South Korea (and U.S.) has a permanent war economy

By Bruce Gagnon,
Posted in Organizing Notes, 1 March 2024

Yesterday was the last day of my space issues speaking tour across South Korea.

I had two meetings in the afternoon before my final talk in the evening in Seoul.

The first was a meeting with two representatives from SPARK (Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea) which was formed to organize for national self-determination, peace and disarmament, and the reunification of the two East Asian Korean nations.

Meeting with SPARK reps

SPARK is now working on holding an ‘International People’s Tribunal to hold the U.S. accountable for dropping Atomic bombs’ in New York City in 2026 (date not yet set). The event aims to highlight the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 from the perspective of Korean A-bomb victims (an oppressed ethnic group) in Japan who are usually the forgotten victims. The goal of the tribunal will be to contribute to the realization of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and world, free from the threat and use of nuclear weapons.

I agreed that the Global Network would help in every way possible to make the event a success. (Let me know if your group would be interested in co-sponsoring this tribunal.)

Next on the schedule was a dinner meeting with Dr. Kang-Ho Song and other members of the organization called The Frontiers. Dr. Song was a major supporting activist in Gangjeong on Jeju Island during the long campaign to oppose the Navy base that was forced upon the 500 year old fishing/farming village by the United States. Dr. Song went to jail three times (the longest sentence was more than a year) for his non-violent protests against the base.

Meeting with members of The Frontiers (Song on right)

The Frontiers recently has become quite active supporting Japanese controlled islanders who are opposing the deployment of offensive missiles being aimed at China. They have made sailboat trips to the string of islands (including Okinawa and Taiwan) to build inter-island solidarity. In their literature The Frontiers states: ‘We sail with the hope of driving out war, military training, and bases from this sea and creating a sea of co-existence and peace where humanity and all sea creatures can live together.’

Last presentation

My last talk was attended by 55 people. I’m told that even for Seoul that is a good turnout as similar peace talks these days are lucky to draw 30 people.

It was fun to see several old friends show up who I know from my many visits to Jeju Island since 2009. The talk went well (my voice which these days occasionally gets shaky has held up throughout this trip) and there was a healthy question and answer period. 

One woman approached me after the talk and said that ‘South Korea’s economy is not good for the people, we are becoming a permanent war economy’. I responded that it is the same in the United States these days as well.

In fact just this morning I received an email that in my home state of Maine Governor Mills, U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree will participate in the unveiling of the Maine Defense Industry Alliance (MDIA) at the York County Community College (YCCC) Instructional Site in Sanford. The MDIA is a newly established non-profit coalition of Maine defense companies, state agencies, community colleges and universities, and other vocational training organizations. The partnership was created to attract and train thousands of new employees for critical jobs in Maine’s defense industrial base.

This is a perfect example of what a permanent war economy looks like. The only real jobs investment by Washington these days is going toward weapons of war. In the case of Maine, the so-called leaders want expanded Pentagon funding for more Aegis destroyers at Bath Iron Works shipyard. They also want hypersonics testing at a former US air base in the northern part of the state (Loring). And they want a rocket launch center near Acadia national park that would hoist mini-satellites for the US Space Force to help fill up Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) before China and Russia can put significant numbers of satellites there.

South Korea is now being flooded with so-called ‘missile defense’ systems. They are on-board Navy Aegis destroyers which are consistently ported on Jeju Island. They are the THAAD and PAC-3 systems deployed at several bases throughout the ROK. And the US is deploying these same ‘shields’ in Guam, Japan/Okinawa, Taiwan, Philippines, and other locations in the region.

U.S. bases in the ROK are expanding and held more than 200 days last year of US-ROK war games right along the border of North Korea.

Alternative media

As a result of my talks during this tour there are already articles and interviews by people who came to hear me speak and quickly moved to share what they learned. Here are three examples and I am told there will be more to come.

I am grateful to all those who worked so hard to put together this speaking tour. Choi Sung-Hee and her nationwide team did a fantastic job. I also owe many thanks to my excellent translator along this journey Hwang Jeong-Eun. 

People often ask me where I find hope during these dark and difficult times. I always respond by saying:

Everywhere I have traveled around this spinning satellite Earth I find special people who are working hard for peace, real justice and environmental sanity. They don’t give up. They are what gives me hope.

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