Report by Wol-san Liem, Director of international and Korean Peninsula affairs, KCTU-Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union (KPTU)
After a hassle with cancelled flights, a US Labor Against the War delegation arrived in Seoul May 1. They will spend a week in Korea showing solidarity for Korean workers and peace-loving people’s fight for peace and unification and to imprisoned labor leaders and discussing steps for collective action to end US militarism in East Asia with their Korean counter parts. On Tuesday, they participated in the Korean Confederation of Trade Union’s (KCTU) International Workers Day (May Day) rally and march. Korean workers are welcoming the improvement in North-South relations following the inter-Korea summit on April 27. They are calling for a peace treaty and other real measures to ensure a lasting peace ahead of the U.S.-North Korean summit. They are also clear that they want the new era of peace to be accompanied by greater rights and equality for workers and ordinary people. To this end the May Day rally focused on the KCTU’s demands for reform of the chaebol-centered economic system, eradication of precarious work, and amendment of the Constitution and labour law to expand workers’ rights. The rally also highlighted the labor movement’s work for peace and unification, including exchange with North Korean workers, and efforts to bring the #MeToo movement to the workplace.
Report by Jason Roe, member of the U.S. Labor Against the War Solidarity Delegation to Korea
Standing in front of the US Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, workers from Korea and the United States of America held a joint press conference demanding the US end its interventionist policies and work toward a path to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Among their demands is that the US military stop the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system in South Korea, an extension of Cold War era policies. Speakers were affiliated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and a delegation of American workers, students, and organizers lead by US Labor Against the War (USLAW).
American and Korean Workers Call for Peace in Korea
Posted by U.S. Labor Against the War on Thursday, May 3, 2018
(Video Source: U.S. Labor Against the War)
“As a grandchild of someone who fought in the Korean War, I understand my role in what we’ve done to your country,” said Elandria Williams of People’s Hub.
“We are calling on the US government to rise up to this occasion and opportunity for peace and end its historic role in the world as a force for evil, oppression, and colonization,” said Aaron Goggans, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
“It is an opportunity for the people in the United States to discuss our own transition from a military economy and towards a peaceful, just, and sustainable economy,” said Michael Leon Guerrero, Executive Director of Labor Network for Sustainability.
The May 3rd event comes days after the April 27th Inter-Korean Summit where South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Jong-un met. This was the first meeting of Korean heads of state on the divided peninsula in 11 years. US foreign policy has an integral role in achieving a lasting peace in Korea.
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KOREAN CONFEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS UNIFICATION COMMITTEE (KCTU) AND U.S. LABOR AGAINST THE WAR SOLIDARITY DELEGATION TO KOREA
11AM, May 3, 2018 in front of the U.S. Embassy, Seoul
American and Korea Workers Welcome the Panmunjom Declaration, Call for Lasting Peace on the Korean Peninsula, and an End to U.S. Militarism in East Asia
A delegation of 20 unionist and community activists representing the U.S. Labor Against the War coalition has been visiting South Korea since May 1. They have participated in the International Workers’ Day Rally, showed support to the residents of Soseongri and Gimcheon in their fight for the removal of the THAAD missile defense system and discussed means to build a collective fight for demilitarization of U.S. foreign policy and peace on the Korean Peninsula, with Korean workers. USLAW supports the self-determination of people around the world and opposes U.S. intervention in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Korea. USLAW opposes the militarization of police as a contributor to the intensification of international and domestic racism.
The delegation has come at an unprecedented time in Korean and world history. On April 27 the leaders of South and North Korea walked back and forth across the Military Demarcation Line while holding hands and solemnly declared before South and North Korean society and the whole world that, “There will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula.”
Through the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula, they committed to dramatically improve South-North relations through exchange and cooperation, pursue trilateral or quadrilateral meetings toward the declaration of the end of the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty, and work together towards full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the establishment of a peace regime on the Peninsula with the help of the international community.
Korean and American workers come together to welcome this historic declaration. We understand the inter-Korean summit as having opening up space for Korean workers and common people to determine their own future, and for workers and peace-loving people in Korea and the U.S. to broaden our struggle against U.S. militarism in the East Asian region.
Korean and American workers alike suffer from the United States government’s aggressive foreign policy.
In Korea, U.S. intervention led to the division of the peninsula and millions of deaths during the Korean War (1950 – 1953). The United States hostile policy towards North Korea, including the threat of nuclear pre-emptive strike, and President Donald Trump’s threats and hostile outburst have contributed to a vicious cycle of distrust and escalating tensions with North Korea, which brought us to the brink of war only a few months ago. Korean workers have had to deal with the economic and political instability created by this crisis for 70 years.
For American workers, U.S militarism abroad means billions of dollars are diverted away from investment in addressing domestic problems including decaying infrastructure, unprecedented economic inequality, and limited access to basic public services. Furthermore, U.S. foreign policy has primarily benefited the interests of multi-national corporations while pitting American workers against their natural allies – working people and poor people around the world. For this reason, US Labor Against the War has been fighting for the demilitarization of the U.S. foreign policy and economy.
The Inter-Korean Summit signals a new page in Korean and world history.
North Korea has made significant promises and already taken real steps towards full denuclearization and the two Koreas are moving to de-escalation of tensions. It is time now for equal steps on the part of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. First and foremost, we call on the U.S. and South Korean military to stop the operation of the THAAD unit in Soseongi and construction on the site immediately, and to make a plan for removing the THAAD entirely from Korea.
The U.S. and South Korean authorities should also suspend further joint military exercises as a measure to build trust and support the dialogue process. In the upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit, the United States must be ready to commit to withdrawing its policy of pre-emptive strike against North Korea and other hostile policies, sign a peace treaty, lift sanctions and normalize relations.
American workers recognize that Korean workers and the Korean people must lead the process towards Korean peace and unification. U.S. workers are inspired by the effort of our brothers and sister workers in South and North Korea to build bridges through exchange and cooperation and we pledge to find ways to practically support their leadership.
Korean workers support the struggle of U.S workers against the Trump administration’s aggression throughout the Middle East, West Africa, and Asia, increase in the military budget and attacks on democracy in the U.S. We know that their fight will help us travel the path towards peace in Korea and East Asia.
We commit to working together to build Korean workers’ leadership in the process towards peace and unification in Korea, and to build a collective struggle against militarism in East Asia.
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU)
U.S. Labor Against The War Solidarity Delegation to Korea