The High-speed Train to Busan: Is South Korea Experiencing an Ideological Revolution Away from Neoliberalism?

by Scott Creighton


There is currently a captivating story taking place in South Korea which is getting little to no attention from the main-stream media.

South Korea is one of the most highly neoliberalised nations on the planet that still operates under the pretense of democracy.

The so-called “Miracle on the Han River“, like the “Miracle of Chile“, was born in dictatorship. In May of ’61, the extremely young democratically elected government of the country was overthrown in a coup and the generals set themselves up to serve the ultra-rich corporate families of South Korea known as the chaebols. It’s a fascist relationship with the government serving the interests of a select few major multinational corporations and the super-rich families who own them.

By mid-1962 a young Lt. General Park took over as acting president and in 1963 he was “elected” for the first time. According to the constitution at the time, he would allowed to serve only two 8-year terms in office. He was assassinated along with several other leading members of his dictatorship in 1979 by the KCIA (yes, same thing just with the word “Korean” added to it)

Lt. General Park was Park Chung-hee and he had been a highly decorated general in the employ of the former dictator who had been overthrown in South Korea in Aug. of 1960. He had also been trained in Fort Sill in the United States in the late 50s.

Ironically, it was Park himself who created the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) and used them to suppress dissent in the country for nearly two decades. Torture, curfews, spying… it was all necessary for Park to keep control of the citizenry as they unleashed the markets upon the people of South Korea.

“Between 1961 and 1979, Park Chung Hee ruled South Korea with an iron fist. Under his reign, criticizing the government could result in a visit from the secret police, and torture was extremely widespread. Opponents had a habit of disappearing, and it’s thought that Park personally murdered high-level dissenters in his own home. With that in mind, care to guess how South Koreans view this authoritarian madman today?” List Verse

Park was removed from power in ’79 by the CIA-linked KCIA because his country was falling apart and young people and workers were rioting en masse on an almost daily basis. There simply weren’t enough torturers to keep them all in line. But Park refused to give in, refused to step down. He had remade the constitution several times by presidential decree and was then positioned to remain dictator in chief for life and he didn’t want to step aside.

On Oct. 26th, 1979 the CIA got their boys in the KCIA to kill Park and several other members of his leadership. Kim Jae-gyu  was head of the KCIA at the time. He later said the US was behind the bloody coup.

Kim had frequent meetings with Robert G. Brewster, CIA chief in Seoul, and other American diplomats. He met with United States Ambassador William Gleysteen on the day of assassination, just five hours before the shootingPM Press

According to reports, there were two reasons for getting rid of Park:

  1. He refused to quit trying to acquire and nuclear weapon
  2. The people of South Korea were in open revolt against him

Asked about the murder, Kim said the following:

“I was such an idiot!… (I was thinking) If we’re too harsh in suppressing the demonstrators in Busan and Masan [calling for democracy], there will be a huge backlash from the people down there. But the ruling Republican Party isn’t giving President Park the right advice because it fears Cha Ji-cheol. I am going to get rid of him today.” Meng News

The evening’s events were described this way:

As the president sat down, he started lashing out at Kim Jae-gyu, his longtime confidant.

“Jae-gyu, my disappointment in you grows day by day. You are just utterly disappointing in your job. … How can you do nothing to quell the protests in Busan and Masan with all the money I have given you? What excuse do you have this time?”

Cha (Chief Presidential Security Officer Cha Ji-cheol) interrupted Park: “The situation has gotten worse due to the government’s inaction.” Meng News

Hours later, both Park and Cha would be dead at the hands of Kim. They wanted to hold onto power by crushing the dissent across the country with military might and Kim, perhaps under the direction of the State Department and the CIA, understood that it would not work and would only lead to more fury from the South Korean people and perhaps even his own personal demise.

Kim figured he could appease his Western friends and save the control they had over the country by getting rid of the problem from the top down rather than signing his own arrest (death) warrant by slaughtering thousands of civilians.. This was his solution.

