Statement by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

September 17, 2001

Oppose Terrorism!
Oppose War!
Start a Movement to Build Peace!

KCTU Statement

Thousands of people have died or were injured in the September 11 terror attack on the U.S. The U.S. government has declared a war on Afghanistan and all those states which support or habour terrorists.

War is descending on the people of the world.

We cannot but voice our serious concern at the terrifying turn of events and prospects.

Our concern stems from the widely recognised prospect that the war that the U.S. is embarking on will not end terrorism but will spiral into more wars. It will not remain an isolated encounter between two known sides but will cast a heavy cloud of war all over the earth. It could even be a prelude to the unthinkable third world war.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is moved to express its serious concern over the choices being made and steps being taken by the U.S. Bush Administration. The U.S. government is abusing the grief and anger of the victims, their families, and ordinary Americans, including vast members of the American trade union movement, who are hard at work to salvage humanity from the ruins of destruction, to whip up a war frenzy.

We appeal to the U.S. government to examine the causes and mechanisms of the cycle of terrorist attacks and wars to arrive at measures of solution and efforts which will pave the way for peace for all people.

We convey our most heart-felt condolences to the thousands of victims and their families and share in the grief felt by all people. We join them in condemning the act of terrorism.

The human history has witnessed many incidences of "terrorism". Some of these have been associated with struggles of resistance against unjust domination, and efforts for progress. The history of efforts and struggles for human progress and liberation from oppression have been an arduous one, at times raising doubts as to whether progress is ever possible. It may be tempting to resort to acts of terror. But, what is, and has become, clear is that terrorism can never be means for speeding up progress. The September 11 "attack on America" has again clearly demonstrated that terrorism cannot be entertained as a means, let alone as a goal in itself, in the long march of humanity for progress.

In our moments of silence in memory of the victims, in finding words for condolences, and in formulating the strongest possible terms for condemnation of terrorism, we are moved to seek what lies behind all this and what we should be doing in the future.

One question we must dwell on is this: what is the environment that breeds such a "hatred" that blinds and arms the terrorist acts? The efforts in response must be directed at the sources, causes, and the conditions which breed such "hatred".

The U.S. government is absolutely committed to seeking retribution, launching attack in retaliation. "Terrorist" attack and the U.S. attack on terrorism stand on the same plane, on equal terms.

The various "explanations" for the objective of the terrorist act on the U.S. all point to "anti-Americanism". Everyone agrees that the September 11 terrorist attack was an attack against the U.S. Why? What has the U.S. done, or perceived to have done, to "warrant" such a retaliation in this kind of attack?

It is widely acknowledged that the U.S. is widely and deeply implicated in various acts of "crime" against various peoples around the world, especially those who are seen to be small and weak. Many Koreans identify themselves as victims of such "crimes" - crimes of willful acts, acts of aggression or callousness and arrogance, or even acts in fear and ignorance -- perpetrated by the U.S. (Even the "handling" of the "accusation" of "crimes" is received as further crimes stemming from callousness and arrogance.)

What we witness is a massive and incomprehensible asymmetry of power between the powerful and the weak, amplified by callousness and ironic fear that grips the powerful. This lies behind much of the cycle of wars and various large and small acts of terrorism. Perhaps the September 11 "attack on the America" may not be separable from this cycle.

The acts and behaviour of the Bush Administration, since its inauguration, has further aggravated the image of callousness of the sole superpower in the world.

We must reflect on the recent incidents with two clear eyes. We must grieve the death of thousands of people, paying respects to the dead and condolences to their families. At the same time, we must also remember all those people of smaller and weaker nations who have died at the receiving end of the "precision" fire power of the mighty military capacity of the U.S.

The American conglomerate media has carried live broadcasts of U.S. attack on various countries, as if they were computer games, blinding the spectators of the death and pain of the real people at the other end. We are concerned that when the U.S. launches its attack on Afghanistan, the world media is portray it as an "air show" of computer game-like high-tech weaponry. How will people of the world rise to find real solutions to real pains, and real angers of real people?

We are also concerned that there are groups which are set to gain profit from all the terror attacks and wars which everyone must oppose.

The military-industry complex is set to profit enormously from the imminent U.S. attack. They are intent on driving the death of thousands of people and the grief felt by all of Americans and the people all over the world into a war frenzy. While the war may start out as an effort to seek "retribution", it will soon be turned into a war which will be driven by the thirst for profit among the nexus of the military-industry complex and hawkish Bush Administration.

The choices being made by the U.S. Bush Administration to resort to war in response to the September 11 terrorist attack will lead to greater tragedy - albeit not felt and lived by the American people. However, it will not lead to comforting or healing of the pains and grief of the American people. It will lead to greater pains and ever greater tragedy to all people of the world.

If we fail to direct ourselves to efforts which eradicate the confrontations that breed and grow on killings and deaths, what we will face is the start of another round of wars.

Lastly we address our thoughts to the Korean government of President Kim Dae Jung. We call on the government to think soundly and thoroughly, instead of lining up behind the war efforts of the U.S. Bush Administration.

The Korean government has acted promptly and properly in its response to the tragedy in the U.S. However, its more recent decisions to fall line with the war call of the U.S. government is not less than unwise. The government fails to appreciate the implication of the U.S.'s war and is wilfully blind to the nature of the conflict, and subscribes itself to callousness of the powerful.

The absence of sound thinking on the part of the government is embarrassingly demonstrated by its attempt to obstruct the holding of a press conference by major civic and social organisations which had planned to make public their condolences to the victims and hopes for peace.

We cannot but air our concern that the government may abuse the current situation shaped by the shock of the terrorist attack on the U.S. as an opportunistic excuse for curtailing basic and fundamental civil rights.

Similar concern is directed at the cynical sleight of hand to nullify the reform agenda the Korean society has identified and established over the last few years, in the areas of north-south Korea relations, politics, and economy.

We warn against the efforts of the corporate media and economic magnates to exploit the current situation to instil a more confrontational attitude in the north-south Korea relations and in the industrial relations.

The economic impact of the terrorist attack on the U.S. should be taken as a timely warning to build strong pillars of self-reliance in the midst of exposure, vulnerability, and dependence on global economic environment. However, there are already signs that the current situation is being exploited to strengthen the hands and bourses of the rich and powerful. This is revealed in the efforts of the business lobby to turn back on the socially agreed agenda for working hour reduction.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions joins in the mourning for the dead, grief of all the victims and their families, and in lending support and strength to those labouring in the relief work.

We applaud the voices of the victims who have courageously come out to say no the war of retaliation. We join them in working the break the cycle of violence.

The world-wide common will to oppose terror will be realised only when it builds into an effort to oppose war and to build peace. We will oppose all opportunistic machinations to exploit the pain for self-serving ends.

The KCTU appeals to all people, especially the trade union movement, to oppose the war drive and to rally for peace.