By Mario Medranda, National Commissar of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA) in Spain.
In the context of World War II, in February 1945 during the Yalta Conference, the USSR finally agreed to declare war on Japan after two or three months after the defeat of Germany. Despite this, it was not yet discussed what would be the future of Korea, at that time colonized by the Japanese Empire. Officially, the USSR declared war on Japan on August 9, 1945, initiating military operations in Manchuria that swept the Japanese forces stationed there. In turn, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army, commanded by Kim Il Sung, who had been carrying out military actions against the occupation forces for years, declares a general uprising to face the liberation of all of Korea.
The question of division
It is not until August 15, the day of the unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan, that the US presents to the USSR a project by which Korea would be divided into two zones where each allied army would accept the surrender of the Japanese forces stationed there, these zones being divided through the 38th parallel. It is important to clarify that this project was intended to be only provisional, but the true intentions of the US were to prevent the Korean Peninsula from being completely liberated by the Red Army and the Korean revolutionaries, so that they could defend their economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
After the war, the Moscow Conference took place in December 1945, in which it was determined that the Allied armies would act together to facilitate the formation of a unified government of the Korean people in collaboration with the social and democratic parties throughout Korea, and thus allow the arrival of the much desired independence.
But the reality was that the US attitude both before and after this conference was completely contrary to what they meant by their words. On the very day of the surrender of Japan, on August 15, popular committees were formed throughout the country under the protection of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Korea. Some of the essential points of these committees were agrarian reform, the nationalization of major industries, equality between men and women, and the enactment of a labor law that provided workers with protection.
While on the one hand the USSR allowed the free development of popular committees and the formation of the Provisional People’s Committee of North Korea chaired by Kim Il Sung, who had been unanimously elected because of his great prestige after the guerrilla struggle, on the other the US side dissolved the authority of the committees from the moment it stepped into South Korea on September 8, and established a military administration treating the Korean people as if it were a people defeated in the war.
Koreans were murdered by the foreign aggressor
In this situation, there were several uprisings of the South Korean population. These uprisings were brutally repressed, and not only communists and leaders of the labor movement but also progressive personalities who favored reunification and opposed to US military occupation were also the object of persecution, many of them being assassinated. For all this, the American occupiers relied on the most reactionary classes and sectors of Korean society, placing many of them in key positions of their administration, including large landowners, wealthy businessmen, and former officials of the Japanese colonial government.
At the same time as these events were happening in the South, in the North, the progressive measures mentioned above were applied, such as the nationalization of major industries, agrarian reform, the law on equality between men and women, and the labor law. This led to a massive emigration of the landlords and the most reactionary to the south, while many southern progressives and revolutionaries emigrated to the North.
Fraudulent elections which were not free and fair
The high point came in 1948, when, at the urging of the United States and against the will of the greater part of the Korean people, separate elections were held in the South, which, in addition to being completely fraudulent, popular classes could not run as candidates, led to the formation of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) unilaterally in August of that year, deepening the division of Korea.
In response, there were new popular uprisings across the country, one of the most important being on Jeju Island, where insurgents were brutally repressed and thousands of them were killed by newly formed puppet military forces in South Korea, of course with American armaments, training and advice.
Finally, before the unilateral formation of the South Korean state, on September 9, 1948, was created the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), and the Soviet troops, in fulfillment of the agreements, left the country. Despite the proposals made by the North for peaceful reunification, the whole climate of instability and hostility promoted by the US during those years would lead to the Korean War that would erupt in 1950, followed by the massive US intervention, which turned out to be one of the conflicts more brutal of the twentieth century, comparable only with the aggression against the Vietnamese people who would lead the Yankees in the following decade.
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