South Korea seizes cargo ship, escalating U.S.-led sanctions and threats

South Korea seized the 3,000-ton cargo ship De Yi.

On March 30, the South Korean Coast Guard forcibly seized the 3,000-ton cargo ship De Yi. The stateless ship had left North Korea’s western port of Nampo and was headed to Vladivostok, Russia. 

After a scheduled stop in Shandong, China, the trip necessitated sailing around the southern end of the Korean peninsula and up the eastern coast to Vladivostok. South Korea claims the ship was probably carrying coal and violating UN sanctions against North Korea. 

The ship’s Chinese captain and crew refused to allow the South Korean military to search the hull. 

For 75 years, the U.S. military has occupied South Korea; there are currently some 30,000 troops stationed there on 73 bases, the third biggest U.S. military occupation in the world. The South Korean military is under the virtual command of the U.S., and any actions such as seizing a ship are generally considered to be done at the direction of the U.S.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK as North Korea is officially known, is one of the most sanctioned countries in the world. Certain UN sanctions were worsened in 2017 but will now lapse on April 30. There was a UN resolution to extend them, but the Russian ambassador to the UN vetoed it. 

Over the decades, the U.S. State Department has been the prime motivator of multinational trade sanctions, pressuring allies to join the effort to starve North Korea and force them to become a pliant neocolony.

The U.S. first imposed sanctions during the 1950-53 Korean War after murdering millions of Koreans and a months-long bombing campaign that destroyed practically every building in major cities. By the end of the war, the capital city of Pyongyang looked very much like Gaza does today, with death and debris as far as the eye can see. 

The U.S. refused to sign a peace treaty at the war’s close and still does. With U.S. nuclear weapons having been stationed in South Korea for years, and tens of thousands of troops still present there, as well as nuclear warheads within striking distance from the air and by sea, U.S. imperialism is more than a military menace – it is an existential threat to North Korea. 

During the 1990s, the U.S. and its allies falsely accused the DPRK of developing a nuclear weapons program in secret. They were really trying to build nuclear power plants to make up for their inability to import fuel oil for heat due to the sanctions. North Koreans were suffering during long, cold winters. 

The secrecy accusation is part of a constant refrain from the U.S. propaganda machine. However, in 2006, President Kim Jong Il announced that they had turned the U.S. lies into reality. The DPRK had successfully conducted its first nuclear weapons test. 

North Korea has had a decades-long policy of “military first.” That means that even at great cost and despite difficult conditions under the U.S. sanctions regime, the Korean people agreed that defense was the top priority. That policy and Kim Jong Il’s decision may be the only reason North Korea still exists as a sovereign and socialist country. 

After the first nuclear weapons test by North Korea, the White House pushed successfully for even more severe sanctions at the UN. Russia’s veto at the UN gave North Korea relief from at least some of the sanctions that have made life so difficult for millions of Korean people. 

The imperialist war against the people of Korea has been uninterrupted and severe ever since the Korean People’s Army liberated the north under the leadership of the great revolutionary Kim Il Sung and the Communist Party of Korea. 

The U.S. has its fingerprints all over this cargo ship seizure. Korea JoongAng Daily reported that “the United States is believed to have provided the South Korean government with circumstantial evidence of suspected sanctions violations.” ‘Circumstantial’ and ‘suspected’ are the key words. By prodding South Korea into seizing the ship, the White House is signaling that its campaign to destroy the DPRK will not let up one bit. 

Korean people of both the north and the south want the country reunified. It was the U.S. that divided the country, drawing a line at the 38th parallel, dividing parents from children and siblings from each other for 75 years and counting. Right-wing South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has turned back some of the progress in relations made over the last two decades or more. He is steering South Korea closer to the U.S. and has imposed his own unilateral sanctions on the DPRK, adding to the punishment doled out by the U.S. and other imperialists. 

This isn’t what the people of South Korea want. When the Japanese empire fell at the close of World War II, and the U.S. moved to take over Japan’s colonies, the U.S. spent years trying to crush a people’s movement in the south that resisted the division of Korea. 

In 1945, Syngman Rhee — who had lived in the U.S. since 1904 and was a U.S. citizen  — arrived in U.S.-occupied South Korea aboard General Douglas MacArthur’s personal plane. In 1948, under the direction of the CIA (then named OSS), Rhee was imposed as president through a rigged election. There was mass opposition to which Rhee responded with police-state repression, jailing over 300,000 and killing tens of thousands by 1950.

As this article is being composed, millions of South Koreans are remembering the great uprising on the island of Jeju in April 1948, a response to the sham election; nearly every police headquarters was destroyed, and a division of Syngman Rhee’s army mutinied. 

Some of them fought their way north and joined in the development of socialism in North Korea. Many more strikes, rebellions, student walkouts, and other militant actions like the takeover of Gwangju in 1980 – sometimes referred to as the “2nd Paris Commune” — characterize the South Korean people’s righteous struggle. 

Many South Koreans were killed over the years, but the struggle for self-determination lives on.

The U.S. media portrays North Korea as an isolated nation. That is another falsehood. Right now, North Korea is celebrating the “China-DPRK Friendship Year.’ Zhao Leji, the Chairman of China’s National People’s Congress, is leading a delegation to Pyongyang to mark the occasion. Zhao is also the third highest-ranking official in all of China and is meeting with his North Korean counterpart, Choe Ryong-hae. It is also noteworthy that the DPRK has been very vocal about its solidarity and support for the people of Gaza, as they have over the decades with Nicaragua, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, and others. North Korea is an important ally and friend of the global struggle against U.S. imperialism!

Down with the U.S. empire, and long live the struggling people of North Korea! Korea is One!


Join the Struggle-La Lucha Telegram channel