by Scott Creighton
There is currently a captivating story taking place in South Korea which is getting little to no attention from the main-stream media.
South Korea is one of the most highly neoliberalised nations on the planet that still operates under the pretense of democracy.
The so-called “Miracle on the Han River“, like the “Miracle of Chile“, was born in dictatorship. In May of ’61, the extremely young democratically elected government of the country was overthrown in a coup and the generals set themselves up to serve the ultra-rich corporate families of South Korea known as the chaebols. It’s a fascist relationship with the government serving the interests of a select few major multinational corporations and the super-rich families who own them.
By mid-1962 a young Lt. General Park took over as acting president and in 1963 he was “elected” for the first time. According to the constitution at the time, he would allowed to serve only two 8-year terms in office. He was assassinated along with several other leading members of his dictatorship in 1979 by the KCIA (yes, same thing just with the word “Korean” added to it)
Lt. General Park was Park Chung-hee and he had been a highly decorated general in the employ of the former dictator who had been overthrown in South Korea in Aug. of 1960. He had also been trained in Fort Sill in the United States in the late 50s.
Ironically, it was Park himself who created the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) and used them to suppress dissent in the country for nearly two decades. Torture, curfews, spying… it was all necessary for Park to keep control of the citizenry as they unleashed the markets upon the people of South Korea.
“Between 1961 and 1979, Park Chung Hee ruled South Korea with an iron fist. Under his reign, criticizing the government could result in a visit from the secret police, and torture was extremely widespread. Opponents had a habit of disappearing, and it’s thought that Park personally murdered high-level dissenters in his own home. With that in mind, care to guess how South Koreans view this authoritarian madman today?” List Verse
Park was removed from power in ’79 by the CIA-linked KCIA because his country was falling apart and young people and workers were rioting en masse on an almost daily basis. There simply weren’t enough torturers to keep them all in line. But Park refused to give in, refused to step down. He had remade the constitution several times by presidential decree and was then positioned to remain dictator in chief for life and he didn’t want to step aside.
On Oct. 26th, 1979 the CIA got their boys in the KCIA to kill Park and several other members of his leadership. Kim Jae-gyu was head of the KCIA at the time. He later said the US was behind the bloody coup.
“Kim had frequent meetings with Robert G. Brewster, CIA chief in Seoul, and other American diplomats. He met with United States Ambassador William Gleysteen on the day of assassination, just five hours before the shooting” PM Press
According to reports, there were two reasons for getting rid of Park:
- He refused to quit trying to acquire and nuclear weapon
- The people of South Korea were in open revolt against him
Asked about the murder, Kim said the following:
“I was such an idiot!… (I was thinking) If we’re too harsh in suppressing the demonstrators in Busan and Masan [calling for democracy], there will be a huge backlash from the people down there. But the ruling Republican Party isn’t giving President Park the right advice because it fears Cha Ji-cheol. I am going to get rid of him today.” Meng News
The evening’s events were described this way:
As the president sat down, he started lashing out at Kim Jae-gyu, his longtime confidant.
“Jae-gyu, my disappointment in you grows day by day. You are just utterly disappointing in your job. … How can you do nothing to quell the protests in Busan and Masan with all the money I have given you? What excuse do you have this time?”
Cha (Chief Presidential Security Officer Cha Ji-cheol) interrupted Park: “The situation has gotten worse due to the government’s inaction.” Meng News
Hours later, both Park and Cha would be dead at the hands of Kim. They wanted to hold onto power by crushing the dissent across the country with military might and Kim, perhaps under the direction of the State Department and the CIA, understood that it would not work and would only lead to more fury from the South Korean people and perhaps even his own personal demise.
Kim figured he could appease his Western friends and save the control they had over the country by getting rid of the problem from the top down rather than signing his own arrest (death) warrant by slaughtering thousands of civilians.. This was his solution.
The Bu-Ma Democratic Protests began on Oct. 16th on the campus of Busan University. By Oct. 26th, the dictator they opposed was dead.
That dictator just happens to have been the father of the current president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, who is facing her own mass protests and an impeachment proceeding based on very similar circumstances.
In early Dec. of 2016, 1.7 million people showed up at a protest to demand Geun-hye resign from office. It was the largest protest in South Koreas history, barely beating a protest held the week before which reportedly saw 1.5 million people demanding the same thing.
Not ones to let history be forgotten, the South Koreans held massive rallies in Busan as well.
Ironically, the preservation of history factors into this impeachment effort. Back in Oct. of last year, President Park set forth a mandate for all schools to quit using privately published textbooks of their choice in favor of some state published ones. It was reported that the state text-books glossed over the real history of her father’s dictatorship and treated the oligarch system in South Korea with kid gloves. Now that she has been impeached, her plan has been kicked to the curb. It wasn’t very popular among the South Korean people.
Various chaebols are also starting to feel the burn of this new uprising. Lee Jae-yong, Vice President of Samsung and family heir to that fortune, is being investigated for potential bribery, embezzlement and perjury charges in connection to favors granted him and his family-owned business by Geun-hye.
Arresting the chaebols for bribing and influencing South Korean politicians is like handing out assault charges at a UFC event. The message being sent to South Korean oligarchs is clear: she’s done, step away from her.
Geun-hye is waiting to see if the constitutional court upholds her impeachment. It might take half a year for them to render a verdict and folks assume she is deliberately waiting out the clock to see if she can either influence them or quell the uprising before she is forced to step down.
Frankly I wonder if that is wise considering the fate of her father.
After all, if you fail to recognize the mistakes of the past, you are doomed to repeat them.
Through it all, Busan stands as a symbol. And the South Korean people are rushing headlong back in time, straight to Busan and an opportunity to reclaim something lost so long ago.
A month ago, I watched a South Korean film called Train to Busan. It’s a zombie film with few peers in that it was openly and almost overtly a social statement more than it was an action movie.
It was quite brilliant in that regard and as I watched it, I knew it was about so much more than entertainment or zombies.
But I didn’t know the history of the reference and for that I am kind of ashamed. In ’79 I was too busy popping pimples to notice the affairs of anywhere else and since then, as my knowledge has grown regarding neoliberalism and the long, long struggle against it, unfortunately I have spent little time studying the growing protests sprouting up in South Korea.
I highly recommend the film to those interested in watching relevant art these days that goes beyond the neoliberal activism of folks like George Clooney.
Train to Busan is setting attendance records in South Korea and though Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 96 rating (out of 100) some say it’s “Snowpiercer with zombies”
Snowpiercer is also a strong anti-neoliberal film which was also produced in South Korea as well.
Without giving away the plot of the story, Train is more about empathy than zombies. And the fact that it deals with a collection of people representative of South Korean life on a run-away train rumbling through a cruel and out of control nation heading for redemption and a second chance in Busan is an unmistakable political allegory for the state of their union today.
Yes, South Korea is on a high-speed train to Busan. What they will find there, God only knows and how many will perish along the way, he wont tell. But if it’s true that the journey is often times more instructive than the destination to those seeking redemption, it seems the South Koreans have learned a lot about themselves over the past few decades and may be willing once more to put their trust in themselves and each other once again.
Let’s hope so anyway. One less neoliberalized nation in this world wouldn’t be such a bad thing when you think about it. A couple million people casting off the religion of selfishness that the Ayn Randians of the world practice cant help but advance the human condition just a little bit, don’t you think?
I wish em God speed on their trip to Busan.
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