*The text below was sent from Torbjörn Björkman, a Sweden journalist who visited South Korea from Dec. 1 to 7, 2009, thanks to introduction by Agneta Noberg who has visited South Korea last April when there was the International Conference against the Asia Pacific Missile Defense and for the End of Arms Race. Torbjörn Björkman works for the Swedish Friendship Organisation, Sweden, which has a long time history, and founded after the end of the Korean war. When the organization was set up, it was centred around the Swedish investigators who had visited the North Korea and investigated the indiscriminate U.S. bombings against the civilians during the Korean war, 1950 to 1953.
His organization publishes the magazine four times a year (In the below image, a photo of Pyeongyang, North Korea is in cover). He has also translated Bruce Gagnon’s No Gun Ri visit report in last October, 2009 in Swedish
Torbjörn Björkman has himself visited the North Korea four times before. It was his first visit to South Korea, this time and he has met the activists from various organizations to interview them (Photo below). Bruce Gagnon has also met many of them in Torbjörn Björkman’s article here, in August 2009. The emphases below are by No Base Stories of Korea.
Torbjörn Björkman says on Feb. 3, 2010
"This is a translation of the article in the weekly paper Proletären no 3 in January and Korea Information, the paper from the Swedish Friendship Organisation, Sweden. Proletären is printed in 4.000 copies. The Swedish Friendship Organisation in 400 copies. It´s nearly the same article in the two papers."
by Lena Thomsson based on the talk with Torbjörn Björkman
Click the image for larger view
North Korea gets some attention in Swedish mass media, but there have been very few reporters from Western countries to North Korea. But North Korea couldn’t exist without it’s antipole South Korea. However, no Swedish reporter gives any interest to South Korea, this big country with more than 50 millions inhabitants.
In December 2009, Torbjörn Björkman visited Seuol to learn more about South Korea.
- I made an interview with Agneta Noberg this autumn, Torbjörn Björkman says. She works with spreading information about Nato and took part in an Conference in South Korea. During the discussion with her, I got the idea to go there. Our knowledge about South Korea is very bad. We know less about South Korea, than about North Korea, despite our knowledge about North Korea comes from the imperialistic propaganda.
- My visit in Seoul turned to be quite different to what I have thought and could expect, continue Torbjörn Björkman. Many persons in organisations that I meet see South Korea as a prison.
One of them Torbjörn Björkman met in Seoul was Kim Young-je working as unification director of the KCTU, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.
- We must get human rights, Kim Young-je said. The division between North and South is one of the big problems of the humanity.
Is caught in two sentences the Korean problem, in a new way for me. The construction of the Korean peninsula in two separate stats; The Democratic Peoples Republic Korea and The Republic [of] Korea, is a product of the US Imperialism and is total undemocratic. The most of the Koreans had [chosen a] united Korea. Without to understand the US oppressing of South- and North Korea we can’t see the questions of the human rights. The US-imperialism is the problem. This is the background to that the Korean peninsula is one of the most militarized areas in the world, were the government force an expansion of the already very large military exercise areas and where US now are expanding there bases. South Korea has 40 times more military investments than North Korea. It is easy to se[se] the grotesque proportions in armaments of South Korea, one of the most armed military in Asia. One of the representatives of Veterans for Peace in Korea proclaimed that South Korea is the most dangerous country in the world. The best way to describe the Korean peninsula is to describe the US-imperialistic tyrannize over the Korean people. In South Korea, it occurs through agents in the South Korea government. Against North US all the time have trade restrictions and an alert political blockade that affect the country with brutal power.
Torbjörn Björkman knows the problem. The journey to Seoul was his first to South Korea, but he has visited North Korea several times. The people in South and North suffer hard through the 38th degree. South Koreas formal democratic freedom, have great restrictions through the National Security Act, implemented after the war and give no different political opinions any space. Any contact with North Korea and North Koreans is prohibited. Any, that break this law, can be put in prison. Under the president Kim Dae Jung, they used a smoother use of this act, but now the mode of application now is harder. The acts make the two formal resolutions between North and South unlawful. The lay make North Korea to an anti nation, a treachery state and an enemy.
- US make a mistake in the division of the Korean peninsula and the prevent of the unification, says Lee Kyeong-won from PKAR, Pan Korean Alliance for reunification of Korea, when he let Torbjörn Björkman to make his first interview after got away from prison, accused for broken the National Security Act when he visited the North Korea. Through this act the US continue to dominant the country.
