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South Korea

Korea—Cradle of Conflict

 Many of those who have been fighting in Korea probably do not understand the reasons why they have been called upon to risk life and limb in this particular theatre of war; a large number probably had not even heard of that country before. It may be just as well for the interests of the great powers concerned that their workers have been kept in ignorance of the role of Korea in world affairs otherwise it might have been difficult to induce them to fight.

An Ancient Culture

South Korea: Behind the Mask

Before the first Olympic spectator had arrived in South Korea, the police had swept over sixteen thousand "criminals" — drug addicts, prostitutes, beggars and petty thieves — from the streets of the capital city. No more than a quarter were formally charged, the rest either spirited away by summary courts or detained pending further "investigations". Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of slum dwellers evicted to make way for the Olympic stadium are now living in tents. They received no compensation, but they have been invited to the rehearsals of the opening and closing ceremonies; "We want them to feel it's everybody's Olympics", said Mr Yi Dong, the city's senior planner (Guardian, 30 August).

Fighting the Tiger

Early in the morning of 26 December 1996, as South Korea slept, the ruling New Korean Party met secretly and in seven minutes passed the most draconian labour legislation the workers had encountered since the end of military rule in 1987.

When workers awoke a new labour law had been introduced which gives big business greater freedoms in sacking workers and setting working hours. A ban on the formation of two trade unions in any one workplace was introduced until the year 2002 along with the outlawing of new umbrella labour groups until the year 2000.

A new National Security Act was also introduced which gives the Korean CIA greater powers. Although ostensibly justified by the incursion of a North Korean submarine into South Korean waters last year, many workers believe the new act is meant to compliment the labour laws and will be used to crush internal dissent and re-discipline the workers with an iron fist.

The Next War?

Capitalism’s war drums are never silent. They are always pulsating in the background. At certain times they become more strident—now is one of those times.

Only the incurably naive believe that capitalism is possible without war. Warfare is as intrinsic to capitalism as are its prices, wages and profits. The subtext of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor’s, warning about the collapse of the Euro that: “Nobody should believe that another half century of peace in Europe is a given — it’s not,” (Daily Telegraph 9 November) reveals that material factors such as access to markets and resources, and the protection of trade and trade routes, rather than ideological reasons are the root causes of war.

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