Presentation by Simone Chun, Tim Beal, K.J. Noh, and Gregory Elich, discussing how the Biden-Yoon Summit signals a shift toward raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula in particular, and the Asia-Pacific in general. Live program originally shown on May 23, 2022, the day after the summit.
In this segment of By Any means Necessary, Sean Blackmon and Jacqueline Luqman are joined by Gregory Elich to discuss the upcoming general elections in South Korea and the geopolitical contours that affect the race and US involvement in the peninsula, how South Korea’s proximity to North Korea and China impacts the stakes of the election and US interest in the eventual winner, and current president Moon Jae-In’s myopic focus on a peace declaration that would have little effect on the potential for peace on the Korean peninsula.
South Koreans go to the polls on March 9 to elect a new president, who will assume office two months later. At a time when U.S.-North Korean relations are at an impasse, and the Biden administration is building an aggressive anti-China alliance, much may rest on the outcome.
When the American journalist, I.F. Stone, published The Hidden History of the Korean War at the height of the military conflict in 1952, its message did not find a warm welcome at home. In a period of unhinged anti-communist fervor, mainstream media took little or no notice of such an iconoclastic work, and whatever impact it had would have to wait for a later time, when the Vietnam War encouraged more skepticism about the motives underlying U.S. war-making. Even so, mainstream receptiveness to critical analyses of US war-making in subsequent decades has not substantially improved, and Stone’s book has spent far more years in out-of-print oblivion than in ready availability.
In a Washington Post opinion piece, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spelled out their objectives in visiting Japan, South Korea, and India. “The United States is now making a big push to revitalize our ties with friends and partners,” they wrote. The nature of those relationships, as perceived by Washington, is the subordination of Asian nations as junior partners in an anti-China coalition. “Our alliances are what our military calls ‘force multipliers’,” Blinken and Austin explain. “Our combined power makes us stronger when we must push back against China’s aggression and threats.” 
United Nations and U.S. sanctions targeting North Korea prohibit almost all trade and transactions with the nation, resulting in collective punishment of the entire population. Ostensibly, humanitarian aid is exempt from sanctions. Still, many humanitarian groups have been compelled to curtail or halt assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the official name for North Korea). U.S. officials regularly contact officials abroad, urging them to crack down on businesses, organizations, and individuals having any dealings with North Korea.
One such group is the New Zealand-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Society (NZ DPRK Society), which over the years, has provided aid and engaged in educational exchanges with North Korea. Among its projects, it has provided farm equipment, diesel fuel, flood relief, and fertilizer to the NZ Friendship Farm, supplementary food to the SeungHo Home for the Elderly, and multiple shipments of medical supplies. These are only a few examples of the group’s many activities.
This year, the NZ DPRK Society fell afoul of the U.S.-driven effort to strangle the North Korean economy when it provided the DPRK with personal protective equipment to help it deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Peter Wilson, the Society’s secretary, shared his experiences with me.
Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun arrived in Seoul, South Korea yesterday for talks on stalled nuclear diplomacy hours after North Korea said it had “no intention of sitting face to face with the United States.” President Trump had said earlier in the day that he was willing to have yet another summit with the North Korean leader. But Biegun reiterated the U.S. position that North Korea must give up all of its nuclear weapons, something North Korea has always maintained it would not do unilaterally without concurrent sanctions relief.