South Korea protests may indicate that ‘US Asia pivot in shambles’

Mass anti-government protests in South Korea, along with a change of rhetoric by some other US allies in the region, including the Philippines, have upset the apple cart for the US and its Asia pivot, says Brian Backer of the Answer Coalition.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Seoul on Saturday to demand the resignation of South Korean President Park Geun-hye amid allegations that she allowed her friend, Choi Soon-sil, meddle in government affairs.

Local media reported that a million protesters took part in the rally in downtown Seoul. Police estimated around 260,000 people. 

Saturday’s rally is one of the largest anti-government protests seen in South Korea in decades.

RT: Does President Park have a chance to keep her post after the mass protests?

Brian Becker: I think it’s very unlikely. Park Geun-hye’s is not only a corrupt government, it’s an ultra-right government. It’s seen in Korea as an extension of American power. In fact, it’s a puppet of the US. The US still has tens of thousands – perhaps 38,000 – US troops occupying Korea [over] 60 years after the end of the Korean War. Her father, Park [Chung-hee], the dictator, was put into power by the CIA and the US in 1961 and stayed there until 1979 where he served as a puppet of American power in that part of the world. During that time, tens of thousands of people were killed, or tortured, or imprisoned just because they wanted to speak out…

Now [Park Geun-hye’s] approval rating is about 5 percent. I don’t see how she survives.

RT: How worrying is the situation for Washington?

BB: I really think it upsets the apple cart for the US and for the so-called ‘Asia pivot.’ Park Geun-hye was sort of a reliable ally. Not only the US occupy South Korea, but Park Geun-hye – in defiance of the South Korean population’s own desires – has gone along with the Pentagon to deploy THAAD, the so-called high altitude missile shield in South Korea. [That] makes of course South Korea and its people the target in any kind of global conflict. The people of South Korea don’t want that.

You just had President [Rodrigo] Duterte in the Philippines, another key of the US, renouncing the idea that he could be a puppet of Washington when he went to Beijing. 

I think the Asia pivot is in shambles and I think what’s happening in South Korea is extremely important to the deterioration, perhaps complete and utter failure of this policy. 

‘S. Korea serves US interests in region’

People in South Korea have been living in fear under President Park with the country turning into “a police state,” says Hyun Lee of Solidarity Committee for Democracy & Peace in Korea.

[President Park] has introduced neo-authoritarian way of governing the country,” Lee said. Within the past four years, she said, the president dissolved the opposition political party “on bogus charges that its leadership was under the direction of North Korea without any evidence.” Besides that, President Park “jailed liberal leaders and opposition lawmakers,” the activist added, saying that people in South Korea are afraid of speaking out and criticizing the government since those who do so are labelled “pro-North Korean.”

In July, Seoul announced that a US THAAD anti-missile defense unit would be deployed in Seonjgu, despite protests by local residents. Lee, along with another activist, was denied entry to South Korea this summer to participate in a peaceful protest against THAAD.

The missile defense system is something the US has been aggressively pushing for. They announced the decision unilaterally without any consultations with the National Assembly, certainly not [with] people of the town where they plan to deploy the missile defense system,” Lee told RT. “The US has been aggressively stationing its missile defense systems all around Asia and eastern Europe basically to encircle China and Russia and, also, presumably North Korea.

She added that for the past 67 years, South Korea has been “serving the interests of the US in the region.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.