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Jul. 23  2018
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Christian's Photo Column 

Small Victory for Korean Anti-War Protestors

As the US and UK coalition forces strove to the height of their illegal and indiscriminate imperialist war against Iraq, Korean activists protesting against the war earned a small victory against the Korean government. On 25th March, the National Assembly, which was supposed to vote on the motion to dispatch 600 military engineers and 100 medics to Iraq, decided to put off the vote until 2nd April.

Source  :  PICIS

As the US and UK coalition forces strove to the height of their illegal and indiscriminate imperialist war against Iraq, Korean activists protesting against the war earned a small victory against the Korean government. On 25th March, the National Assembly, which was supposed to vote on the motion to dispatch 600 military engineers and 100 medics to Iraq, decided to put off the vote until 2nd April. The National Assembly made the decision as about 1,000 activists, workers and students protested in and outside the National Assembly building.

Although smaller in number compared to some of the protests that have been taking place around the world, Korean activists have been staging emergency press conferences and rallies in the days leading up to the initial attack and heightening the level of protest ever since. The press conferences and rallies are being organized by "Common Action against War and for Peace" - a coalition of about 700 organizations from all around the nation, ranging from workers' and women's groups to environment and religious groups. Most of KoPA's member organizations are included. Candlelight rallies have been taking place every evening, with the number of participants growing by the minute. On Saturday 22nd March, close to 10,000 people gathered together for the first major rally since the beginning of the war. The participants gathered at Jongmyo Park in the centre of Seoul and marched towards the US Embassy, but was blocked by full-clad riot police. Candles were lit, and chants "Stop the ! War! No dispatch of troops!" echoed through Seoul.

Demonstrations continued the next day, this time in front of the National Assembly. Beginning from 24th March, the coalition of organizations began a 24-hour protest in front of the National Assembly. The proposal for the dispatch of Korean troops was scheduled to be put to vote, earlier than expected, on 25th March. The Noh Moo-Hyun government announced that the dispatch is for "national strategic interest" and for consolidation of the strained Korea-U.S. relations. Noh had sided with the anti-US demonstrations during his campaign for presidency, winning the votes of the younger generation, but recently he had been suppressing the anti-US demonstrations and arresting activists. The swift movement of the government to push through with the dispatch as soon as possible manifests the true essence of the so-called reformist Noh government. However, the fervour and the will of the protestors was just as strong, and protests continued through the evening and onto the 25th.

The parliament was scheduled to open at two o'clock. Activists were stopped from advancing towards the Assembly compound by the riot police, who brutally dragged the protestors away. There were continuous clashes with the police. Protestors fought relentlessly -climbing onto the top of police buses and fighting away the police, and chanting "No to war, no to dispatch", while taxi workers drove around the area honking their horns. Representatives of organizations and some students managed to sneak into the building, but were all dragged out. After hours of intense demonstration, the protestors heard the news that the vote was postponed to 2nd because of popular opposition.

Recent polls show that close to 80% of Koreans are against this war, while about 70% disagree to troops dispatch. Apart from a small number of parliament members who expressed disagreement to the war and the dispatch, both the Grand National Party and the Democratic Party were previously determined to endorse the government's plan to send the troops. However, in face of the widespread anti-war sentiment among the public and increasingly militant demonstrations, they decided to put off the vote and called on the president to persuade the public and quell the dissent. At this, President Noh replied that he hope the parliament will pass the bill as soon as possible.

Perhaps this struggle and the result is better to be called a temporary "ceasefire" than a "victory". Both the Grand National Party and the ruling Democratic Party have no intention of backing down on their position of supporting the imperialist war, and President Noh Moo-Hyun is all the more determined to push for the bill. However, it was a victory in the sense the government and the parliament acknowledged the strength of the resistance of the Korean people. Obviously, the government and the supporters of the dispatch will start a widespread campaign to "persuade" the public before another attempt to vote on the motion. In this sense, this small victory merely heralds a beginning of stronger resistance to the war and dispatch of Korean troops. On the 26th, thirty students climbed onto the fence of the US Embassy shouting "stop to the war!". The "Common Action against War and for Peace" is planning to start another 24-hour demonstration in front of the National Assembly from 31st March. Also, on 29th March, there will be a People's Rally hosted by the Korean People's Solidarity -a permanent coalition of people's movements. Progressive lawyers are planning to sue the Korean government at the Consitutional Court, based on the Korean Constitution that stipulates Korea shall "renounce all aggressive wars." The KCTU and FKTU issued a joint statement, announcing that workers will go on strike should the Korean government send troops to Iraq.

Seven activists -four from the Korea Iraq Peace Team and three from KCTU- returned to Korea from Jordan on 24th March, after participating in anti-war activities there. Three activists still remain in Iraq and six in Jordan. Several activists, volunteers and religious members have also recently left Korea for Iraq.

- Reported by International Solidarity Team, Korean People's Action against BIT and WTO (KoPA)


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