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Another Queer Weekend: Makjang Party in Jongno, Lecture on Queer Korea, and Film Festival in Busan

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The biggest party this weekend will probably be Club 50's 'Mak-jang Party'. With go-go boys, drag queens, and an after party, it looks like a fun night. Entrance is 15,000 won.


Club 50 is located right next to exit 6 of Jongno 3 Ga.




For a more academic weekend, you can check out Martin Weiser's Discourse on Homosexuality in Korean History: Facts and Fantasies at 2 pm on Saturday.



The Traveling Seoul LGBT Film Festival makes its last stop in Busan on Saturday and Sunday. 

Saturday October 18th:
17:20 In the Name Of
19:30 Stranger By The Lake

Sunday October 19th
12:00 I Want Your Love
17:40 Violette

Films will be screening at the Gukdo Art Cinema near exit 5 of Daeyeon station.

On a more solemn note, this Sunday the Rabbit Hole will have a memorial service for the International Transgender Day of Remembrance starting at 11 AM. Check out their Facebook event page for more info



Learn the meaning of "답답하다"

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Here's a common word you might have heard a lot - "답답하다." But what does it actually mean, and how can you use it? This week's episode talks about the main uses of 답답하다, and gives a couple of examples as well. Find out more by viewing the video:

Korean Phrases Ep. 30: 답답하다


And are you just starting to learn Korean, or want a solid review of the basics? Then my book "Korean Made Simple: A beginner's guide to learning the Korean language" is the book for you!


You can check the book out on my site here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.

Or if you've already started learning Korean and want to take your skills to the next level, check out my second book in the series, "Korean Made Simple 2: The next step in learning the Korean language."

You can check out the sequel here, or find it directly through Amazon and most online retailers.

-Billy

www.GoBillyKorean.com

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean

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Determination of Employee Status and Contract Value

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The last Korea Herald column just ran.  Not that I don't want to keep writing, but the biweekly deadline got to be a bit much with other commitments.  If you have a problem or a topic request, feel free to email, and I may be in other publications on a more irregular basis in the future.  Also look forward to some discussions of positive results for my clients on this blog and the legal bases for those in the near future.  

Determination of employee status and contract value


We will discuss labor law again in this column, but from a more general perspective, so that employers and employees alike can evaluate compensation, rights and duties under the law. 

Korean labor law has several unique features, such as severance pay and presumptions of permanent employment, which can catch foreign employers off-guard if they are not fully aware. But of course, not knowing the labor law cannot be an excuse to avoid employers’ liability.

When one party works for another, the most important inquiry is whether the position is regular, or that of an independent contractor. Labor law protects employees and guarantees certain minimums, and employers have the obligation to pay certain taxes and insurances.

It is not as simple as what the contract says ― although that is one factor. Supervision, location and control of work, ownership of equipment, payment structure and other factors are also considered by the courts if there is a dispute. 

In a recent decision still under appeal (and therefore not final), the visa status of the employees was a crucial factor. Essentially, because E-visa holders cannot work outside of their sponsor’s establishment without permission from the sponsor and Immigration, the court held that E-visa holders are employees. So technicians (E-7), teachers (E-1 or E-2) and others may well be employees regardless of other factors.

When the worker is an employee, it affects the issue of compensation. Since the labor law mandates certain time off in addition to compensation schemes, creating legally structured agreements with certain employees can be difficult. Flextime employees are also subject to different compensation rules. Agreements for managerial employees, expected to put in more than 40-hour workweeks, will need more careful structuring. In addition, some conditions (such as annual leave) only apply to workplaces with more than five employees, so the conditions can vary depending on the size of the establishment.

Contracts must be written clearly and include wages, hours, holidays, leave and other material terms. Placing specific procedures for calculating payment and raises, bonuses, and the circumstances for award or punishment is helpful in preventing disputes. Of course, some punishments (like dismissal without cause) will be illegal, whether or not it is written in the contract. The general principle of law, equally applicable in this context, is that the law supersedes the contract when the two conflict.

