The year 2007 has proved to be one of great progress in the Korean people’s struggle to ensure peace on the Korean peninsula and to reunify the country, which was arbitrarily divided by US imperialism against the wishes of the Korean people more than 60 years ago.
These victories have been scored in the teeth of tremendous odds and are the result of a tenacious struggle, firm in principle but flexible in tactics, waged by the government, the Workers’ Party and the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), led by Comrade Kim Jong Il, and supported also by the people in the south of Korea, overseas Koreans and the working-class movement and progressive people around the world.
Between 2-4 October 2007, the second summit meeting of the leaders of north and south Korea was held in the north Korean capital Pyongyang, seven years after the first such summit.
Following three days of talks between Comrade Kim Jong Il and his south Korean counterpart President Roh Moo Hyun, the two leaders signed the Declaration for Development of North-South Relations and Peace and Prosperity. According to the declaration:
“The north and the south agreed to independently solve the reunification issue in the spirit of ‘By our nation itself’, put the dignity and interests of the nation above all and orient everything to this objective …
“The north and the south agreed to definitely convert the north-south relations into those of mutual respect and confidence irrespective of differing ideologies and systems. They agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of the other side but solve problems related to the north-south relations in favour of promoting reconciliation, cooperation and reunification. They agreed to adjust their legal and institutional mechanisms with a view to developing the north-south relations to meet the purpose of reunification.”
This basic standpoint, which set the tone and context for the detailed contents of the declaration, reflects the consistent position of the DPRK that the Korean people should reunify their country independently, peacefully, by their own efforts, and rejecting outside interference.
As far back as October 1980, at the Sixth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Comrade Kim Il Sung advocated that the two parts of Korea should achieve reunification under the type of ‘one country, two systems’ formula later successfully applied by the Chinese communists following the end of British colonial rule in Hong Kong.
The principled stand of ‘By our nation itself’, on which the joint declaration is based, is, therefore, the concrete expression of the Korean people’s exercise of their right to self-determination, and a powerful blow against US imperialism, which has long sought to maintain domination over south Korea, perpetuate the division of the country and incite enmity among different sections of the Korean people, not only out of their hostility to the socialist north, but also as a key link in encircling and threatening their strategic rivals and long-term adversaries, socialist China and the Russian Federation.
Most observers are agreed that the results achieved at the summit this time are much more detailed and practical than the outcome of the previous summit in June 2000. Furthermore, implementation of the agreements has so far been prompt and businesslike.
Pledging to “closely cooperate with each other in the efforts to put an end to the hostile military relations and ensure détente and peace on the Korean Peninsula”, the north and south agreed to hold a meeting of their defence ministers in Pyongyang in November to provide security guarantees for cooperative projects between the two sides. This meeting went ahead as scheduled, from 27-30 November.
The north and south also agreed “to reenergise economic cooperation and make its sustained development on the principles of ensuring common interests and co-prosperity and meeting each other’s need with a view to ensuring balanced development of the national economy and achieving common prosperity. The north and the south agreed to encourage investments for economic cooperation and energetically push forward the construction of economic infrastructure and development of resources and grant various kinds of preferential treatment and special privilege to suit the peculiarities of cooperation undertakings between compatriots.”
In this spirit, they agreed to set aside territorial disputes and encourage cooperation in fisheries in the West Sea, to construct a new special economic zone in Haeju, and to speed up the development of the industrial zone in Kaesong, which is being developed as a manufacturing base for south Korean business.
South Korea is to help the north to finance the reconstruction and repair of road and rail links, with a view to joint use, especially the railway between the north Korean cities of Kaesong, bordering south Korea, and Sinuiju, bordering China. This will provide a link to the Trans-Siberian Railway and the major railways of China for south Korea to export its goods to Europe and other markets, both more quickly and more cheaply. Agreement was also reached to develop joint zones for ship building in Anbyon and Nampho.
People-to-people exchanges also formed an important part of the agreements. The south Korean company Hyundai Asan has been given the right to organise tourism to Mount Paektu on the Chinese border, with direct flights from the south Korean capital, Seoul. Cheering groups from both parts of Korea will travel together by train to the Beijing Olympics next summer. It was also agreed to set up a permanent reunion centre for divided families in Mount Kumgang, which has also been developed as a tourist centre by Hyundai Asan.
To ensure implementation of the agreement, it was finally agreed that the prime ministers of the two sides would meet in Seoul in November. That meeting went ahead in mid-November and set a detailed timetable for the implementation of many of the agreed projects.
The day before the signing of the north-south joint declaration, on 3 October 2007, a new agreement was reached in the six-party talks (north Korea, south Korea, the USA, Japan, China and Russia) in the Chinese capital, Beijing. According to this, the DPRK reiterated its agreement to dismantle all its nuclear programmes and to provide a “complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear programmes” by 31 December 2007.