2008 it was still possible to go to North Korea, but not any more. The only way to get permission is to travel in groups, for instance a sport club.
In a party organised by Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea, SPARK, Torbjörn Björkman was invited to say some worlds. He says:
- I got enthusiastic applause from the 200 gests when I told them that I love North Korea and that it’s a very nice country and nice people and that I have been in Pyongyang 4 times. I said that I worked for the united Korea and for better relations between North and South. They saw it important what I said, that I spoke positively about North Korea. I got greetings with me to give to there relatives in North, the next time when I go there. They saw it important that I spoke positively about North Korea.
- South Korea is a prison for the people, says Torbjörn Björkman, because they cannot speak free or cannot contact there relatives or friends in the North.
- The right wing in South Korea has been strong since the Japanese colonial time. In 1997 started a broad people movement that chose Kim Dae Jung to president. His ”sunshine politic” pushed North and South near to another and ended in a summit with him and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang 2000 and gave Kim Dae Jung the Nobel Peace Price this year.
The first real opening in the contacts between North and South was not in the political field, but through the sport. The trade unions that worked for unification decides to organise a football match with workers from South and North. The right wing didn’t dare to oppose it and the match accomplished in Pyongyang the 15th of August 1999.
- The South Korean workers are forbidden to speak, said Kim Young-je. We are forbidden to discuss about socialism and communism. We have censure against our thinking. We in South are prisoners. In North are 25 millions forced to isolate themselves.
- Even if South Korea has a high economical standard, we cannot speak of human rights in a country that control of the minds.
Unavoidable, a discussion about the Korean peninsula must include the question about nuclear weapons. What is the South Koreans saying in that question?
- This question is very important in South Korea, says Torbjörn Björkman. All the organisations I met had it in there program. PKAR have the nuclear weapon as the central question.
Lee Kyeong-won says:
- The central question in the Korean peninsula is the nuclear weapons. US have the nuclear umbrella in South. We must have a peace treaty, we must have collaboration between US and North Korea, but US do not want peace. That is why there will be no honest discussions.
- The SPARK started 1994 just because the nuclear question, under the first crisis about the North Korean nuclear weapons, said Oh Hye-Ran, one of the investigators in SPARK, when the meet Torbjörn Björkman in her office in central Seoul. We are fighting against the hostile politic against North Korea and we want peace and unification between North and South. We want that the South break the connections with US and that US leave the Korean peninsula. We want that the armistice will chance to a peace treaty.
In the SPARK's Office also works the peace investigator [K]o Yong-Dae. He wants to discuss the classification of weapons that started under the 90th. The weapons were divided into protection weapons and aggressive weapons, defensive and offensive, a theory that disappeared among the investigators when Nato expanded eastward.
The Korean Peninsula is a centre for develop new systems of weapon, says Yo Yong-Dae. It is important to let people know about this, to get them to understand the train of thought.
Trade unions, the peace movement and the movement for the united Korea are in different ways connected to each other. Even the trade unions have an opinion in the question of nuclear weapon.
The majority of the South Koreans be aware of that North Korea has nuclear weapons because the treat from US, says Kim Young-je. The trade unions are against nuclear weapons. They want them to be liquidated, but they are aware of that North Korea has them against the US threat.
Cheong Wook-sik from the organisation Peace Network says:
- The central question is not if North Korea are threatening with nuclear weapons, but that we have to built the Korean Peninsula as a zone without nuclear weapons and in the long run create a world without nuclear weapons.
- The militarism is central for the Korean question in south, where the government se[se] North Korea as the main enemy, he continues. Men it’s an asymmetric threat. South Koreans military investments with US support are much bigger than North Koreas. North Korea wants a peace agreement, not this armistice. However, US do not accept this. There is an unbalance in military power. South Korea-US has the initiative in the case of conventional weapon. Therefore North Korea has to built nuclear weapons and missiles.
- I cannot understand the critic against North Korea, accused in lack of democratic rights, says Cheong Wook-sik, if you at the same time accused China or South Korea in those deficits.