Annual paid leave is 15 days per year and begins to accrue proportionally after the first month, assuming no absences. If leave is not availed, it expires in one year after accrual, and the employer needs to compensate the employee. The compensation can be avoided if the employee is encouraged to take leave during a certain period, and certain notices before expiration are given. There are also other legally mandated leaves including menstrual, maternity and injury related.

By Yuna Lee and Darren Bean

Yuna Lee is a Korean attorney at Seowoo & Minyul Law Firm in Seoul. You can read her blog at askakoreanlawyer.blogspot.com or if there is a legal issue you would like to be addressed, email askalawyer@naver.com. ― Ed.

Disclaimer:This column is not intended as legal advice. No action should be taken or avoided based on this column, no attorney-client relationship is formed by reading this column or contacting the authors, and the authors expressly disclaim any liability for the content of this column. Those with legal problems in Korea should seek advice from an attorney.



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Weirdest of weathers in Seoul

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Very cold a snowy start on a glorious sunny day!

It was a snowy start today with snow on red leaves.

First snowfall in Seoul for 2014
I totally need to get ready for winter now!
Snow on a sunny fall day


Green leaves with snow.

Snow on red and yellow leaves in Seoul


Fall colors and snow adding beauty and enigma to the Seoul weather. Skywatch Friday



‘Her Midnight Run, My Empathy’ in Busan Haps

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I have refreshed the essay a bit and it’s now appearing on Busan Haps’ website. Check it out!

http://busanhaps.com/midnight-run-empathy/

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Note: She did not leave a note. That’s my handwriting.



JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.


Korean Peasants Sow the Seeds of Nation’s Food Sovereignty

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By Taryn Assaf

“Korea is Samsung, and Samsung is Korea”. This phrase is commonly heard and almost religiously believed by much of South Korea’s urban population. Much of what outsiders know about South Korea is Samsung, and taken from a purely economic perspective, that’s not so hard to believe: the top 30 Korean corporations make up82 percent of the country’s exports, with Samsung being the largest. Not so long ago, South Korea was a different world entirely. Rewind to the 1970s and you’d find a population of 50 percent farmers compared to just 6.2 percent today. You’d find an economy sustained by the agricultural, rather than the technology, sector. You’d find a country that was 80 percent food self-sufficient compared to fifty percent in 2012, (however, if we take away rice and grains, the self sufficiency rate drops to a staggering six percent)[i] the lowest among OECD nations. What this has meant for Korean farmers is a total loss of livelihood; what it means for Korean citizens is a near complete reliance on foreign foodstuffs, which, as evidenced by the 2007 global food crisis, can lead to shortages and price hikes, tightening the already stretched average household budget.

Farming in Korea began its decline in the 1980s when the United States began applying pressure on South Korea to dismantle trade barriers that had, until then, protected its domestic agricultural sector. With the threat of trade sanctions, Korea opened its markets to US beef, wine, tobacco and rice. Facing large deficits in trade, and realizing it no longer needed to use its food surpluses to strengthen Cold War alliances, the US argued that agriculture should be incorporated into trade negotiations. The World Trade Organization (WTO) began pressuring the world’s farming sectors to open their markets to global competition. In 1994, Korea entered the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA)[ii] with the WTO, welcoming the near demise of its agricultural sector. This forced the government to eliminate quotas and tariffs on agricultural imports from the US and European Union, which both subsidize their farmers and agribusinesses to the combined sum of $1 billion a day. After the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the International Monetary Fund imposed further liberalization policies on Korea’s agricultural sector, hurling Korean small farmers out of competition (and for many, out of business entirely). All of this has resulted in a four-fold debt increase – an average of approximately $30,000 USD – in farming households since 1995, which continues to rise. What only forty years ago was a thriving industry is no longer a viable way of life, and Koreans must fight to hold on to their right to farm and their right to food.

