By Workers Solidarity (South Korean sister organisation of the SWP)
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South Korea: a fierce political struggle gets fiercer

This article is over 7 years, 2 months old
Issue 2543
Protesters held torches on the march
Protesters held torches on the march (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

One million people took to the streets of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, last Saturday to demand the immediate resignation of the President, Park Geun-hye. It was the seventeenth Saturday protest since the movement broke out last October.

This was the first million-strong protest of 2017. It benefited from a national mobilisation call from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). KCTU’s previous mobilization call last November resulted in the first protest of a million and placed the movement against Park at the centre of politics.

Organised workers are clearly at the forefront of the movement.

So far, the movement has forced Park Geun-hye from her post, put her superstitious “adviser” behind bars and even forced the special prosecutor to arrest Lee Jae-yong, the “crown prince” of the giant Samsung group.

But Park’s impeachment needs to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court before it takes effect.

Recently, the court said it will give final ruling before 13 March. The pressure from the movement was larger than that from Park and her supporters who had been trying to delay the court ruling.

As the Court ruling approaches, the political battle is becoming fierce.

Park Geun-hye has called on her supporters to take to the streets. Her lawyer said at the court that “there will be blood on the road” if the judges ratify the impeachment.

Park’s supporters openly call for “martial law” to stop the court ruling. They seek to justify all this in the name of “defending democracy”.

Four years since Park came to power, her rule is over, say the placards

‘Four years since Park came to power, her rule is over,’ say the placards (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


The bourgeois opposition parties put forward their version of democracy—leaving the matter in the hands of the state apparatus and parliament. So those parties have distanced themselves from the movement’s demand to pull down the prime minister who is currently the acting president and has been appointed by Park.

The bourgeois opposition parties also say that people should unconditionally accept the court ruling, even if it overturns the impeachment and reinstates the president.

The democracy spoken of by the million protesters who surrounded the presidential residence last week was different. They demanded that Park should be arrested whatever the Court says, her policies of attacking workers should be scrapped and her foreign policies of prioritizing military ties with US and Japan should be stopped.

“This is the will of the People,” said the protesters.

Lately, the Financial Times and Guardian newspapers have each written editorials on South Korea saying that change and democracy is needed.

But the very meaning of democracy differs greatly between forces and classes and it is the political struggle that settles the matter. Those columns don’t even mention the struggle taking place and they miss the whole point.

Park Geun-hye has called on her supporters to take to the streets. Her lawyer said at the court that “there will be blood on the road” if the judges ratify the impeachment.

Even now, Park’s gang is fighting back against the movement and the workers. The prime minister is about to abort the Special Prosecutor’s investigation in order to stop Park and further business leaders from being arrested.

The government has also announced that it will fire 89 rail workers for participating in a two month long strike that powered the movement in its early phase.

Instead of depending on politicians or abstract principles of democracy, ordinary workers are raising their collective voice against these attacks through their protests. Such action is the only way forward to genuine democracy.

Bourgeois opposition parties and moderate forces within the movement fear the political polarisation that results from the current protests and confrontations with the right wing. But radical lefts are intervening to help workers develop political consciousness and collective confidence during such polarisation.

Right wing forces are mobilising for tomorrow, 1 March, and the movement against Park is also mobilizing for counter-protest. There will also be another mass protest calling for Park’s impeachment this Saturday.

A South Korean socialist who has taken part in the recent mass protests against Park will join by Skype a meeting in London on Russia 1917: a festival of the oppressed and workers’ revolution, Wednesday 8 March, 7pm, Student Central, Malet Street, WC1E 7HY. For details go to  

ussia 1917: Festival of the oppressed & workers revolution



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