In keeping with the agreed basis of the talks, namely ‘action for action’, the United States, for its part, should lift its designation of the DPRK as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and ease sanctions by ceasing to apply the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act to the DPRK.
Work to disable the north’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon is currently going on under international supervision. And, as Proletarian went to press, it was announced that United States Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who heads the US delegation to the six-party talks, would make his second visit to Pyongyang as part of a regional tour.
Clearly the Korean situation is highly complicated, with the socialist DPRK apparently prepared to both dismantle its nuclear facilities under the eyes of the Americans and permit, indeed encourage, very considerable amounts of capitalist investment from south Korea. But it should be kept in mind that to defend a socialist outpost in the contemporary world requires flexibility in tactics and a willingness and ability to make sometimes difficult and painful compromises.
As Lenin put it in his 1920 article, ‘On Compromises’: “Of course, an advocate of proletarian revolution may conclude compromises or agreements with capitalists. It all depends on what kind of agreement is concluded and under what circumstances. Here and here alone can and must one look for the difference between an agreement that is legitimate from the angle of the proletarian revolution and one that is treasonable, treacherous (from the same angle) …
“It is not for nothing that Marx and Engels are considered the founders of scientific socialism. They were ruthless enemies of all phrase-mongering. They taught that problems of socialism (including problems of socialist tactics) must be presented scientifically. In the seventies of last century, when Engels analysed the revolutionary manifesto of the French Blanquists, Commune fugitives, he told them in plain terms that their boastful declaration of ‘no compromise’ was an empty phrase. The idea of compromises must not be renounced. The point is through all the compromises which are sometimes necessarily imposed by force of circumstance upon even the most revolutionary party of even the most revolutionary class, to be able to preserve, strengthen, steel and develop the revolutionary tactics and organisation, the revolutionary consciousness, determination and preparedness of the working class and its organised vanguard, the Communist Party.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30)
Likewise, Lenin was very clear that, under certain circumstances, a workers’ state should actively grant concessions in its commercial relations with the bourgeoisie. For example, in his 23 September 1920 letter ‘To the American Workers’, he wrote:
“I am often asked whether those American opponents of the war against Russia – not only workers, but mainly bourgeois – are right, who expect from us, after peace is concluded, not only resumption of trade relations, but also the possibility of receiving concessions in Russia. I repeat once more that they are right. A durable peace would be such a relief to the working people of Russia that they would undoubtedly agree to certain concessions being granted. The granting of concessions under reasonable terms is desirable also for us, as one of the means of attracting into Russia, during the period of the coexistence side by side of socialist and capitalist states, the technical help of the countries which are more advanced in this respect.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 30)
Whilst, of course, the exact situation varies, in principle and standpoint, there is no essential difference between the contemporary tactics of Comrade Kim Jong Il and the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and those of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party, when confronted with powerful imperialist enemies and pressing economic needs a little less than 90 years ago.
It was never a feasible strategy (and hence never on the WPK’s agenda) to go head-to-head with US imperialism in a nuclear arms race. For most of his presidency, George W Bush refused to engage in serious dialogue with the DPRK. By branding it, along with Iran and Iraq, as part of his notorious ‘axis of evil’, he made no secret of his intention to reduce the DPRK to the same ruined and wretched condition as Iraq. It was only the DPRK’s verifiable acquisition of a nuclear deterrent for self-defence that brought US imperialism to the negotiating table. As the Belfast graffiti used to say: “God made the Catholics but the armalite made them equal” !
Finally, it must be pointed out that recent events on the Korean peninsula are but the latest twist in a long, complex and continuing struggle. US imperialism will never fundamentally abandon its hostility to the DPRK, just as it will never do so in the case of China, Cuba, Vietnam or any other socialist country. Countering this hostility is a very important reason for the DPRK to strengthen unity with the broadest sections of south Korean society as well as with overseas Koreans.
However, presidential elections will take place in south Korea on 19 December 2007, with the new president taking office in February 2008. The governments of President Kim Dae Jung, who held the 2000 summit with Comrade Kim Jong Il, and especially that of current President Roh Moo Hyun, reflect, in part and to a certain extent, the democratic struggles and aspirations of the broad patriotic sections of south Korean society.
As Proletarian goes to press, the local media in south Korea report that the candidate of the right-wing and traditionally pro-American Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Myung Bak, enjoys around a twenty percent lead in the opinion polls. If the GNP does indeed win the forthcoming presidential elections in south Korea, the progressive and patriotic forces will face a complicated struggle to maintain the positive momentum in north-south relations.
Whatever the future may hold, the DPRK, WPK and the Korean people need and deserve the continued support and solidarity of all communists, socialists and anti-imperialists.
> Building a revolutionary party – the Korean experience – October 2007
> Eye witness to socialism -report from Korea – December 2006
> Channel 4 Dispatches – the case against North Korea does not stand up – December 2005