As a result of bad industry and agricultural policies, food is treated as a commodity rather than a human right. The right to

Jeomok Bak receives the Food Sovereignty Prize (Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for WhyHunger)

Jeomok Bak receives the Food Sovereignty Prize (Stuart Ramson/Insider Images for WhyHunger)

healthy and culturally appropriate food produced sustainably and according to a people’s own agricultural system – a concept otherwise known as food sovereignty – is continually undermined by structural barriers caused by market demands, corporations and complicit governments. Therefore, prioritizing the needs and livelihoods of food producers, distributors and consumers is central to a sovereign food system. Korea’s peasant farming population has been a world leader in reclaiming that system. In October 2012, the Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA) was awarded the Food Sovereignty Prize (FSP) by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance. The FSP was developed as an alternative to the more famously known World Food Prize.[iii] It celebrates small farmers and other food producers who use socially just, environmentally sustainable and economically viable production systems. The KWPA coordinates and carries out a number of activities throughout Korea designed to empower women through the process of sustainable farming.

One of KWPA’s main initiatives is empowering women peasants through indigenous seed preservation. Indigenous seed preservation was traditionally the responsibility of women as a consequence of the conventional division of labor on the farm. According to Hyo-Jeong Kim in her conference paper, “Food Sovereignty: A critical Diologue”, “the seed economy was a women’s economy”. During Korea’s Green Revolution in the 1970s, government policies that promoted and favored industrial farming led to the loss of women’s indigenous skill and knowledge. The practice of seed preservation became nearly extinct as industrial farming methods became the norm (buying seeds, fertilizer and soil; using heavy machinery, and increasing crop yields). Not only was this a loss of expertise, it was a loss of women’s empowerment. Native seeds and their crops embody the knowledge and skills of women peasant farmers, so to disregard that knowledge is to erase a large element of women’s agency on the farm. Despite the erasure of seed preservation from modern agriculture, many women held on to the practice. To sustain KWPA’s initiative, therefore, requires that that knowledge be passed down from the now elderly women peasant population to the younger farming generation, which is only familiar with industrial farming methods. Making seed preservation once more a priority in agriculture means making women’s knowledge and instinct a priority; it means transferring power from seed manufacturing companies back to women.

img_sisters_gardenSister’s Garden Plot (SGP), for instance, aims to connect consumers to women food producers who collectively grow and deliver weekly, biweekly and monthly packages of organic produce and other homemade products to consumers’ doorstepsThey also sell organic sesame oil and soy sauce, among other a-la-carte items, on theirwebsite. SGP currently operates 26 farm communities throughout Korea. The program aims to create a solution to the crises caused by neoliberalism and a globalized food production system. From their website, “SGP believes in sustainable, organic farming, in protecting and preserving biodiversity, in safeguarding native seeds, and in realizing peasants’ rights.” In doing so, they are reclaiming their right to a food production system that puts power back in the hands of producers and consumers. Also from their website, “As a result of their efforts, women peasants in these communities take pride as women peasants and have achieved greater social recognition in their homes and villages”.

KWPA is not the only, nor the first, organization in Korea leading the alternative agriculture movement. Hansalim began in 1986 as Korea’s first agricultural cooperative and is now the largest such cooperative in the world, boasting close to 400,000 household memberships and 2000 food producers. They believe in a healthy exchange between rural producers and urban consumers through the purchase of products and through tours, cooperation activities, education programs and campaigns. To build trust between consumers and producers, Hansalim offers an “Autonomous Check System” whereby consumers and producers can go through the production process together. This is meant to ensure transparency and quality, thus developing relationships with farmers and their products.

Hansalim offers a wide variety of products, ranging from living and household items to fresh produce to processed foods (seasonings, snacks, and side dishes). To protect food sovereignty, they support all domestic producers, not only those who use organic methods (some use low levels of pesticides, although priority is given to organic producers) and focuses solely hansalim reciepton local items. Livestock producers, for instance, use domestically grown barley to feed their livestock, bypassing the need to rely on grain imports and securing 400 hectares of barley producing land. Additionally, each product comes with a label detailing the number of kilometers traveled and the amount of carbon emissions saved in comparison to a similar imported product. The focus on local allows members to experiment with seasonal products and re-acquaint themselves with the traditional food culture.

