Monday, June 16, 2008

Anti-US Groups Linked to Beef Protests
» by GI Korea

It is becoming clearer and clearer the usual suspects are behind the anti-US beef protests:

The People’s Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease on Wednesday issued an ultimatum against the Lee Myung-bak administration, demanding the scrapping of the Korea-U.S. beef accord and the start of all-out renegotiations of the accord with the U.S. by June 20. “If the government decides to ignore the mandate from the people, who hold the sovereign power in this country, we will not hesitate to launch a campaign to drive President Lee Myung-bak out of office,” it said in a statement. The association has been acting as if it has been leading the candlelight vigils. (…)

A search through the association’s Internet homepage reveals that it was launched on May 6 following a proposal by the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy and another civic group called the Korea Progressive Coalition. The coalition was created in September of last year after pro-North Korean groups such as Hanchongryun, the Solidarity for the Practice of the South-North Joint Declaration and other civic groups got together. The co-chairperson of the coalition, Oh Jong-ryeol, takes center stage during news conferences or rallies protesting against U.S. beef imports, acting as if he is the head of the People’s Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease. A search through newspaper archives reveals that Oh had served as co-chair of a citizens’ movement to close down a U.S. military bombing range in Maehyang-ri in 2001. He co-chaired another citizens’ task force protesting the accidental killings of two Korean schoolgirls by a U.S. armored car in 2002, yet another citizens’ task force seeking to nullify an impeachment motion against former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, an anti-APEC movement and a group opposed to the expansion of a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek in 2005, and another movement opposed to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement in 2006. He is a professional “co-chairperson.” And it is obvious what types of groups he has co-chaired.

The people working at the association’s briefing room are mostly affiliated with the PSPD or the Korea Progressive Coalition. A PSPD official heads the association’s briefing room and he was the one who stood on the stage during a candlelight vigil on May 25 and shouted “Let’s go to Cheong Wa Dae!” The person who created the song “Article 1 of the Constitution,” a favorite at the candlelight vigils, was arrested during a spy crackdown back in 1992 for creating a song praising the late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. [Chosun Ilbo]

As you can read about here all these groups have been against Lee Myung-bak even before he took office so it should be no surprise they are the puppet masters pulling the strings behind the US beef protests now.

They are also all anti-American groups as well. For example People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) and Hanchongryun have long been an umbrella groups for the anti-US movement in Korea. The PSPD was a member of the Korean Alliance Against the Korea-U.S. FTA that even had one of their own set himself on fire outside one of the FTA meetings in Seoul long before the US beef issue ever came up.

PSPD involvement in the violent Camp Humphreys protests.

PSPD was also one of the groups against the relocation of USFK forces to Camp Humphreys:

Mr. Kim of the PSPD said, “The Roh Moo-hyun government should look back to its identity. In the past, the government said it would resolve economic polarization, but it pushed talks for a free trade agreement with the U.S. In addition, the government said it would say what it has to say in diplomacy, but it allowed the U.S. forces to move their base to Daechu-ri.”

The PSPD has been one of the leading groups trying to stop the USFK transformation and relocation to Camp Humphreys and even tried to ferment anti-American sentiment when Korean missionaries were taken hostage by the Taliban.

The PSPD in the past has also joined forces with North Korean apologists the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) which two years ago was linked to a North Korean spy ring, to attack the US-ROK alliance:

In the declaration, they demanded that the U.S. government apologize for crimes involving GIs, thoroughly investigate the massacres of Koreans during the Korean War and offer compensation. They also called for an immediate closure of the Koon-ni bombing range in Maehyang-ri, Kyonggi Province and revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the U.S. and south Korea.

The 200 figures who signed the declaration included former Deputy Prime Minister Han Wan Sang; Kang Man Gil, professor emeritus at Korea University; Kim Jong Bae, co-leader of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) and Dang Byong Ho, chief of the south Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

So it should be no surprise that PSPD is now working with the pro-Pyongyang linked KCTU to ferment anti-American sentiment over the beef issue.

Hanchongryun protesters outside Camp Casey.

Hanchongryun is an even clearer cut case of being a pro-North Korean front group. Hanchongryun used to be illegal under the National Security Law due to their financing from North Korea, but since the Korean liberal ruling parties won the presidency the group has been allowed to operate freely again. This doesn’t mean they have given up being sponsored by North Korea considering their leader makes trips to North Korea to receive the group’s marching orders. Here is what another one of the groups leaders, the student body president of Kyunghee University had to say about the group he belongs to:

But when asked about the political opinions that got him into trouble, he sounds more like a North Korean Communist affiliate than a college student in a U.S.-allied country.

“Kim Jong Il is an outstanding leader,” says Yoo. “No other country can stand up to the U.S. Only North Korea can.” (…)

“Kim is just another leader and not a despot or a dictator,” he says. “If he really is a dictator, the North Koreans wouldn’t have tolerated that and overthrown him. They’re not that brainwashed. They must see something in the system that’s right.”

So it should come as no surprise that Hanchongryun has consistently protested the US military presence in South Korea to include even attacking US soldiers.

These groups are clearly anti-US groups with pro-Pyongyang connections that are using the US beef protests to move forward their anti-US agenda. I have been saying this for some time to expect them to eventually shift the focus of the protests from US beef to an anti-USFK issue such as the Camp Humphreys relocation due to their past activities trying to stop the move. The recent hijacking of the memorial to the two girls killed in the 2002 armored vehicle accident is the first sign of these groups true intentions which has nothing to do with the safety of US beef.

During the violent protests in 2006 against the Camp Humphreys expansion, these same groups were unsuccessful in getting the general Korean public to support their cause. What will be most interesting to see is if the beef protests will be enough of a catalyst to get average Koreans to join them in their anti-USFK efforts which right now seems like a toss up at best.

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