We need to understand Korea

The outstanding presentation “Putting Korea in Context,” given by Jon Letman and Mark Ombrello at KCC, was an opportunity to understand the situation between the USA and North Korea. Ombrello provided a history of Korea to help us understand that it is one country with people from the same family living in the North and the South. Letman discussed the number of troops the U.S. has stationed in Korea now and the strong opposition that many South Koreans have to those troops.

Letman also exposed the huge number of “war games” that the USA conducts in Korea every year, a constant reminder to the North that the USA may invade at any time for any reason (even one that is a lie), just as it did in Iraq (just where are those “weapons of mass destruction”?).

North Korea has every reason to fear the USA. Americans committed war crimes during the Korean War, nearly destroying the entire peninsula but totally devastating the North. In 1994, the Clinton administration (some say cynically) negotiated an “Agreed Framework” with the North where the USA would provide fuel oil and technology for a nuclear power plant that could not breed weapons-grade material (mostly paid for by South Korea); in return, the North would discontinue development of nuclear weapons.

When the Republicans came to power in Congress soon after the framework was signed, they refused to support it. In 2002, President George W. Bush named North Korea one of the nations that formed an “Axis of Evil,” thus killing the framework. The North resumed weapons development.

Some blame the Democrats for allowing the North to “build the bomb.” Some blame the Republicans. In truth, it is the threat posed by America itself that has convinced the North that the only way to ensure their safety is to achieve MAD (mutually assured destruction) with the USA. (Consider that Libya gave up nukes only to have its government overthrown.)

Sadly, American leadership is not unhappy with the North’s choice, since both Democrats and Republicans can use the threat of a North Korean nuke to scare the average American. Once scared, Americans tend to forget about the rise of the American oligarchy (the wealth of America being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer) and will call for a build-up of the American military to “protect us” but which is actually used to expand the American empire, not to protect Americans, but to enrich the billionaire owners of the military-industrial complex.


John Zwiebel is a resident of Kalaheo.

  1. Jake January 15, 2018 6:34 am Reply

    John, great “one way” slant on the Korean Conflict.

    Ahh, the United States did not invade South Korea in 1951 with 75,000 soldiers…..I think it was North Korea. 5,000,000 people died from this invasion over the next 4-5 years.

    I am going to let you in on a little secret……the ~35,000 Americans living in Korea, defending the northern border of South Korea, really don’t want to be there. Of course, a new generation of South Koreans don’t want them there…….right up to the point when North Korea’s 2000 artillery pieces start obliterating Seoul…..um, then they will be screaming for the Americans to save the day.

    Only a child believes in Isolationism. It has worked so well for us in the past. Evacuate all our Embassies, send all our prepositioned soldiers home, and don’t assist any other country. Yes, great idea for a successful future for the United States.

  2. John Zwiebel January 15, 2018 3:00 pm Reply

    Korea is one culture and historically was always one country. It was divided at the 38th parallel after WWII because the USA and the Soviet Union were using it as a proxy to fight their cold war. The North invaded on 25 Jun 1950 with the approval of Stalin and the guarantee that China would enter the war if needed. The events leading up to the war are murky in that it depends on which facts one wants to allow to be placed in evidence. In general though, it was due to the belligerence of the USA and Soviet Union, much as was the Vietnam war, and had little to do with the wishes of the Korean people.

    But I hardly see what that has to do with today’s situation.The USA has, and continues to, negotiate in bad faith with North Korea.

    Your argument that the South wants us gone until the North invades presumes that the US induced level of hostility will remain if the US were to leave Korea. However, we should all note that negotiations, that exclude the US, are proceeding so that athletes from the North will march into the Olympic Stadium next month with those from the South. One Korea united. Reminds me of the unification of Germany.

