 March 2002

Striking power workers in South Korea last weekend rejected a government ultimatum directing them to return to work by 9am today or face dismissal. The return-to-work order is part of further harsh measures announced by President Kim Dae-jung at a cabinet meeting last Tuesday aimed at crushing the protracted strike by more than 5,000 workers.

Unions isolate striking South Korean power workers

By Terry Cook, 9 March 2002

Power workers at five thermal-generating subsidiaries of the Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) have been left isolated by the peak trade union bodies as the administration of President Kim Dae-jung intensifies its crackdown against their two-week strike.

Bush’s "evil axis" speech destabilises the Korean peninsula

By James Conachy, 15 February 2002

The threat of US military action against North Korea implicit in George Bush’s State of the Union address has cast a pall over the South Korean government’s “sunshine policy” of rapprochement with Pyongyang and revived fears of another conflagration on the Korean peninsula. Along with Iran and Iraq, the US president labelled North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” that would be targetted as part of his “global war on terrorism”.

US steps up pressure on North Korea

By James Conachy, 30 November 2001

Before the war on Afghanistan is even over, the Bush administration is already naming other potential targets for American aggression. While the most publicised have been Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, the past weeks have also seen veiled threats against North Korea.

North Korea seeks rapprochement with South and the US

By James Conachy, 28 September 2001

Amid the war preparations of the United States, South and North Korea held their first ministerial level meetings for six months from September 16 to 18. The talks were marked by the eagerness of North Korea to cement closer ties. After the chill in relations between the two Koreas for most of the year, South Korean Assistant Minister for Unification Rhee Bong Jo noted: “There was a complete change in the overall atmosphere.” Agreements were reached to resume work on a number of stalled economic projects and to hold further meetings in October.

A dismal anniversary of the Korean summit

By Peter Symonds, 21 June 2001

A year ago the first-ever summit meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea in Pyongyang was greeted with euphoria in official circles and the media. Editorials waxed lyrical on the prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula. Business delegations trooped off to North Korea to examine the potential advantages of the country’s cheap labour and authoritarian rule. And South Korean President Kim Dae Jung was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing about the rapprochement.

South Korean unions rapidly shut down national strike campaign

By a correspondent, 18 June 2001

Bowing to government threats and pressure from the media, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) has effectively ended most industrial action just days after launching an indefinite strike campaign on June 12 for a 12 percent wage rise and improved conditions.

South Korean government faces backlash over police violence against Daewoo workers

By James Conachy, 21 April 2001

The South Korean government of President Kim Dae-jung has been significantly shaken over the last week by protests and other expressions of outrage over a brutal police attack on 350 laid-off Daewoo autoworkers outside the main Pupyong assembly plant in Incheon city on April 10.

Bush administration ratchets up tensions on the Korean peninsula

By Peter Symonds, 6 April 2001

At present international media attention is focused on the standoff between Washington and Beijing over the fate of the US spy plane grounded on Hainan Island. But just to the north, on the Korean peninsula, Bush's aggressive and ad hoc foreign policy has already forced a major cabinet reshuffle in the South and threatens to rapidly escalate tensions with the North.

South Korean president boasts to US investors of crackdown on Daewoo workers

By Terry Cook, 17 March 2001

For months now, Daewoo Motors workers in South Korea have been involved in a bitter struggle against layoffs and possible plant closures. The administration of President Kim Dae-jung has repeatedly mobilised thousands of heavily armed police against protests and demonstrations in order to push ahead with his plans to sell-off the financially-crippled Daewoo, the country's third ranking carmaker.

South Korean government orders massive police assault on Daewoo workers

By a correspondent, 24 February 2001

The South Korean government this week launched a full-scale attack on workers at the Daewoo Motor Co., aimed at breaking resistance to mass layoffs and clearing the way for the sale of the bankrupt vehicle maker.

China pushes North Korea to accelerate free market policies

By James Conachy, 6 February 2001

Following a visit to China last month by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, there are signs that Pyongyang is preparing to accelerate its free market reforms. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on January 31 that a congress of the ruling North Korean Workers Party—the first in 21 years—will be held this year to officially launch a “reform and opening” agenda modeled on the free market policies implemented by Beijing since 1979.

Unions call off strike

South Korean police storm bank workers' occupation

By Luciano Fernandez, 30 December 2000

South Korean union leaders called off a week-long strike by employees of the Kookmin and Housing & Commercial banks on December 28, the day after 8,000 riot police stormed a training centre being occupied by the workers in Ilsan, just north of Seoul.

IMF presses for more job destruction in South Korea

By Joe Lopez, 8 December 2000

Despite an estimated annual economic growth rate of 9 percent for this year, the South Korean economy is far from healthy. Consumer demand is set to fall or remain stagnant, corporate bankruptcies will continue and social unrest is growing as a result of the job destruction flowing from the “restructure” of the corporate and public sectors.

South Korean union agrees to implement mass layoffs at Daewoo

By Terry Cook, 2 December 2000

In a complete about face, South Korea's Daewoo Motor Company labour union dropped its campaign against job cuts and agreed on November 27 to accept the mass layoffs demanded by management, the government and the Inchon District Court.

Daewoo collapse to have global consequences

By Joe Lopez, 18 November 2000

The collapse of Daewoo Motor, South Korea's largest ever corporate failure, was the catalyst for a rally in the capital Seoul last week, involving 20,000 workers, protesting the impending mass layoffs.