The Bu-Ma Democratic Protests began on Oct. 16th on the campus of Busan University. By Oct. 26th, the dictator they opposed was dead.

Busan 1979

That dictator just happens to have been the father of the current president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, who is facing her own mass protests and an impeachment proceeding based on very similar circumstances.

In early Dec. of 2016, 1.7 million people showed up at a protest to demand Geun-hye resign from office. It was the largest protest in South Koreas history, barely beating a protest held the week before which reportedly saw 1.5 million people demanding the same thing.

Image result for protests south korea

Not ones to let history be forgotten, the South Koreans held massive rallies in Busan as well.

Image result for protests in busan

Busan, Nov. 2016, rally to remove president from office

Ironically, the preservation of history factors into this impeachment effort. Back in Oct. of last year, President Park set forth a mandate for all schools to quit using privately published textbooks of their choice in favor of some state published ones. It was reported that the state text-books glossed over the real history of her father’s dictatorship and treated the oligarch system in South Korea with kid gloves. Now that she has been impeached, her plan has been kicked to the curb. It wasn’t very popular among the South Korean people.

Various chaebols are also starting to feel the burn of this new uprising. Lee Jae-yong, Vice President of Samsung and family heir to that fortune, is being investigated for potential bribery, embezzlement and perjury charges in connection to favors granted him and his family-owned business by Geun-hye.

Arresting the chaebols for bribing and influencing South Korean politicians is like handing out assault charges at a UFC event. The message being sent to South Korean oligarchs is clear: she’s done, step away from her.

Geun-hye is waiting to see if the constitutional court upholds her impeachment. It might take half a year for them to render a verdict and folks assume she is deliberately waiting out the clock to see if she can either influence them or quell the uprising before she is forced to step down.

Frankly I wonder if that is wise considering the fate of her father.

After all, if you fail to recognize the mistakes of the past, you are doomed to repeat them.

Through it all, Busan stands as a symbol. And the South Korean people are rushing headlong back in time, straight to Busan and an opportunity to reclaim something lost so long ago.

A month ago, I watched a South Korean film called Train to Busan. It’s a zombie film with few peers in that it was openly and almost overtly a social statement more than it was an action movie.

It was quite brilliant in that regard and as I watched it, I knew it was about so much more than entertainment or zombies.

But I didn’t know the history of the reference and for that I am kind of ashamed. In ’79 I was too busy popping pimples to notice the affairs of anywhere else and since then, as my knowledge has grown regarding neoliberalism and the long, long struggle against it, unfortunately I have spent little time studying the growing protests sprouting up in South Korea.

I highly recommend the film to those interested in watching relevant art these days that goes beyond the neoliberal activism of folks like George Clooney.

Train to Busan is setting attendance records in South Korea and though Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 96 rating (out of 100) some say it’s “Snowpiercer with zombies”

Snowpiercer is also a strong anti-neoliberal film which was also produced in South Korea as well.

Without giving away the plot of the story, Train is more about empathy than zombies. And the fact that it deals with a collection of people representative of South Korean life on a run-away train rumbling through a cruel and out of control nation heading for redemption and a second chance in Busan is an unmistakable political allegory for the state of their union today.

Yes, South Korea is on a high-speed train to Busan. What they will find there, God only knows and how many will perish along the way, he wont tell. But if it’s true that the journey is often times more instructive than the destination to those seeking redemption, it seems the South Koreans have learned a lot about themselves over the past few decades and may be willing once more to put their trust in themselves and each other once again.

Let’s hope so anyway. One less neoliberalized nation in this world wouldn’t be such a bad thing when you think about it. A couple million people casting off the religion of selfishness that the Ayn Randians of the world practice cant help but advance the human condition just a little bit, don’t you think?

I wish em God speed on their trip to Busan.

14 Responses

  1. Those with an interest in Korean history should read about the Bodo League massacres. Some of the most horrifying and sickening events in human history. The CIA was there.