To make shopping easy and convenient for its busy, urban customers, Hansalim offers home delivery options in addition to its 154 stores across the country. They even offer an app for iPhone and Android, through which users can access seasonal food information and Hansalim news, among other features.

Re-building Korea into a food sovereign nation is, by no means, easy. Cooperatives like Hansalim and organizations like the Korean Women Peasants Association embody the true meaning of food sovereignty, where priority is given to local production for local markets, based on local knowledge and resources. Many CSAs have sprouted up in response to the success of others – Gachi CSA (formerly WWOOF CSA), for instance, targets English speakers in Korea. Movements like these re-prioritize the lost relationship between consumers and producers in ways that ensure a dignified income for the farmers whose livelihoods have been eaten into by free trade and neoliberalism. They stand up for marginalized groups and stand against the environmentally degrading practices of large-scale industrial farming. Peasant farmers in Korea are nurturing the crops of sustainable agriculture with love and care, and are reclaiming a food system they can truly call their own.

[i] Anders Riel Mueller, The Fight for Real Food in Korea, Korean Quarterly, Winter 2012

[ii] The AoA is “the economic engine for promoting industrial agriculture — replacing family farmers with agribusiness, family farms with corporate farms, and biodiversity with monocropping.” Anuradha Mittal, Losing the Farm: How Corporate Globalization Pushes Millions off Land and Into Desperation; The Multinational Monitor, July/August 2003, 24(7/8)

[iii] The World Food Prize celebrates increased agricultural production through the use of industrial agriculture. Its recipients have included Monsanto’s Executive Vice President, Robert Fraley, for work developing GMO crops used in the U.S. Critics of the WFP state that it champions pro-GMO corporate agribusiness and the corporate owned global food system.


solidarity stories
from  International Strategy Center’s media chapter
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Spending and Saving in South Korea

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One of the (many) reasons I love living in Korea is the lower cost of many things which are ridiculously overpriced in the UK. The best example is probably eating meals out; when I’m in England, going out for a meal is a treat and an expensive one at that. Meals themselves are so much more expensive, plus the drinks (water not included in England, and even worse, no free coffee at the end), and 12.5% service charge on top of that… it adds up to a costly evening out, rather than a convenient meal as it has become in Korea. 

And meals are just one thing which is cheaper in Korea. Here are some of the best deals, which we’ve taken full advantage of whilst living here…

Eating Out 

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As mentioned, eating is so much cheaper. A cheap meal in England would be, at the least around £10 (18,000 won) and that’s without side dishes, starter or dessert, or service charge. If you were also paying for drinks and a starter/ dessert, you’d end up easily spending £20 (36,000 won)… and that’s at a cheap restaurant.

Comparing that to Korea: my favourite luxury buffet costs £19 (33,000 won), for all-you-can-eat sushi and seafood. £19 in a sushi restaurant in England wouldn’t get you very far at all… In other ‘expensive’ restaurants, meals can cost around £9 (16,000 won), and we feel like we’re splashing out. We’re in for a shock when we get home; I’m going to miss being able to eat out regularly without going bankrupt.

Public Transport

£11 (20,000 won) for a 3 hour journey in a luxury coach? Yes please. Getting a 1 and 1/2 hour train journey into the capital city for about £5 (8,000 won)? Amazing. That would cost you about 5 times as much if you were travelling to London, and that’s if you paid in advance and at off-peak times. Otherwise the prices are even more extortionate.

Taxis

The ease and comfort of travelling around in taxis is something that will be sorely missed. It’s actually as cheap (if not cheaper if there are a couple of you) than taking the bus. A 20-minute taxi ride in Seoul only costs about £10 (18,000 won). I dread to think how much that would cost in London.

Hairdressers

One of my favourite cheap things! I avoid having my hair cut in England because I don’t want to spend £25 (over 40,000 won) on a 10-minute trim. Then I found out that in Korea, you only have to pay £7 (12,000 won) for this treatment. They even style it for free for you. It’s no wonder why I’ve kept up-to-date with hair appointments since I’ve been here…

Bills

Extremely cheap council tax, and monthly bills which are about a tenth of the price back in England. Our electricity bill is about £10 (18,000 won) a month… the first time I saw it, I genuinely thought they’d made a mistake. It’s great not wanting to cry when you receive a bill.

