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Monday, July 18, 2005

Meanwhile in Korea

A round up of some recent coverage / bloggage of Korean matters.

Two Koreas continue their excellent coverage of labour issues in South Korea with a post on what looks to be a hot summer season of disputes with the conservative FKTU union federation appearing to take an increasingly militant stance. For Korean readers the latest issue of Ta Hamkke newspaper also has quite a bit on the joint struggle that the two big union confederations are planning to wage this month.

Plans to expand the US Army base at P'yôngt'aek, to make space for troops who are to be redployed from the Yongsan base in central Seoul, seem to have a created another flashpoint and a great deal of resentment among locals. Once again Two Koreas are on the case (this blog is in danger of becoming a list of links to Two Koreas...) providing a very good overview of the way in which this particular site of protest has become a focus for quite a number of different causes (the old-school National Liberation types of the Hanchôngnyôn students, the new anti-war movement, the farmers' movement and of course, local families themselves who will be turfed out with the expansion plans). Oh My News also had their usual excellent picture story on last weekend's protests. And serious protests they were too - as the pictures of students charging police lines with 2-metre wooden poles show.

On the subject of the military, BBC correspondent Charles Scanlon has finally got around to doing something in-depth on the problems in the ROK Army that led to last month's one-man shooting spree that left eight men dead. A decent overview.

The July English edition of Le Monde Diplomatique has an interesting leader on Korea. As the title - 'Korean Blues' - indicates the subject is the mood of pessimism in South Korea, particularly about the economy. The focus is also on Korea's role as something of a pioneer in the field of precarity and flexibilisation:

In no other part of the world is the precarious labour market as advanced as it is here, having been created under the pressures of globalisation.

As the trade union officials explained: “Between the company that submits the original order and the worker who carries it out there are sometimes seven layers of subcontractors. The worker never knows exactly for whom he is working. The responsibilities of the main beneficiary of the production are diluted in a jungle of subcontractors. In the event of problems the occasional worker often has no recourse, because the trade unions for precarious workers are not recognised.”

Good to see a European take on what's going on in Korea.

Finally, news from a couple of weeks ago about the establishment of a new progressive veterans' association in Korea. Traditionally the mainstream Korean Veterans' Association has been a bastion of rightwing retired generals, so the planned new group seems to be making some powerful enemies before it has even got off the ground.


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