Resistance is what liberates us: Palestine and Internationalism

Ju-Hyun Park, an organizer with Nodutdol, spoke at the People’s Conference for Palestine about the global struggle against imperialism

June 06, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Photo via Palestinian Youth Movement

Ju-Hyun Park, a writer and member of Nodutdol for Korean Community Development, an organization of Koreans in the diaspora who fight against imperialism and for reunification, spoke at the People’s Conference for Palestine which was convened in Detroit between May 24 and 26. At a plenary session entitled “Palestine and Internationalism,” Park participated in a panel alongside Manolo De Los Santos, the Executive Director of the People’s Forum, Mandla Radebe, the Chairperson of the South African Communist Party in Gauteng province, Dominico Vega, the Secretary General of Anakbayan USA, which mobilizes Filipino youth and migrant workers for Filipino national liberation, and Nadya Tannous, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement. 

Park’s speech comes at a time when the United States is escalating military drills in the Korean peninsula. Park links the mass bombing campaign and genocide of the Korean people by the United States to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and draws links between the resistance efforts of the people of both the Palestinian and Korean nations.

I want to focus on a pivotal period for every single national liberation struggle that is represented in this panel by the organizations here today. And that period is the end of World War II. This is the beginning of the ongoing Nakba in Palestine. This is the beginning of the system of apartheid in South Africa. This is the heat of the Hukbalahap war in the Philippines, a brutal campaign of state terrorism against that very nation’s independence fighters, which was backed, financed and directed by the United States in the name of anti-communism.

And in Korea, this was the time of the dawn of national division and the beginning of what the United States calls the Korean War. But what we Korean patriots call the Great Fatherland Liberation War.

That is a war that we are still fighting, because the US will not admit defeat. Because it refuses to sign a peace agreement. And that is instructive for our task today. 

But why did all of these historic catastrophes, these many Nakbas, happen at the same time? 

We can look to the history of the time, the change in the imperialist system, the rise of the US as the dominant power. We can look to the greed of the oppressor, their insistence on an international order where the darker nations of the world live fragmented, exploited at their hands. 

But we also need to understand that these acts of savagery were motivated by desperation. They were motivated by the need to impose violence, which was absolutely necessary to crush the strength of our resistance and our determination to be free.

When our four nations raised the call for decolonization, imperialism answered with repression, because that was the only way to suppress our strength. In the United States, they call the Korean War the forgotten war. Our reply to that is that you, Yankee, may have forgotten, but we remember! And we will fight until we achieve liberation. 

Korea is just one of many, many skeletons in the closet of the United States. We can go over a long and torrid history of how the US sat down with the government of Japan to literally divide Korea and the Philippines amongst them as their respective colonies. 

We can talk about the fact that after defeating Japan in World War II and masquerading as our liberator, the US imposed division on a country that had been unified for more than a thousand years.

We can talk about the fact that they waged war on the independent democratic government our people were trying to establish in our land. And in its place, they established the puppet regime known to the world as the Republic of Korea, or so called South Korea. 

But what we want you to understand is that with every atrocity, with every massacre, our people’s resistance only came back stronger and stronger and stronger. Until it could no longer be contained, until it took the form of what the US calls the Korean War, which they say began in 1950. But what we know began in 1945.

There is a common lineage of imperialist violence that unites Palestine and Korea. I do not want to gloss over this. During the Korean War, the US dropped 635,000 tons of bombs, over 32,000 tons of napalm on Korea. This was more than they used against the entire Japanese empire in World War II. They burned down every city in North Korea and plenty of the cities in the South too. They bombed hospitals. They bombed schools. They bombed villages and factories and dams. They bombed so many things that foreign journalists walked through the land and said it looked like the surface of the moon. They dropped so many bombs, America’s own pilots complained after just a year of fighting that there was nothing left for them to destroy.

And in the South, it was the official policy of the United States to treat all Korean people in territories designated as battle zones as enemy combatants. There were orders given to massacre refugees on site. This is what they did in Turtle Island. This is what they did in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Vietnam, what they are doing in Gaza today.

Zionism is using a very old playbook, but they have not learned the lesson that America has refused to learn, which is that that playbook doesn’t work.

After all those bombs, the DPRK, North Korea, is still standing to this day. After all the bombs, after all the massacres in Gaza, the Palestinian resistance is still there, in fact, it is stronger.

It has never been clearer than now that Zionism is not burying Gaza. They are simply digging their own grave. 

When we talk about our shared solidarity, what we mean is joint struggle. We don’t just mean that we believe the same things. We don’t just mean that we feel for each other. The DPRK has never once recognized the Zionist tumor that goes by the name of Israel.

Throughout its history, the solidarity between the Korean and the Palestinian people has not only been moral, but material. Where did George Habash receive his training? It was in Pyongyang. 

As we come today, as a movement against imperialism in the belly of the beast, we need to resist the liberal urge to end the discussion after we have sat down and commiserated about our suffering. We are not just here to lick our wounds together. Imperialism would love it if that was all we were here for. Because our pain is not what liberates us. Resistance is what liberates us.

Suffering is simply the price we pay in the process of becoming free. The proof of this is in the fact that our resistance still stands. The proof of this is in the fact that the US sends billions of dollars and thousands of bombs to crush our people. Because these two fronts, after so many years, still represent the greatest threat to imperialism in the world today. So our task is to become educated about each other’s fronts and to coordinate across those fronts. 

In the eight months of this genocide, the United States has not once taken its eye off the ball in Korea. Just this year alone, there have been more than 50 war games on the Korean Peninsula, led and financed by the United States.

This August, the US is planning something truly vile. On the occasion of our liberation from Japan, our Independence Day as Korean people, the US will hold war exercises for nuclear conflict in Korea.

When our hero, our teacher Sana’ Daqqah, told us that the choice we face is victory or death, that was no exaggeration. It’s not only the choice we face as individuals, but as all of humanity. A choice between liberation and extinction. And if we want our liberation, we have to learn the meaning of the word comrade.

That’s what I want to end with today. The word for comrade in Korean is tongji. Broken into its parts, iIt means to have the same will, or the same purpose. To share a purpose in our sense is something far more profound, far more sacred than to say we are working together on a temporary basis.

And that is because the purpose that unites us as comrades is revolution. Revolution is not a one time thing, revolution is not a short term goal. Revolution is a lifetime of dedication and action to transform our worlds. Revolution is an entire historical era that will span generations. Look at Palestine. Look at Korea. Look at the Philippines. Look at Turtle Island. Look at Africa. You will know this is true.

So to be comrades, to share the purpose of revolution, is to commit to sharing our lives together. If we are comrades, it means we share common principles and a common soul, because we have a common future.

It means what we give to each other is the first place in our hearts, the place that we reserve for revolution and revolution alone. That is the deepest love that can exist between human beings, and that is what will carry us forward in this struggle, across fronts, across national liberation struggles, until imperialism is vanquished, and we are all free.