The Republic of Korea is host to over 55 US bases. During March and April a series of joint US-ROK military exercises took place on and around the Korean peninsula, involving approximately 10,000 ROK and 12,800 US air, ground, naval and special operations forces.
A delegation from the newly-formed People’s Democracy Party of South Korea visited Britain to draw attention to opposition to these war preparation exercises and the deployment of THAAD, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, a US anti-missile system.
London CND chair, Carol Turner joined them in Trafalgar Square on 4 May, wich placards which read: ‘Stop the nuclear war exercises in South Korea’, ‘Stop THAAD deployment’, and ‘US troops out of Korea’. PDP delegations also protested in the US and Germany.
In Britain, they also visited RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire with members of Oxford CND, a communications station which processes around one third of all US military communications in Europe; and and Menwith Hill in West Yorkshire with the Campaign Against American Bases, a spy station providing the US National Security Agency with communications and intelligence across the entire northern hemisphere.PDP delegations also protested in the US and Germany.
Founded in November 2016, the PDP grew out of street protests against austerity and corruption. The party has links with South Korean trade unions and NGOs campaigning for civil rights and against austerity.
A South Korean presidential election was held on 9 May, after the impeachment and dismissal of the serving president Park Geun-hye. Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party won election with 41.08%, and he assumed office immediately.
Moon, described as a pragmatic but left-leaning liberal by the western media, represents a shift away from the conservatism of his predecessor. During his campaign, he criticised what he described as Washington’s undemocratic haste to deploy THADD in South Korea, but said only that he would ‘review’ its future if elected. He also aligned himself with President Trump, declaring the Obama administration’s strategic patience policy a failure.
It’s thought likely that Moon will reintroduce the ‘sunshine policy’ of engagement with North Korea, which was halted in 2007. As nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula rise, we await with interest the outcome of these changes.