An authoritarian state with its fundations on anti-communism, nationalism and racism, the banning of opposition parties, concentration camps and capitalism etc. would lead most people to think of Nazi Germany. There’s a country like that today though, and it’s South Korea.
There are those who argues that South Korea is now a liberal democracy and is not considered to be an authoritarian state. It is true that they have presidential elections, but they are not that free and what many seems to have forgot is that South Korea is a fascist dictatorship. If you look at the facts of what fascism is -an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization. Giovanni Gentile, who was named Minister of Public Education in 1923 under the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini wrote in the book The Doctrine of Fascism that “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power”. If you look at the economic structure of South Korea, you can clearly see that it’s Corporatist.
Since the division of Korea and with the rise of the South Korean US-puppet regime, Koreans who colaborated with Imperial Japan during World War II as well and fascists and Korean styled Nazis have had high positions within the new South Korean state. The first fascist president of South Korea, Syngman Rhee appointed the Nazi, Lee Bum Suk, to serve as prime minister. Lee was a former general of the Chinese Nationalist Army and founder of the most powerful Nazi organisation in South Korea, the Racial Youth Corps. The first Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Korea (and third prime minister) Chang Taek Sang who was educated in the UK, was also an extreme rightist, infamous for his anti-communism. The Minister of Education, Ahn Ho Sang, a one-time professor in a university in Nazi Germany where very influenced by the Nazis. His first task was to organize a “Student’s National Guard”, to root out leftists and to “investigate the thought trends of students”. To successfully build a fascist dictatorship, Syngman Rhee handpicked loyal fascists and Nazis to work closely with him. His hate towards communists led to the massacre on Jeju island, where up to 30,000 political opponents, 20% of the population of Jeju, was indiscriminately slaughtered by the South Korean army and under the supervision of the United States. In September 2014, the Northwest Youth League, a paramilitary group notorious for its massacre of thousands on the island of Jeju between 1947 and 54 under the authoritarian regime of Syngman Rhee, announced its re-launch in front of the Seoul City Hall.
Up until the start of the Korean War in the summer of 1950, South Korea sent guerilla units over the border to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, carrying out vicious attacks against its neighbour. Syngman Rhee believed that he could claim the DPRK and build Lebensraum, with the assistance of the US-imperialists. From the start of the war, South Korea and the US were eager to start killing of any opposition to Syngman Rhee, where several hundred thousands civilians were murdered, both in South Korea, but also later in the occupied areas of the DPRK.
One of the most fundemental parts of South Korean fascism is the National Security Law that is still being used to stop politicial opposition. Hundreds of people in South Korea are in prison right now due to the National Security Law. The Unified Progressive Party that were represented in the South Korean parliament and was the third biggest party in South Korea were banned in December 2014 and members of the party were sent to prison, accused of being communists and “pro-North”.
As it has been revealed that the South Korean government wanted the streets of Seoul cleansed of “undesirables” for the Olympics of 1988 and that shopkeepers together with the police cleansed the streets of street merchants, handicapped, poor children and student activists among others, it also shows us evidence that South Korea was not only any authoritarian state, but fascist. These people were sent to the Brothers Home that operated over 20 factories where they were used as slave labour. Other private enterprises also took part in the exploitation of the slave labour. In Nazi Germany, “undesirables” were also sent to concentration camps, not on as the same scale, but under very similar conditions to perform as slave labourers to generate revenue for the capitalists.
The Federation of Korean Industries (a South Korean consortium of conglomerate), and the Korean National Police Veterans Association have been funding pro-government demonstrations and been giving large sums of money to people to attend these. Both the Federation of Korean Industrie and the Korean National Police Veterans Association, are very much the personification of capitalist and state. The conservative Korean Parent Federation have also been paying north Korean “defectors” to attend protests against the Sewol ferry that sunk in April 2014, where 304 people died. Many of the families of the victims of the Sewol disaster and a a big part of the South Korean society have expressed that they want a thorough investigation, as this is a disaster that most likely could have been avoided. As this have been putting pressure on the government, the capitalists and the state are now mobilizing the extreme right that is mostly made up of angry young men who want vengeance but will not go after the rich and powerful. They do not have the courage. Just like fascists in Europe who would instead find an easy target to pick on such as muslims, immigrants and homosexuals, in South Korea, they are attacking the weakest, the most marginal, the most vulnerable. Women. Dark-skinned foreigners. DPR Koreans. Chinese Koreans. And now Sewol disaster victims and their families. Just like in Europe, they organise online and spread their hateful propaganda, but what makes them more powerful than many militant fascist organisations in Europe is that they are well-funded and backed by the capitalists and the state. It is when the state and corporations mobilise the extreme right to protect the interest of the bourgeoisie and attack those that may become a threat to their power, that is when fascists can come to power. It was when the bourgeoisie rallied up behind the Nazis in Germany as they didn’t want to loose their power that the Nazis became the absolute power, even though they only were a minority party. Since the fundation of the South Korean state, it has been based on fascism as a continuation of pre-1945 Japan.
Ethnic prejudice is encouraged throughout the South Korean educational system, and according to a poll from 2009, 47% of South Korean children were uncertain or negative on the subject of whether they could make friends with a “biracial” child. Minorities have always been subjected to racism in South Korea and it was first in 2011 that South Korea took any official action against racism due to international response. Despite the obvious nature of racism, discrimination in South Korea is not just limited to racism and xenophobia against foreigners. Among South Koreans themselves, sexism, nepotism, and ageism are also very prevalent, with preferential treatment being given to people who are male, related, and older in age. South Koreans who didn’t have “pure blood” and was fully ethnic Koreans were not allowed to serve in the military until 2011, and up until then South Korean soldiers swore allegiance to the “Korean race” in their oaths of enlistment.
As global capitalism have reached its highest stage, which is imperialism, it is going to be a rational reaction for the imperialists to support the political forces that they that they can rely on, and who will safeguard their power and influence. The US bourgeoisie is no more different than the bourgeoisie that backed up the Nazi party in Germany or the fascist party in Italy during the first half of the 20th century. The bourgeoisie backed these extreme right forces as they knew a communist revolution were imminent, and to protect their power and influence, they backed the groups they knew would protect them best. There is a reason to why there’s such a strong Nazi movement today in the former Soviet Union. As DPRK is a socialist country where the people have the absolute power on the expense of capitalism, the most logical choice for the US would be to install a fascist puppet, as they knew that a leader like Syngman Rhee would be uncompromising, not only with communists in south Korea, trade unionists etc. but also with DPRK.