Cinema

I love going to the cinema, and was so excited to see that it’s about half the price in Korea. Even at peak times, it’s only £6 (10,000 won), and that’s without the half-price vouchers you get given pretty much every time you go to the cinema. Needless to say we’ve seen about 10 times the amount of films that we normally would go to watch at the cinema.

Sushi

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I know that I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so good it deserves to be mentioned again. Being able to buy rolls of Gimbap (the equivalent of Futomaki) for less than £1 (2,000 won) is just the best thing ever. Plus, the pick-and-mix nigri which is less than 50p (600 won) a piece is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Good Cosmetics

 I was a little wary of buying make-up in Korea, simply because it was so cheap I thought it must be pretty rubbish. Then I bought an eyeliner for about £4 (7,000 won) and I was an instant convert, realising that the makeup is actually pretty amazing; the eyeliner was definitely better than the £20 I used to buy in England. I’m going to have to get stuff imported when I leave…

 It’s fair to say that there is also a fair amount of expensive things in Korea, such as imported foods (cereals, sweets, certain fruits, teas), underwear (clothes are relatively cheap, but underwear is strangely pricey here), deodorants (seriously expensive), and pretty much most things Western. If you eat at a lot of Western restaurants and shop at places like H&M or Forever 21, you’ll find yourself spending a lot more money.  

But honestly, being in Korea has been pretty good for my bank account. The best part? If you do end up treating yourself and spending a lot of money on something, it’s likely to be something you enjoy, rather than on a bill/ an expensive train journey. And don’t even get me started on the fact that you don’t lose half your paycheck paying taxes, or I might cry thinking about the fact that at some point I’ll go home and have to start suffering that loss again…

 


© KATHRYN GODFREY 

Kathryn's Living
KathrynsLiving.wordpress.com


PD Notebook: "Gay, Lesbian, Hello Everybody?"

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On Tuesday night, PD Notebook focused on the life of sexual minorities in Korea in a very human light. The episode can be torrented, but I haven't seen anything with English subtitles yet.



Titled "Gay, Lesbian, Hello Everybody?", episode 1016 (헐) starts by mentioning Tim Cook's recent coming out and the Catholic church's recent discussion on the homosexual question. The program then segues into an interview with a lesbian who was forcefully hospitalized by her parents when she came out. Although this reflects a very persistent attitude from parents in Korea, the program also includes a segment with a young gay man who came out as bisexual and not only seems to be very well adjusted, but has a fantastically supportive father. The last part also includes an interview with Kim Jho Gwang Su and his husband.

Hopefully, there is a large viewership for the program; it definitely humanized sexual minorities. If I find a Youtube link later on, I'll make sure to share.

Will Fight a Thousand Times Over: The Power of a Mother

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by Dae-Han Song

Making History: Minkahyup

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The interview was carried out by Dae-Han Song and Stephanie Park with interpretation by Jeong Eun Hwang.

On October 16th, Minkahyup had their thousandth Thursday protest against the National Security Law and for the release of all political prisoners. On October 22nd, Jeong-Eun Hwang[1], Stephanie Park[2], and Dae-Han Song[3] visited Minkahyup[4] to interview its current president Jo, Soon Deok[5]; former president Kim, Jeong Seok[6]; and administrative coordinator Kim, Hyun Joo[7].

“What was your reaction when you found out your sons were wanted by the police?” I start the interview. Jo, Soon Deok begins, “Mothers usually think, ‘The work [fighting for democracy] needs to be done, but why does it have to be my child?’ I felt the same.” A few months after becoming Student Council President, her son gave a five minute speech at a farmer’s rally in Yeoido Square and on the spot became a fugitive. “When a son or daughter becomes a fugitive the whole family becomes one too. The Gwanak police, the school police – they harass you at home, at work,” continues Jo, Soon Deok.

