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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tokto stirs debate on the Korean left

The Korean socialist newspaper Ta Hamkke was inaccessible for a couple of weeks for some reason so I've got quite a bit of catching up to do. The latest issue has a section on the 'changing imperialist powers in northeast asia.' With articles like 'Why is Japan winding up its neighbours?' (일본은 왜 인접국들을 자극하는가?) it looks like it'll be good reading.

The last issue (no. 52) had some very interesting pieces about the debates that the Tokto issue stirred on the left. I'd really like to translate some of this stuff, but I'm not sure I'll have time. If you can read Korean there's a good article by Chông Chin-hûi entitled 'Tokto, Imperialism and Resistance' as well as a letter about whether it is chauvinistic to burn the Japanese flag.

To put it very briefly, Chông Chin-hûi's piece is a critique of people she calls 'abstract internationalists' (추상적 국제주의자들) and autonomists (not sure whether this is the correct translation of 자유주의자들 in this context) who have strongly criticised the role of the Democratic Labour Party (민노당) in leading protests over Tokto. They have called the actions of the party chauvinistic and argued that it could lose its reputation as a progressive party. Chông however, argues that they are wrong and that the nationalistic response of Koreans to the Tokto issue is not necessarily rightwing or something that will benefit the Korean ruling class. The article also contains passing criticism of Han Kyu-han's article on the history of Tokto from last year that I've quoted from before, which is closer to the 'abstract internationalist' view.

From the perspective of an outsider, one of the interesting things is that this sort of debate can occur on the Korean left. Now there is not only a debate between the nationalist left and the internationalist left over how to respond to this sort of issue, but also between internationalists and those who take a more extreme anti-nationalist position.


At April 29, 2005 7:08 AM, Anonymous 예송 said...

오웬씨, 진희씨가 말하는 자유주의자는 제가 생각하기에 liberalist 를 말하는 듯해요. 그게 문맥에는 자세히 나와있지 않지만 한국의 자유주의자들 중 한국국민의 '비이성적 광기'를 규탄하는 사람들이 꽤 있었거든요. 자율주의자들이 민노당에 들어가 있지는 않은 듯 싶어요.

도움이 되셨기를...^^

At May 25, 2005 11:21 PM, Blogger kotaji said...

Yesong, I just noticed your comment, about a month later!

Anyway, thanks for the tip on translation. I suppose 자유주의자 is very different to 자율주의자. The only thing I'm confused about is the political nature of the 자유주의자들 in the Korean context.

As you know, in English the word liberal can have quite a few different meanings depending on the context. In the US it tends to mean someone on the centre left (actually these days anyone to the left of Bush or who doesn't vote Republican). In Britain it can refer to the political centre, ie the Liberal Democrat party, or colloquially to middle class, vaguely leftwing people who typically read a newspaper like the Guardian. But it can also mean people who believe in rightwing liberal economics like Thatcher etc, who modelled themselves on the policies of Gladstone's Liberal Party in the late nineteenth century - ie non-interventionist, no tariffs, free enterprise etc.

So my confusion is that none of these descriptions seem to fit with the sort of people who I imagine would be involved in the 민노당, which is still a long way to the left of the British Labour Party.


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