South Korea arrests progressives

South Korea’s secret police — the hated National Intelligence Service — launched two days of raids on Aug. 28 against the United Progressive Party, a left electoral bloc with six representatives in the legislature. Ten UPP offices and homes were raided and three party officials were arrested on treason and sedition charges. Travel bans were imposed on 14 other party members.

The spy agency has leveled sensational charges against the three officials: plotting to storm armories to secure weapons, destroy oil storage and communication facilities, and assassinate unnamed figures. The NIS also charged them with praising the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north, an action which is banned by south Korea’s repressive national security law.

UPP leaders and members strongly protested the raids. On Aug. 29, a UPP leader called the charges fabricated. “It is a novel based on imagination,” said Lee Seok-ki, a UPP lawmaker, one of the six UPP members in the south Korean parliament.

“Just as they attacked opposition supporters as pro-North Korean followers during the last presidential election, they are now strangling democratic forces with treason charges,” said Lee Jung-hee, head of the UPP. (New York Times, Aug. 28)

Like many other members of the UPP, Lee is a former student activist who was imprisoned under south Korea’s anti-communist national security laws for participating in a political party that was underground during the years of military dictatorship.

Lee was referring to the smear campaign against opposition party candidates secretly conducted by the NIS in last year’s elections, which helped a right-winger, Park Geun-hye, gain the presidency. After the illegal campaign was exposed earlier this year, NIS head Won Sei-hoon was indicted for violating south Korea’s election laws.

The father of the current president was Gen. Park Chung-hee, who ruled south Korea with an iron fist for 18 years after grabbing power in a military coup in 1961. During his rule, thousands of dissidents were tortured and murdered at the hands of the NIS, most without trials of any kind.

The UPP’s platform calls for “rectifying our nation’s shameful history tainted by imperialist invasions, the national divide, military dictatorship, the tyranny and plunder of transnational monopoly capital and chaebol [south Korea’s giant family-controlled business conglomerates].”

The UPP also demands an end to the U.S. military presence in south Korea. Some 28,500 U.S. troops are still stationed there, 68 years after the Pentagon first rushed forces to southern Korea at the end of World War II. Their mission was to turn back a growing people’s revolution that was liberating the country as Japan’s colonial rule there disintegrated.

The UPP also calls for dismantling south Korea’s “subordinate alliance with the United States” and the reunification of the north and south.

This program has brought down the wrath and hatred of not only the military and corporate powers in south Korea but also their masters in Washington. The NIS, formerly known as the KCIA, serves both the U.S. CIA and the U.S. National Security Agency.

The U.S. corporate media paint the regime in south Korea as a shining example of “democracy.” With few exceptions, they have conveniently failed to mention this brutal attack on the political opposition by the secret police of this close U.S. ally.