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Socialist Democracy April - May 2003 | Index





In his state of union speech in January 2002 aftermath the 11th September terrorist attacks in US, President Bush specifically mentioned as part of an 'axis of evil' three countries-Iran, Iraq and North Korea and vowed to take military action against any state acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Consequently, US directed Saddam Hussein through UN resolution 1441 Kim Jong-il of North Korea to drop his nuclear programme or face the music on the other hand. Iraq allowed in UN weapon inspectors and so far, no hard evidence has been given by the Hans Blix led weapon inspectors for possessing weapons for man destruction. North Korea however admitted the allegation and threaten to speed up its nuclear programme except the US fulfils its framework agreement and enters into serious negotiations. It also sent packing UN weapon inspectors and deactivated cameras and electronic gadgets they have fixed since 1994 and threatened to withdraw from the Non-proliferation treaty which commits it not to develop nuclear weapon.

The questions on the lips of every keen follower of international relations, especially as it relates to the US and British - led imperialist war against Iraqi for "possession of weapons of mass destruction" despite the fact that there are no concrete proofs to justify it combined with the unprecedented magnitude of international protests and demonstrations against war with Iraq are: why has same imperialism, especially US, resulted to diplomacy with North Korea that does not only admit possessing these weapons but has threatened to speed up its production? Why the double standard? What does this double standard portend for world politics especially in the East Asia region?




North Korea is a political economy modelled after the bureaucratically planned economies of the former Soviet Union and countries of Eastern Europe. It has also been far more isolated and rigid than its other Stalinist variants. It is also being ruled by a hereditary dictator, Kim Jong-il who took over from his father in 1994. The regime is ideologically monolithic and ruled by totalitarian method with over 200,000 political prisoners in labour camps. It has about a million troops mostly stationed within 30 miles north of Seoul with conventional weapons, tanks, artillery, missiles, military aircraft and warship all this has continued to constitute a massive burden on the economy. The point however is that North Korea could within a short notice wreck a heavy havoc on South Korea in form of retaliation in event of an attack from US imperialism.

In the aftermath of the 1950-53 Korean war, the conventional military bombardment of the north which was the most industrialised in the Korean peninsular left it with massive infrastructural destruction. Just like other bureaucratic ex-Stalinist countries, its industrial output has been steadily falling resulting from its obsolete and bureaucratic planning apparatus. This unpalatable situation is compounded by the lack of foreign investment majorly due to default on many of its debts to European and Japanese banks which scares away potential foreign investors on one hand and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 which used to supply N/Korea subsided oil, fertilisers and machinery on the other hand. Again, 1995-96 floods of the 'bread basket' areas also worsen the situation with its attendant famine and starvation leading to death of hundreds of thousands and fleeing of refugees to North East China. This famine has forced Kim Jong-il administration to allow private farmers' market to spring up with the expected higher prices for their products.

Faced with these gargantuan economic crises and an imminent collapse, North Korea in 1993-94 resulted to nuclear weapons programme development with the purpose of blackmailing US for a non-aggression pact, recognition of its sovereignty and most importantly, economic assistance due to the collapse of the Soviet Union especially when it (US) refused to enter into a peace treaty to formerly end the 1950-53 Korean war.




In return for North Korea suspending its nuclear programme, the US in October 1994, negotiated an "agreed framework" to provide economic assistance in form of oil, food and construction of two "light water"

reactors for electricity generation and a promise of "full normalisation of political and economic relations" with it.

Before reaching this agreement, US imperialism had calculated the socio-economic and political cost of a nuclear conflict with N/Korea and felt that it would be too high and that a peace pact with it would be more sensible. For instance, it was estimated that the US would need about $100 billion for a full-scale war in the peninsular with about one million dead including 100,000 Americans. Over $1 trillion will be the cost of destruction and economic dislocation apart from the unpleasant repercussion of a nuclear conflict for humanity.

But Clinton administration, under a severe pressure from the Republican dominated Congress, reneged on the 1994 "agreed framework". Apart from providing oil, other promises were thrown into dustbin with a calculation that the North Korea, faced with imminent economic collapse, would be forced to a unilateral military concession even without US deliverance. However, this was a great miscalculation! To pressurise US into negotiation, North Korea resumed its missile testing in 1998, firing some over Japan with the intention to market the products to countries like Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, etc. on one hand and pressurising US imperialism to negotiation on the other hand.




But the US has currently adopted "diplomatic" approach for certain strategic reasons. For one, two regional wars (in the Middle East and Korean peninsular) will bring an unwholesome pressure on the US economy that is already receding and consequently, a negative effect on the world economy.

Secondly, there is a rising opposition to the role of US imperialism in Korea. In actual fact, Roh Moo-hyun, a candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) won the South Korea presidential election last December on a wave of anti-American feeling. Apart from this general mass resentment especially against the 37,000 US troops (who are not binded by South Korean legal code) stationed in South Korea since the end of 1950-53 Korean war that costs South Korea government between $3 billion to $4 billion annually, there is a general feeling that S/Korea will be the first target of the N/Korea if the latter is attacked by the US.

In addition, the South Korean bourgeois ruling class is afraid of mass movement of refugee from the North, which would have a devastating effect on the already strained south economy. South Korean capitalists are therefore generally agreed to a gradual process towards the reunification and integration of Korea on the capitalist basis and exploiting the cheap labour of the north. If North Korea succeeds on this, other countries in the region will take a note and this may be horrific for the region and world peace.

Combinations of all these factors have forced the US imperialism to take a diplomatic approach towards North Korean issue with a likely view to slug it out with it but not after it has finished up the Iraq war. To US, Iraq takes priority.

Thus, as against capitalist gradual process of reunifying both North and South Korea, the anti-American feelings should be turned against imperialism to reconstruct the Korea on a socialist plane. South Korean working class should not rely on a seemingly "labour friendly" Mr. Roy, it should take the bull by the horn. Only the working class unity of both countries with a centrally planed economy under its democratic control and management of the two countries resources for decent living and economic condition can peace and tranquility be permanently be in the peninsula.





Socialist Democracy April - May 2003 | Index