Corruption scandal points to South Korea's continuing economic instability

By Luciano Fernandez, 9 November 2000

The administration of South Korean President Kim Dae Jung is currently embroiled in a corruption scandal that is symptomatic both of the country's fragile economy and of divisions in the ruling elite over the direction of economy policy.

The Nobel Peace Prize and Korea's Kim Dae-jung

By James Conachy, 3 November 2000

Behind the rhetoric surrounding last month's award of the Nobel Peace Prize to 75-year-old South Korean President Kim Dae-jung is an elementary truth: The prize is consistently given to figures who have been instrumental in effecting strategic shifts in conflict-torn parts of the world that serve the interests of the major capitalist powers and corporations.

The Korean summit: no recipe for peace and prosperity

By James Conachy, 27 July 2000

The inter-Korea summit held in Pyongyang on June 14-15 marked a key shift in the Cold War relations that have dominated the divided peninsula for more than 50 years. Leaders of North and South Korea—countries still technically at war—met for the first time and signed a five-point accord aimed at the restoration of economic and political ties and the eventual reunification of Korea.

US magazine seeks to undermine accounts of Korean War massacre

By Shannon Jones, 30 May 2000

An article published in the May 22 edition of US News & World Report attempts to cast doubt on assertions, backed by substantial evidence, that US soldiers killed hundreds of civilians trapped under a railroad bridge during the first months of the Korean War. The massacre took place over three days beginning July 26, 1950 at a place called No Gun Ri, when members of the 1st Cavalry division's 7th regiment fired on a group of refugees.

South Korean poll dominated by a disgruntled and alienated electorate

By Luciano Fernandez and Peter Symonds, 13 April 2000

South Koreans go to the polls today to decide on the composition of the next parliament. The short campaign was notable only for the lack of fundamental differences between the major parties and for the dissatisfaction and distrust expressed by voters. According to recent polls, up to 40 percent of voters were undecided over whom to vote for.

Citizen group campaign throws South Korean elections into chaos

By Luciano Fernandez, 23 February 2000

An alliance of nearly 500 citizens groups has thrown national elections in South Korea into turmoil after publishing last month for the first time a “black list” of 164 politicians. These groups described those on the list as "corrupt, lazy and incompetent" and "unfit" to be in office.

Diplomatic scramble by Japan, US to open up North Korea

By James Conachy, 31 December 1999

Over the last four months, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at lifting trade embargoes and opening up the isolated and economically crippled state of North Korea to foreign investment and international trade. The latest initiative has been a series of meetings between Japanese and North Korean Red Cross representatives and government observers from December 19 to 21 in Beijing.

Signs of political instability as South Korean government prepares for next year's election

By Peter Symonds, 18 December 1999

Recent defeats in two local by-elections, a confrontation with the trade unions, an ongoing corruption scandal and continuing uncertainty in the financial and banking sector have left the South Korean government headed by President Kim Dae Jung in an increasingly precarious position as it prepares for national parliamentary elections next April.

Survivors of Korean War massacre by US soldiers seek investigation

By Esther Galen, 17 November 1999

Four survivors of a US Army massacre during the Korean War are visiting the United States to press their demands for a full investigation into killing of hundreds of refugees, mostly women, children and old men, which took place July 26-29, 1950, three weeks after the war began.

Daewoo collapse threatens further financial crisis in South Korea

By Luciano Fernandez and Peter Symonds, 8 October 1999

Fearing a major financial crisis, the South Korean government of President Kim Dae Jung announced a package on Monday aimed at stabilising the country's investment trust industry, which has been thrown into turmoil by the failure of the Daewoo group.

Typhoon compounds North Korean food shortages

By Amanda Hitchcock, 21 August 1999

The typhoon that struck the Korean peninsula earlier this month has compounded chronic food shortages in North Korea, which has been afflicted by widespread famine over the last five years. The rain broke the drought, which was affecting this year's harvest, but only created new problems. Even before the full force of the typhoon hit the country, torrential rains left more than 40,000 hectares of farmland submerged. The typhoon itself killed 42 people and left nearly 40,000 homeless.

Arrest of workers continues as

South Korean president releases rival's wealthy son

By Terry Cook, 19 August 1999

Despite widespread public opposition, South Korea's President Kim Dae Jung used his presidential powers last weekend to pardon Kim Hyun Chul, the convicted son of the country's former president Kim Young Sam, who left office at the end of 1997.

US, Japan exert sharp pressure on North Korea over possible missile test

By Peter Symonds, 11 August 1999

Sharp pressures are being exerted on North Korea by the US, Japan and South Korea to abandon any plans for a test firing of its long-range Taepodong II missile. Even though such a missile launch breaches no international treaties or any of the US-brokered agreements with North Korea, both the Clinton administration and the Japanese government have warned of “serious consequences” if the test proceeds.

South Korea's economic recovery—a recovery for whom?

By Terry Cook, 17 July 1999

According to recent reports, South Korea's economy is on the road to recovery. The Bank of Korea issued a statement last week predicting 6.8 percent economic growth with one percent inflation this year.

Officials arrested for shoddy construction

Youth centre fire in South Korea claims 23 lives

By Terry Cook, 6 July 1999

Six local council officials have been taken into police custody in the wake of the fire in South Korea that tore through the Sealand Youth Training Centre last Wednesday. The police have also arrested and charged the centre's owner Park Jae Chon.