Mass Struggle in South Korea

June 15, 2008

On June 10, over one million people participated in protests in Seoul and in other locations across South Korea.         

The protests are part of continuing candle-light demonstrations, hunger strikes, sit-ins and other mass actions that have been going on non-stop for two months.

People from all walks of life are participating, including workers, students, homemakers, and a broad range of organizations including trade unions, political, and religious organizations.

The demands of the protesters have centered around opposition to the import of beef from the United States. South Korea, once the third largest buyer of American beef, banned its import in 2003 due to safety concerns about the risk of mad cow disease. The protest began when, on April 17, the government of Lee Myung-bak went along with U.S. conditions for talks on a U.S/South Korea "free trade" deal ("Korea-U.S. FTA") and agreed to open the South Korean market to U.S. beef imports.

The protests are gaining in scope and breadth of demands raised. Protesters are putting forward demands including for the resignation of President Lee, against the repression of the demonstrators and for the release of those arrested, in opposition to privatization of the public domains and for the forced conclusion of the South Korea-U.S. FTA. The massive June 10 demonstrations linked the current struggle with commemorations of the June 1987 uprising – an historic uprising of the South Korean people against a U.S. backed military dictatorship. On June 13, protests were held in conjunction with memorial services commemorating the anniversary of the deaths of two children killed by a U.S. army vehicle on June 13, 2002.

The protests in South Korea are a direct result of U.S. imperialism's "free-market" economic policies being imposed on South Korea which only benefit the economic elites in the U.S. and South Korea at the expense of the masses of people.

In these protests, the Korean workers and people are not only fighting for their immediate right to protect the public health. They are coming forward to fight for the sovereignty and independence of the country and are putting forward a pro-social agenda which puts the human rights of the people ahead of the profits of the capitalists.

The American working class and people must support the struggle of the people of South Korea against U.S. imperialism. Their struggle is not only just, it is also waged against the same forces which oppress and exploit the workers here.