Democratization

Unbroken: Kwon Nak-gi, Long Term Political Prisoner of Conscience

On June 14th, Kris Pak, an adoptee; Stephanie Park and Dae-Han Song, two Korean-Americans; Taryn Assaf, a Lebanese-Canadian; Anastasia Traynin, a Russian-American; and Erica Sweett, a Canadian meet with Kwon Nak-gi: trim, neatly dressed, nearing 70, set of black hair, hint of  slouch, and tattooed eyebrows. He speaks with the earned conviction and justification of one who stayed true to his beliefs and comrades in the face of torture and 17 years of solitary confinement.


5.18.2014

By Ana Traynin

On this May morning at the 34th People’s Commemoration
We are full of color
Red spilled blood
Black death and cherished memory
Yellow ribbons of hope
Green spring explosion of life
Sitting between the graves
Fists raised to the fallen martyrs
Feeling their blood, tears and spirits seep from below
We weren’t there then, but we remember now
Singing, shouting, crying
Marching forward with the beloved

On this May morning in Mangwol Cemetery
We carry on the legacy
Rulers are not benign, but corrupted by power
Freedom is not given, but born of struggle
People are not weak, but invincible together
Lifeless bodies give us all life
So onward we march


Locating Resistance, Commemorating Struggle

In any political movement, the act of raising political consciousness among new members is a crucial aspect of spreading awareness and building the movement. “Work classrooms” held for young female workers served this purpose for Korea’s labor movement in the ‘70s, as does the ISC’s own “Korean History, Economics, and Politics Program” for the international solidarity movement today. My first such experience occurred during college with the Asian American Student Union, through which I learned about the historical context and political meaning to the term “Asian American” [1]. Although small, the moment I became exposed to the term’s original radical aims was the beginning of understanding my life and experiences as political and part of a greater story of struggle – in other words, a tipping point.


May 18: Truth from within Solidarity

The atrocities that ravage countries are pushed into the shadows of history by those who are threatened by the weight of its truth. In the late 1970s Korea was very different. The country was still under military dictatorship. Citizens fought tirelessly for their basic rights. The assassination of President Park Chung Hee on October 26th 1979 sparked unrest across the country. Army general Chun Doo Hwan quickly replaced Park. In an attempt to divide and weaken the unified voices of the people he executed martial law. In response, students and citizens rose up in protest.


The Past, Present and Future of Korean Democracy: Stories from Busan’s Kim In-Gi

Mr. Kim and his wife outside their restaurant, Min Ga in Busan's PNU area

Mr. Kim and his wife outside their restaurant, Min Ga in Busan’s PNU area

By Taryn Assaf


Great International Peace March- Jeju to Mainland

Pre-celebrations will start at 7 PM on July 3rd with rallies in front of City Hall on Jeju Island. The next day at 10 AM, a press conference at Gangjeong Village will launch the peace march. Following the conference will be the march from Gangjeong Village, the site of an anti-Naval base construction struggle, to the Historical Site of the April 3rd Jeju Uprising.  On the 5th, the march will split into two contingents, one continuing toward the southeastern tip and the other toward the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula. From the east and west, both of these contingents will converge on the 6th at Jiri Mountain, a historic site of guerilla resistance. The two West and East contingents will march separately visiting major cities (such as Jinju, Gwangju, Ulsan, Pohang, Daegu, Cheonan) and sites of struggle in South Korea while participating in rallies, cultural, and peace promotion events and activities.


Resolution to Struggle: a Declaration for Human Liberation

Translated from the 22nd Commemoration Ceremony for Martyrs and Victims for the Nation and Democracy  June 8, 2013, Seoul, South Korea

Since the time of the Gabo (Tonghak) Peasant Revolution[i] through Japanese colonial rule and then military dictatorship until today in the 21st century, the worker’s and people’s progressive social transformation movement has continuously been marching towards national and social liberation. Our martyrs have always been at the frontlines sacrificing their lives.

Our martyr’s frontline struggles have always lent great moral authority to the workers and peoples[ii] struggles. Unlike the few who ruled for their interests, the noble deeds of our martyrs were dedicated to the progress of society and history.


Photo Essay: Remembering Fallen Comrades On the Road to the New Day

On June 8, 2013, the ISC Media Team attended the 22nd National Commemoration of the Martyrs and Victims in the Struggle for Our Nation and Democracy. The first commemoration ceremony was held amidst tear gas in 1990 under Roh Tae Woo’s presidency.

A shrine composed of over 350 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the nation and for democracy

A shrine composed of over 350 martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the nation and for democracy


Photo Essay- Gwangju 2013

On May 17th and 18th, the ISCs Media Team joined in the commemoration ceremonies at Gwangju in the southern province of Jeonnam. After the assassination of dictator Park Chung Hee and a brief period of political liberalization, citizens in Gwangju and around South Korea rose up against General Chun Doo Hwan’s attempts at a coup d’etat. Troops were sent in to squash the rebellion, yet a civilian-formed army held back the troops for nine days. During this time, civilians took over the city and peacefully co-managed it without any traces of crime. The uprising was finally put down on May 27th. While unsuccessful at the time, the May Uprising became a rallying call for democratization during the 1980s, culminating in the June 11th Democratic Uprising of 1987 that brought direct presidential elections.


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