North Korea’s Nuke Test Sparks Calls for Diplomacy over Sanctions
The United States and South Korea resorted to tough talk and shows of force in the immediate aftermath of North Korea’s most recent nuclear test, but commentary in western and South Korean media suggests more people are beginning to recognize the futility of continuing down the same path of sanctions and escalating military tensions.
North Korea conducted its fifth underground nuclear test last Friday, merely four days after it test-launched three rounds of ballistic missiles. This is the first time that North Korea conducted a missile launch and a nuclear test in the same week, and the country says it successfully managed to put a warhead on a ballistic missile. According to North Korean state media, the country’s leader Kim Jong-un directly oversaw the September 5 missile launch conducted by “the DPRK’s strategic Hwaseong artillery unit, tasked with striking the bases of the U.S. imperialist forces in the Pacific theater in the event of a contingency.”
Week 9 of THAAD Opposition – Seongju Celebrates Fall Harvest with Candlelight
Nightly candlelight vigils against THAAD deployment continue in Seongju despite attempts by the county chief and right-wing groups to undermine the protests. The Association of Seongju County Veterans Groups tried to halt the protests by applying for a permit to use the same location outside the county hall at the same times as the candlelight vigils. “Technically, the veterans groups do have a permit, but theirs is a ghost rally where no one comes out,” said a member of the Seongju Task Force to Oppose THAAD Deployment.
Without an official permit, the Task Force has had to obtain special permission from the county hall to hold the candlelight vigils in the county hall courtyard. But on September 11, the county hall abruptly denied its permission, citing “the sudden change in the security environment of the Korean peninsula after North Korea’s fifth nuclear test,” and tore down the protest banners and tents in its courtyard. Since then, the county hall has filled its courtyard with government vehicles and has stationed police and government officers there every night to block protesters from using the space.
Undeterred, the Seongju residents held their 61st candlelight vigil on September 11 outside the Seogju Cultural Center across the street from the county hall. “They’re trying to use North Korea’s nuclear test as an excuse to undermine the protest. From the residents’ perspective, it makes no sense at all,” said Lee Jae-dong, chair of the Seongju County chapter of the Korean Peasants League. County residents plan to continue the nightly candlelight protests outside the cultural center.
SOUTH KOREA NEWS
Largest Labor Strike in History to Disrupt Banks, Subways, Hospitals
South Korean trade unions plan to launch a series of coordinated strikes later this month to protest the government’s implementation of a performance-based salary and termination system. The strikes are expected to be the largest strike action in South Korean labor history:
- September 22 – Federation of Korean Public Industry Trade Unions strike
- September 23 – Korean Financial Industry Union – general strike of 10,000
- September 27 – Korean Public Service and Transportation Workers Union – 62,000, including rail and subway workers, begin indefinite strike
- September 28 – Korean Health and Medical Workers Union – general strike of 10,000
- September 29 – Federation of Korean Public Service Workers strike
A joint task force composed of public sector unions in the two major trade union federations in South Korea – the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions – announced the above schedule at a press conference earlier this month.
This will be the first time in 22 years that rail and subway workers simultaneously strike. The strikes are expected to immobilize rail and subway service across the country and disrupt bank operations as well as the delivery of government services, such as health insurance, national pension and unemployment insurance. They will also halt operations at public hospitals save emergency and essential services and interrupt public infrastructure sectors such as energy and transportation.
As part of its comprehensive labor market reform introduced last year, the Park Geunk-hye government is currently putting into implementation the performance-based salary and termination system at public institutions. Labor unions have criticized the government’s plan as it subjects public sectors workers to arbitrary performance evaluations and empowers employers to target labor leaders for termination.
Hearings on Sewol and Baek Nam-gi Expose Government Cover-up and Use of Excessive Force
Defying the government’s attempts to shut down its activities, the 4.16 Sewol Tragedy Special Investigative Commission held its third investigative hearing on September 1. The Park Geun-hye government has vowed to shut down the investigative commission on September 30, but the commission says it is determined to continue the investigation.
The Commission called on former Chief Presidential Secretary Kim Ki-chun and former National Security Director Kim Jang-soo, as well as key officers of the coast guard and the navy to testify at the hearing to determine if the Blue House’ response at the time of the tragedy was appropriate, but they all failed to appear.
“No information on where the president was during the seven hours after the tragedy, what reports she received and what orders she gave has been publicly shared,” noted Attorney Park Jong-un, who serves on the Sewol Investigative Commission.
“The Blue House refuses to release the documents related to the tragedy on the grounds that they will be designated as part of the classified presidential archives, but that is for the purpose of protecting state secrets and should be broached after the president’s term is over,” said Jeon Jin-hwan, who also serves on the Commission. “Based on their logic, no information related to the Blue House can be made public, but that violates the rights of citizens to know the truth,” he added.
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