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Civic groups slam US for Iran tensions, oppose troop deployment to Hormuz

Progressive civic groups in South Korea condemned the US on Thursday for killing Iran’s top military commander in a drone strike near Baghdad last week, urging the government not to deploy Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz.

Civic groups hold an anti-war rally outside the US Embassy in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Civic groups hold an anti-war rally outside the US Embassy in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

An association of 65 civic groups -- mostly labor unions, peace groups and left-wing groups -- called on the government not to be drawn into a US “war of aggression,” describing the targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, as a “grave provocative act.”

Tensions between the US and Iran have intensified since Wednesday, when Iran retaliated for the killing with ballistic missile strikes against two Iraqi bases housing American troops. The longtime foes, however, appeared to have stepped back from the brink on Thursday as US President Donald Trump announced “powerful” sanctions on Iran, instead of using military force, in response to Tehran’s strikes.

Meanwhile, Korea, a key ally of the US, has come under growing pressure to send its troops to join a US-led maritime coalition to safeguard international shipping in and near the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway that serves as a crucial chokepoint for global oil supplies.

“The US’ assassination of the Iranian general posed a grave threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Park Suk-woon, co-head of the Korea Alliance for Progressive Movement, at a press conference in front of the US Embassy in Seoul on Thursday morning.

“The US is trying to intervene in Korea’s state affairs by forcing us to deploy troops,” he said as participants held up placards saying, “No War with Iran.”

Harry Harris, the US ambassador to Korea, said Tuesday in a media interview that he hoped Seoul would contribute to the maritime force.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said no decision had yet been made on whether to send troops to the region.

“There are so many victims of wars in Iran. It is ordinary people who suffer,” Moses, an Iranian refugee living in Korea, told The Korea Herald. “Iranians want peace with people from all over the world.”

The civic groups plan to hold a rally on Jan. 18 to protest the Trump administration and oppose the deployment of Korean troops to the Strait of Hormuz.  

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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