NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 61 (July 2, 2009) |
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)
N. Korea Steps Up Anti-U.S. Propaganda on Korean War Anniversary
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea observed the 59th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War in different ways, with Pyongyang vowing to take revenge a thousand-fold if provoked while Seoul condemned the North's continued provocations and bellicosity. Particularly, North Korea ratcheted up its anti-U.S. propaganda in rallies and media reports on June 25 to coincide with the war anniversary, escalating already high tensions with Washington after its recent nuclear test.
A mass rally was held at Kimilsung Square in Pyongyang on June 25 with party, military, government officials together with more than 100,000 citizens attending. The mass outdoor rally was held first time in three years, a reflection of the aggravated situation on the Korean Peninsula. Previously, in 2007 and last year, the North scaled down the anniversary and held the main event at Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium following the improving relations with the U.S.
At the mass rally this time, speakers and representatives from various groups condemned the U.S. as "the provoker of the war of aggression, for perpetuating the most barbarous atrocities of genocide and destruction in the world history of wars."
Mass rallies were also held in major cities in North and South Pyongyan provinces, Jagang Province and elsewhere around the country on June 25 and 26, drawing local party officials and heads of other power organizations.
On the eve of the anniversary, North Korea accused the U.S. of trying to incite a second war against it and said there can be no peace on the peninsula as long as Washington maintains its "hostile" policy. "More than half a century has passed since the Korean War, but the Korean people still have vivid memories of the crimes of the U.S. imperialists who provoked the war," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Citing U.S. data on troops and military equipment dispatched to South Korea in 1949 shortly before the war, the KCNA claimed the conflict was initiated by the U.S., driven by its "ambition for world domination." North Korea initiated the war after the U.S. and the Soviet Union divided the Korean Peninsula after the end of World War II.
The anniversary also comes amid heightened cross-border tension following North Korea's second nuclear test in late May. The U.N. Security Council recently passed a new resolution condemning the test, imposing an overall arms embargo and tougher financial sanctions than those under previous resolutions in 2006.
The North Korean media claimed that new U.N. sanctions over the country's May 25 nuclear test are part of a U.S. scheme to incite a second Korean war. "This is another ugly product of the U.S.-led international offensive aimed to disarm and economically stifle our republic so as to rupture the ideology and system that the Korean people has chosen," the KCNA said.
North Korea's state media reported various anecdotes of civilian massacres the North accuses U.S. soldiers of committing. Students and farmers held various rallies to "vow revenge," they said.
Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper published by the Workers' Party and the main government mouthpiece, said a recent U.S. pledge to provide nuclear protection for South Korea is evidence of Washington's hostile policy toward the North. U.S. President Barack Obama promised "extended deterrence" for South Korea during his summit with President Lee Myung-bak on June 16.
The paper added that as long as the U.S. maintains "its hostile policy and isolate-and-stifle maneuver against our republic, solid peace on the Korean Peninsula can never be achieved." The U.S. has provided a so-called nuclear umbrella to South Korea since the war ended with an armistice. The fragile truce was never replaced by a peace treaty, leaving the Koreas in a technical state of war.
A lecture hall in the North's border town of Kaesong, the site of a troubled inter-Korean industrial complex, held a war memorial exhibition displaying "hundreds of historical and cultural artifacts" destroyed by the Americans during the Korean War, Radio Pyongyang reported. "Attendants hardened their will for revenge after seeing such evidence," it said. "The U.S., the warmonger that provoked the Korean War, is using our successful second nuclear test to drag the U.N. into its useless attempt to oppressively stifle us," Radio Pyongyang said.
The North's state-run Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported that similar halls in other regions of the country were "actively holding lectures on atrocities by the United States" for people working in nearby factories and farms.
In South Korea, war veterans, bereaved and separated families, and many others gathered in small and large numbers throughout the country on June 25 to commemorate the anniversary. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs, together with the Korea Veterans Association, held a memorial ceremony in central Seoul with some 5,000 people attending, including Korean War veterans, politicians and students.
There is no official record on how many lost their lives during the war, but historians suggest about 970,000 South Koreans, 1.7 million North Koreans, 150,000 U.N. forces, mostly Americans, and 900,000 Chinese died.
Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, who delivered a keynote speech at the event, conveyed his thanks to those who sacrificed their lives in the conflict and said that the government was considering expanding privileges, such as medical benefits and housing subsidies, to war veterans.
On June 24, top South Korean and U.S. defense officials praised soldiers who died in the conflict while fighting against the "tyranny" of North Korea.
"A North Korean victory in the Korean War would have brought the nightmare of tyranny to this great land, thrusting the citizens of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) into a darkness that their northern counterparts have yet to emerge from," U.S. Gen. Walter Sharp said in a speech.
Sharp, who commands the 28,500 American soldiers stationed here as a deterrent against North Korea, was speaking at a ceremony honoring a U.N. soldier killed in the war whose remains were being repatriated.
"Thanks to the sacrifices of U.N. soldiers from 21 nations, the Republic of Korea was able to defend its democracy and freedom and achieve the (economic) success it enjoys today," South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said in a separate speech. Lee deplored the fact that about 130,000 South Korean and 58,000 U.N. soldiers remain unaccounted for from the Korean War, pledging to make efforts "until the last one is found and returned home."
Sharp echoed the sentiments, saying, "Often referred to as the Forgotten War, those who were here, those who fought on the hills that surround us, those remains we recognize on the field today will never be forgotten."
On June 25, President Lee Myung-bak said South Korea will continue to increase its support for the international community to repay its "debt" from the Korean War. He noted that thousands of South Korean volunteers go overseas every year under the World Friends Korea program and that the country is steadily expanding its official development assistance despite the global economic crisis.
"I wonder what would have happened to us if we had lost the war when it broke out 59 years ago. We were able to defend our free democracy because of our brave armed forces and troops from 16 countries who came to a small, poor nation that they did not even know," the president said in a ceremony held in Seoul in appreciation of Korean War veterans.
The ceremony, held at a Seoul hotel, was attended by some 700 officials and Korean War veterans and their families. "South Korea has become a powerful, economically strong nation in just half a century. Some might call it a miracle, but I believe it was possible because of blood and sweat of our people and the support of our international friends in times of our need," Lee said.