Korea is to-day a country of 50 million people, strategically located, and a focus of interest for all the major powers. Up to 1945 the country was a plundered colony of imperial Japan, and the Japanese have rebuilt a powerful position in the southern part of Korea. 40,000 us troops under a un guise are still in South Korea, flanked by contingents from Britain, Turkey and Thailand, also under the un flag.
In South Korea the Pak Jung-hi regime has for years tried to pretend to the outside world that domestic opposition is of little account. Although it is armed with a panoply of repressive laws and is backed by the fourth largest military establishment in the world (634,000 out of a population of 32 millions), the regime has always claimed that these are needed to face an external danger, the invasion from North Korea, and not any threat from within.
This has become harder to maintain since Pak began negotiations with the dprk in August 1971. Then, in December, Pak declared a state of emergency. The grounds he gave were that an invasion from North Korea was imminent. But the negotiations went on, and barely six months later, on 4 July 1972, a joint North-South communique was issued signed on the southern side by Lee Hu-rak, the head of virulently anti-communist South Korean cia.
Whatever the long-term thinking behind Pak’s talks with the dprk, the domestic measures he has taken confirm that his major concern is to crush the domestic opposition. Immediately after the 4 July 1972 communique, Pak ordered the execution of two of the state’s most prominent political prisoners: these were a former opposition mp, and a graduate in engineering from Cambridge, England, Pak No-su, both of whom had been condemned for advocating rapprochement between North and South, a crime punishable by death under the South’s anti-communist laws. Since then two more executions have been carried out for the same offence. Arrests, torture and murder, far from decreasing with negotiations have been intensified.
The cia operated by Lee Hu-rak pervades the whole of the South. It also maintains constant, surveillance of all Koreans abroad, through south Korean embassies and through Korean karate schools which act as front organisations. All opposition must work underground, and the state of emergency and martial law have driven it into further clandestinity. That is why the document published below, although it only runs to December 1971, is extremely revealing, despite its limitations. Any scientific appraisal of the political situation in Korea would, of course, have to include serious analysis of the dprk in the North. But the text shows that socialists should extend unconditional solidarity with the workers’ and students’ opposition in South Korea, while exercising a critical and vigilant attention to the negotiations now proceeding between the dprk and rox.