Torbjörn Björkman have a great memory from the journey; a protest meeting on the way to another meeting in the question for unification between South and North. The protest meeting was outside of the KCTU and was to support the ongoing streak among the railway workers. To catch the trade unions leader stood many police officers outside the building. The right wing government Lee Myung-bak sees all streaks as illegal and the trade unions leaders arrested. Björkman says:
- There is no accident occurrence that we met police officers against workers in streak when we went to a meeting about unification between North and South. The solution of two stats and the workers fight in South is a direct result of that US made South Korea to there vassal state. This is also a product of the Japanese colonial power, there fascism and there fight against the communism, that is the people influence.
In the meeting about unification, we put ourselves with enthusiasm behind a big photo with Kim Jung Il and Kim Dae Jung in the summit the year 2000.
Kim Bung Tae is a represent for Veterans for Peace in Korea. He says:
- I have a brother [in law] who is artist in North Korea. He recently got a gold medal in Beijing for his art. As South Korean, I have no possibility to meet or to get in contact with my brother [in law]. That is why I ask you, that the next time you come to Pyongyang, give my brother [in law] a greeting from me.
We let the old soldier get the last word before, we say “Good Bye”:
- I am glad to meet real friends for peace.
Lena Thomsson (* Lena Thomsson is wife of Torbjörn Björkman)
* Sent from Agneta Noberg on Wed, Feb 3, 2010
National Security Archive Update, February 2, 2010
Seeing human rights in the "proper manner"
The Reagan-Chun Summit of February 1981
For more information:
202/994-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Washington, DC, February 2, 2010 - Twenty-nine years ago today, less than two weeks after his inauguration, President Ronald Reagan rolled out the welcome mat at the White House for South Korean president and strongman Chun Doo Hwan, despite internal U.S. government concerns about Chun's poor human rights record. Over the previous year, Chun's regime had brutally suppressed the Kwangju student protests and thrown dissident leader Kim Dae Jung into prison. Nevertheless, the new administration, keen to send a strong signal of support for key anti-Communist allies, decided to reverse the previous U.S. policy of voicing public criticism of South Korean repression of its domestic opposition.
Today, the National Security Archive is posting a set of formerly classified documents that provide a revealing window into this pivotal moment in U.S.-South Korean relations. The materials include the memorandum of conversation of Reagan's meeting with Chun on February 2, 1981, Reagan's State Department briefing book, as well as White House memos and State Department cables. The records illuminate the delicate balancing act Reagan's advisers chose to follow in squaring the White House's eagerness to reinvigorate the security relationship with Seoul with the need to avoid the impression of uncritical approval of Chun's repressive human rights policies.
Among other insights into the risky new policy, the documents (acquired through the Freedom of Information Act and from presidential libraries) describe:
* Secretary of State Alexander Haig's acknowledgement that Reagan's invitation to Chun "spoke louder than words" about the administration's desire to strengthen ties to South Korea.
• National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen's euphemistic take on the state of play in South Korea: "Human rights survives as a concept, but in a broadened context."
* Chun's response to Reagan's assurance about potential U.S. approaches to Pyongyang: "I take your words as a gift, and they will allow me to return home with an easy mind."
* U.S. assurances that South Korea can rely on it for supplies and technology for its nuclear power program.
Reagan's warm reception of Chun was the public side of a strategy that favored handling human rights concerns behind closed doors. In the short term, the new U.S. approach engendered deep mistrust and suspicion of the U.S. for its role in legitimizing the South Korean government. Over the longer term, the combination of public political support and private encouragement of reform yielded mixed results.
This year, the National Security Archive will publish through ProQuest a major document collection, "U.S.-Korean Relations, 1968-2000," which explores the complex history of the two countries' ties.
THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals.
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* Two videos about Gwangju
1. Kwangju Uprising - news cast (Youtuve URL)
'American news casts on the 1980 Kwangju Uprising in South Korea.'
2. Resurrection of Oppression: May, Month of Uprising (Link is HERE)
'The video informed at the PKAR (Pan-Korean Alliance for Reunification) was screened on the May 12 press interview for the release of the six arrested unification activists under the National Security Law. The press interview was participated by more than 100 people from the 80 organizations.
The video compares the current situation of the oppression by the Lee, Myung Bak government, South Korea to the oppression of the military dictatorship, in the city of Kwangju during the two weeks since May 18, 1980 when the general and soon-self-becoming President, Chun, Doo-Hwan murdered more than 2000 Kwangju citizens for cementing his regime, against the Korean people’s wish of the Democracy, called “The Spring of Seoul”, after the death of the precedent military dictatorship, Park, Jung-Hee who had been murdered by his staff months before.'