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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Korea University Ruckus

Apologies for prolonged absence. Been busy helping to win an election. For more commentary on the British general election I'll direct you elsewhere.

Meanwhile a few things I wanted to blog have passed me by, so I'll try to catch up on some of them, starting with this:

All hell broke loose last week when head of Samsung, Korea's most powerful corporation, went to Korea University (one of the country's top three universities) to receive an honorary philosophy degree. The Kodae students, known since time immemorial for their fiery reaction to anything smelling too strongly of capital, held a rather successful demonstration that was able to strip the Lee Kun-hee of some of his dignity by forcing a change of venue (from the intended 'Samsung Hall' which he had partially paid for no less) and making him scuttle out of the backdoor of the building. Oh My News, as always, was on the scene to provide some excellent pictures. There's something on the debacle in English at Korea Times and they have the usual finger-wagging conservative editorial too, which makes good use of that favourite word 'irrational'. (It's quite irrational just how much this word gets used in newspaper editorials.)

Of course, this led to something of a conservative backlash against the students at Kodae, but strangely enough it also seems to have caused quite a few commentators to point fingers of blame at the big corporations themselves (chaebol) for being so corrupt and useless at PR. Another interesting outcome is that because the demo seems to have been organised by socialist group Ta Hamkke, this has focused some attention on them and they even get a mention in this Korea Times article. In response, Ta Hamkke have produced a special edition of their paper, defending the actions of the students, which you can find here. They even have a couple of translated articles in English on their newly revamped English website.

It seems that the student protestors have a hit a deep vein of well-deserved dislike and distrust toward Korea's glorious business leaders, but of course this is not something unique to Korea by any means.

Protestors hold up a mock degree certificate reading "Doctor of Labour Repression"


At May 09, 2005 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many of these same students will be kissing Samsung's asses to get a job when they graduate?

I'm not sure how seriously to take student protestors in Korea since the 90's began. It seems like just a hypocritical and self-righteous game.

At May 09, 2005 3:28 PM, Blogger kotaji said...

I know some of these guys and they're pretty serious in my experience. No doubt that quite a few onetime student protesters end up selling their souls - but isn't that true everywhere?

By the way, no-one seems to do hypocritical and self-righteous better than Korean politicians and businessmen so I think the students may have quite a bit of catching up to do yet.

At May 11, 2005 9:08 AM, Blogger june cho said...

Is it common sense that an honorary doctor will be given to people who contribute to the school financially? It’s not Ph.D! Kodae students seem to confuse honorary doctor with Ph.D. Godae used to be one of the top 3 universities in Korea but Sogang Univ. currently exceeding Godae. I would buy Godae men’s protest when they gave up their idiotic tradition of drinking Mal-gul-ri (막걸리) heavily (until almost to death) and their stupid misogynist sexist male ego… I am never a fan of Godae mentality. (By the way, I didn’t go to Yonsei, which is traditional rivalry of Godae.) The rivalry stuff is pretty idiotic too.

At May 11, 2005 7:12 PM, Blogger Karlo said...

Good stuff. I'm surprised to hear that there are still students in Korea who give a rat's ass about anything besides landing a job after graduation. There's still hope.

At May 12, 2005 12:43 AM, Blogger kotaji said...

June: I know some of the people that took part in the demo and I'm pretty sure that they're not misogynists or sexists because they come from a very progressive organisation. Although they may still drink a lot of Makkolli... I don't know.

At May 12, 2005 9:50 AM, Blogger june cho said...

Male hypocrisy, I guess. No matter how liberal or progressive they are, in personal level they are pretty much the same as conservative a**. When I lived in Korea, I heard some stories about those leftwing male students (운동권 학생들) who treated their girlfriends and wives badly. I actually knew some of the victims! There were some literatures about it too.

Hope younger generation Korean men are different.

At May 13, 2005 1:56 PM, Anonymous 이예송 said...

Hi, June. you would not know me, i don't know you,either. but i just want to say few things.
as i am a progressive female student myself(운동권 여대생), i want to say these students' protests were absoltely justified. think about it. due to the Samsung business principle, which does not allows any union in the company, the Samsung workers were denied the basic right to organize union. Samsung even did some crazy things like kidnapping the workers and setting up surveilence sytem on the workers who try to make union.

for all of people who have fought to get their rights and to achieve social justice including the Samsung workers and other workers, these students were heroes. i think you would never get a chance to see 이건희 in person in your lifetime. and then the students gave him a big kick!

about gender discrimination issue,it's true there was a history of discrimination and victims of that. so,i think it is very important for us, the leftwing, to have a proper portion of women activists and to deal with women issue conciously. more importantly, i think the politics that understands the need for women's liberation as well as social change and how these two things are combined is important.
and i know some of the students that participated that action personally and politically, so i can say they are not male chuvinists at all.

and i don't think you can say the conservatives and these protesters are the same no matter what. if you say the things like that, you are not able to suppport any strugle that is led by ordinary people from students, peasants and workers even women. because most of people have very complex political ideas on women's issue even among women.

i don't think you can judge on any struggle by their conciousness.
and also there are ample differences between conservatives and the leftwing students which you would definitely know.

so i think it's impossible to say the protesters were just male sexists.


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