Report Back on Korea Lecture

The following report was featured in CATCH – Citizens at City Hall – Newsletter for March 26, 2018.

CATCH News – March 26, 2018

Window on North Korea

Two respected authors with deep local ties spoke last week on the planet’s most dangerous nuclear hotspot. Their perspective was quite different from what is usually reported by government and media sources about North Korea whose 25 million people are being threatened with nuclear annihilation by the US president.

Dr Atif Kubursi is emeritus professor of economics at McMaster and served as the Acting Executive Secretary and Undersecretary General of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Chris Black is an international lawyer who spent his high school and university years in Hamilton, has visited North Korea and now regularly appears before the International Criminal Tribunal of the UN in The Hague.

Black explained the ancient culture of Korea which suffered a brutal occupation by imperial Japan from 1905 to the end of the Second World War. The Korean language was made illegal and Japan used the country as a base for invading China starting in the early 1930s.

When Korea was liberated in 1945 by Soviet forces advancing from the north and American ones from the south, there was agreement that Koreans would be able to choose their own government. Black said most favoured the communists who had led the resistance to Japan and when 400,000 Koreans were repatriated from Japan “almost 95 percent of them chose to go into the north”.

In the south “the Americans kept the Japanese imperial arm in place for several years to help them administer and control the population” and the regime suppressed socialist parties leading to conflict between the two parts of the country, raids back and forth, and eventually what became known as the Korean War in the early 1950s.

More than 1.5 million Koreans died in that war and the 1953 armistice has not yet been converted into a peace treaty. Black said more bombs were dropped on the north than in Europe during the entire Second World War and it was leveled to such an extent that he found no old buildings when he visited the capital city of Pyongyang.

“So there is a lot of fear that the Americans want to repeat that, not just to take over North Korean minerals and to crush an industrial power but also to use it as a base to attack China.” Black said. “They will not abandon their nuclear weapons unless the Americans give them a non-aggression pact and a peace treaty.”

He travelled to North Korea as part of a delegation of Canadian and American lawyers and observed a country where “housing is free, education is free, health care is free and better than here, and university students are paid a stipend and guaranteed a job after they graduate.”

He argued that South Korea is still controlled by the US which has fifteen military bases there and nearly 25,000 military personnel. He also contended that it is hypocritical and illegal for the UN security council to impose sanctions on North Korea when every permanent member of the council has its own nuclear arsenal.

Atif Kubursi cited studies showing that sanctions never succeed in their objectives. Instead they hurt the weakest and most vulnerable people in the targeted country not the leaders. He drew on his direct observations of what has happened in the Middle East.

“One of the major consequences is that they exact a heavy toll on innocent people and there is no better example of this than Iraq where more than 500,000 children under the age of five either died or suffered major malnutrition and diseases because of the sanctions,” he pointed out. “The leaders always have access to things whether in a democracy or any other place. The people who cannot have access are those without power.”

The Trudeau government is strongly supporting sanctions. Earlier this year it hosted a summit on North Korea but didn’t invite that country or the two that border it – China and Russia.

Last week’s meeting attended by about 80 people was organized by Democracy Probe International and the Hamilton Coalition Against the War and co-sponsored by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Hamilton 350 Committee. Both lectures are available on video.


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