    At no time did I, or have I, suggested the USA isolate itself from the world. Again, what I am saying is American leadership is using this conflict with the North to keep tensions high so that Americans will be afraid. So afraid that Americans will not question the nearly $800B spent by our military every year. Consider that for a mere $30B world hunger could be solved. But, apparently Americans like being afraid, and because they are afraid they allow their country to bully the rest of the world into submission to the American Oligarchy.

    If you want to know why the road through Kapaa isn’t wide enough, there’s the answer. We spend our money blowing stuff up. And every time we blow something up, we have to buy another bomb to replace the one we used.

    Here are a couple of Jon Letman’s articles on Korea. I do wish you had access to the presentation he gave at KCC.



    PS, the false missile attack warning last Friday was just a mistake, wasn’t it? There’s no attempt here for some group to want to sabotage the Korean talks on the Olympics — right?

    Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

  3. anthony donovan January 15, 2018 5:22 pm Reply

    Dear John, and Garden Island,

    Thank you for this reportage and broadening the understanding greatly. May I share some more with your readers.


    Dear Hawaii, from NYC, we are humbled by your experience and know we would have reacted the very same, not know what to do, nor how to prepare our last few minutes. What a significant opportunity this is. Will you take it and with such direct, real experience help the rest of the country? The clear reality, truth you witnessed: There is NO protection from a nuclear device. Never has been. Einstein, until the day he died tried to warn us of these weapons being very dangerous false security. There is no shelter. No preparation that would make a difference. Remember, the larger bomb of Nagasaki was 20 kilotons. One nuclear missile on one of our submarines is 3,800 kilotons. Many devices are much more powerful, but on average, 20 vs 3,800! The devastation is beyond any possible understanding or human reason. The many billions spent on warning systems and missile defense will also not help us one bit, except allow us a few minutes of goodbyes. Living undeterred in our republic, we have a largely clandestine industry that remains outside any democratic process. 100 US Senators don’t mention it in public, a media that never questions beyond the surface, rather all prefer to cast a shadow on a nation that is very clearly using our very own logic of deterrence, North Korea. A logic, many retired military officials, even former heads of Strategic Command say is false, extremely unsafe and long outmoded. Yet we have trillions of invaluable tax money on automatic, going to this industry in the name of patriotism and safety. With many brave and outstanding young men and women in service, our Strategic Command has a long history of protecting this industry, misleading with mistruths, with thousands of accidents, and close call miscalculations the public has never heard of. As a citizen, never use even one nuclear missile of our many thousands in my name, or my country’s name. One accidental or purposeful detonation needs to be called what it is: murder of many millions. Just one will be an irretrievable set back to Climate and as well a poisoning of precious environment for generations. Accidents happen. Human error is a given. We’re been extremely fortunate, and Hawaii is a real wake up call. We can listen to Pope Francis’s urgent conference and plea to the world. Listen to the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize awards. Read the the Treaty for the Prohibition of of Nuclear Weapons adopted by 122 nations on July 7th, that this country ignored. Divest. Stand up. Let’s prevent an unnecessary horror on earth. With extremely deep bunkers, our full arsenal can do little to Kim, while innocent humanity are murdered, and resultant deadly radiation spreads again around the world back to us all. Such an example for others? Want to be a strong, wise leader? Honor 72 years of our greatest Americans and start down the path to abolish them now. As JFK said, we can, and we must. The young generations deserve a life free from our costly burden, our most grave insanity. Hawaii, please, reach out and teach America what you learned in a most invaluable, profound half hour.
    (Advise all to read Eric Schlosser’s Command and Control, and Timmon Wallis’s Disarming the Nuclear Argument, or watch the recent documentary Atomic Homefront, about St. Louis residents trying to deal with it’s nuclear weapon waste, and the documentary covering much invaluable history; “Good Thinking, Those Who’ve Tried to Halt Nuclear Weapons, which among other awards won Best Documentary in Montreal last year)

    fyi: http://www.GoodThinkingTheDocumentary.net

    In gratitude,


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