  2. So Kim was essentially a fragger. Wonder if we’ll see more of that soon.

  3. “South Korea is one of the most highly neoliberalized nations on the planet that still operates under the pretense of democracy.” ~ S.C.

    Exactly. Meanwhile North Korea refuses to submit to the global plague of neoliberalism. Therefore North Korea is attacked by a global plague of lies, which 99.9% of the world’s masses believe are true.

    At the end of World War II the people of North Korea celebrated the defeat of their Japanese warlords, and eagerly sought to join with the West, only to be betrayed by the West, and by bloodthirsty right-wing elitists in South Korea, many of which were trained in the USA. The result was a civil war, which soon became the US war on North Korea. Since that time the West has maintained sanctions, blockades, and propaganda against N. Korea. If you question the lies, you are a “conspiracy theorist.”

    I have not seen “Train to Busan.” Perhaps the zombies symbolize average South Koreans who not only submit to neoliberalism, but praise and defend it, and (like mindless zombies) do everything possible to increase it.

  4. It will be interesting to see if this will lead to the union of North and South over the next few years. With the North’s considerable military and the South’s industry they could become an Asian powerhouse. Good luck to them!

    • The North Korean military is more like a military museum. Just a collection of targets. Tough soldiers, though.
      As for Korean unification, the US will never let that happen.

      • “The North Korean military is more like a military museum. Just a collection of targets.”

        Perhaps, but that’s what the Israelis said about Hezbollah, and the USA said about the Vietnamese and about the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.

        Technology might win a battle, but technology does not win wars. The Saudi-US coalition has been bombing Yemen continually for almost two years, and is no closer to victory.

        All wars are ultimately fought for control of the mass mind. The USA has no advantage in this. The 9-11 false flag and the War Of Terror changed everything.

        • Agreed. Barefoot Yemeni kids have been spanking the Saudis pretty well. Despite (practically) unlimited resources, total air superiority, drones, armor, and nasty goat-fucking proxy forces, the Saudis can’t figure it out. I suppose the empire has been good at starting and prolonging wars, but by design, not good at winning and finishing wars.

          • War used to be about winning. Now, for the Empire, war is about profits, and must therefore be continued forever.

            Democrats are at least as invested in war as are Republicans. For example, scumbags like Rachel Madcow are outraged that Trump wants to make peace with the Russians.

            • all good points but I would like to suggest Madcow couldn’t care less about Trump’s stand toward the Russians. All she knows is Trump makes her owners mad and she has an obligation to serve them and their wishes. It’s kinda like when some politico talks about looking out for our “national interests” abroad. They don’t have too know the particulars and in most cases, they aren’t capable or concerned enough to understand the deep state for what it is. All they know is massa is angry and massa pays well. They have the survival instincts to take it from there. Rachel is no different. I am sure she would prefer regurgitating issues that sit easier on her soul, but in the end, it’s all the same to her. Pragmatism is a blessing in America these days. Perhaps it always has been. But it never made us better and we never celebrate those who settled or served as apologists… only the mavericks who had a dream. and most of them die penniless.

              • MadCow was a faulty example. My point is that many self-identified Democrats are outraged that the USA lost in Syria, and that Trump wants to make peace with Russia. They are outraged by peace.

                This occurs because Democrats support neoliberalism and imperialistic war as much as anyone else does, although they camouflage themselves with political correctness and “identity politics.” When we point out their hypocrisy, Democrats fall back on absurdities such as “Trump is Putin’s puppet!”

                By “Democrats” I mean mostly older Democrats; the ones who supported Killary. I have spoken with many of them. They are too “brilliant” to listen to facts and reason.

                Fortunately they are dying off. They sooner we are rid of them all, the better.

  5. Ha. Ha! how can any body believe the trumf-show?
    Despicable tool will utter any thing any time.
    The cia/Russia hack…is part of the show.
    ” electoral college” INTENDED/ENGINEERED the Orange Fuhrer / Military Rule.
    Deth to Murdika /right on time. We deserve it.
    Blast Off !

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