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U.S.-ROK “Invincible Spirit” Naval Exercise Simulates Preemptive Strikes

On October 10, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and U.S. naval forces began a joint military exercise called “Invincible Spirit,” which will conclude on October 15. The naval drill featured the USS Ronald Reagan, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Over 50 naval vessels were deployed for this military exercise, including destroyers equipped with Aegis Combat Systems. This is the first large-scale joint naval exercise since 2010.

Anticipating another nuclear test by North Korea, the U.S. and ROK forces began to conduct the military drill on October 10, which marks the anniversary of the founding of the North’s Workers’ Party of Korea. However, there have been no reports of North Korea testing nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles this week.

The exercise included simulations of pre-emptive strikes against key sites and figures in North Korea. The two naval forces practiced long-range strikes targeting North Korea’s nuclear facilities. The military exercise also included a strategic concept known as “Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation” (KMPR), which targets North Korean leadership in Pyongyang with pre-emptive bombings. According to South Korean ministry officials, such a concept will come into play if the South Korean military detects “imminent use of nuclear weapons” by North Korea. It is unclear what the standards are for determining an “imminent use of nuclear weapons.”


Former South Korean soldier, Oh Dong-ju, suffers complications from exposure to Agent Orange

Seongju, Gimcheon, Won Buddhists Join to Denounce White House Defense of THAAD Decision

On October 9, the White House’ online petition site, We the People, posted a message in response to a petition signed by over 100,000 people urging the U.S. rescind its plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) counter-attack missile system in South Korea. To the disappointment of Seongju residents, who have been on the front lines of the fight against THAAD since their county was designated the deployment site earlier this year, the message from the White House was that the U.S. government had no intention to change its decision on the THAAD deployment.

On October 11, 500 Seongju and Gimcheon residents headed to Seoul to protest the U.S.’ response. Outside the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Seongju and Gimcheon residents directed criticism at the U.S. government for its rejection of the residents’ demands for cancellation of the THAAD deployment. Holding signs with the text “No War, No THAAD”, the residents of Gimcheon and Seongu chanted, “Yankee go home! Go away, THAAD! Come, peace!”

Following the demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy, 3,700 people came together for a peace demonstration in Seoul. It included clergy members from various religions including Won Buddhists, Buddhists, Catholics and Protestants. The action, officially called the “One Peace – Faith and Civil Society Peace Action,” featured cultural performances and prayer rituals from each of the religious groups.

During the peace demonstration, religious and civil society groups expressed a united message to the South Korean and U.S. governments as well as the general public: “ The THAAD system cannot effectively defend against [North Korean] missiles; it is for the benefit of the U.S. and not South Korea; it will only add to military tensions and increase threats of war on the Korean Peninsula.”

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Korean Truck Drivers Begin Industrial Action as Rail Strike Enters its Third Week

On October 10 at 12am, South Korean truck drivers, members of the Korean Public Services and Transport Workers’ Union Cargo Truckers Solidarity Division (KPTU-TruckSol) began a national strike against the South Korean government’s plan for deregulation of the trucking transport market. The strike began as the strike of KPTU-affiliated railway and other public institution workers went into its fourteenth day.

Considerable tension has surrounded the dispute since TruckSol announced its intention to strike at a press conference on October 5. The government, stressing concerns about the combined impact of the truck and rail actions on freight transport, has announced plans for a stern crackdown. Measures include suspension of fuel subsidies for those who participate in the strike, as well as cancellation of drivers’ licenses and criminal charges for those who participate in or instigate ‘illegal actions’ such as blocking logistics hubs.

At the beginning of the day on October 10, some 6000 police were stationed near the Busan Port and at the Inland Container Deport in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province. Only several hours after the strike began, the police swarmed protesting drivers at a rally at the Busan New Port. Three TruckSol members were arrested and two injured. Several more members were arrested later that evening.

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