Both these women are of my mother’s generation. I wonder what my mother’s reaction would be given a similar situation. “You are both a little older than my mother. She is fairly conservative. Were the progressive politics always there or did they emerge from your work?”

Kim, Jeong Sook responds, “Your mother can’t but be conservative. She came from that time. Live as the government tells you to live; don’t do what they tell you not to do. Study hard; go work in a good company; make good money. Marry a good person; have children; live a good life. Those are the desires of a parent.” Her voice becomes tinged with emotion as she recalls the anxiety and distress of those times, “You don’t start coming out to the protests because you understand your child. You come because you are the parent, the mother. But as you come, as you listen to the stories and thoughts of others, you realize, ‘My son did right. How can we just live for ourselves? He is better than his parents: He wants to create a better world for everyone.’ When mothers realize this, they start to get even more active. It begins to matter less whether they ate or got roughed up by police that day.”

Their sons had both been incarcerated and/or been fugitives for a few years; yet Jo, Soon Deok’s Minkahyup activism spans nearly two decades and that of Kim, Jeong Sook’s over two decades. I ask what kept them committed. Kim, Jeong Sook responds, “At first people came out because their child was incarcerated. We came knowing nothing simply because the only people that could understand us and could comfort and console us were the veteran mothers who had experienced this. There was no other place. As we became the veteran mothers, we felt that same obligation towards mothers that were just starting.”

As Kim, Jeong Sook continues, it becomes clear that their work to free their sons became a gateway to a new understanding and engagement with the world. “At first, it was just about getting your child out of prison as soon as possible. And that was important, but we started to realize it was also about building a better world, about abolishing the National Security Law, and releasing the prisoners.”

Kim, Jeong Sook kept stealing glances at the clock. I find out she has to leave soon to pick up her grandson from school. Our interview focuses on her. As an activist, I ask the question I’ve posed to all the activists I’ve interviewed, “What was the hardest thing about the work? How did you overcome it?”

“Back then it was so repressive,” starts Kim, Jeong Sook. Her son became a fugitive in 1989. While the military dictatorship had technically ended with direct elections in 1987, the split in the opposition party allowed Roh Tae Woo, a military leader during the dictatorship, to win the election. My son was a fugitive for just a year. During that time, he would show up at a press conference, make a statement, and then flee. So many cops were looking for him, that they used to say that if you didn’t have a picture of my son in your pocket, then you weren’t a cop.” Jo, Soon Deok chimes in, “Her son’s was a high profile case. He is the current deputy mayor of Seoul.” For Kim, Jeong Sook, not knowing when or how her son would be caught was her greatest anxiety. She recounts an instance when he fled by getting on a bus. When the bus stopped and the police rushed in, he jumped out the bus window and broke his leg. He was arrested on December 19, 1989 after someone tipped the police of his whereabouts.

She then pans out to the story of countless other mothers. “At that time, they would torture the prisoners. We worried our children were being tortured. When we went to see them, they would always say they weren’t being tortured.” She recounts the story of an overjoyed mother whose son told her he had not been tortured. Later during the trial, the mother fainted at hearing his testimony of torture. He had been tortured by electrocution, water drowning, and whisky bottle. Kim, Jeong Sook recounts the whisky bottle torture, “They would place the prisoner’s penis on the table and hit it with the whisky bottle yelling that he didn’t deserve to have children because he was a criminal. Then they would take turns drinking from the bottle. ” “Now, he’s an Assemblymember for the Democratic Party,” she adds. “I could spend days telling you all these stories.”

Our time is up; I ask her for any last words for readers abroad. “I would like to tell them to not forget what has happened in Korea. All the prisoners of conscience and their families that lived such difficult lives, I hope that they will not forget them and help support us and remember us,” she responds.

minkyoungI pose the same question of difficult moments and overcoming them to Jo, Soon Deok. She mentions that the hardest time was not her personal experience but that of witnessing the distress of countless others as they ran around protesting in front of police stations and the Agency for National Security Planning (now the National Intelligence Service).

balloonsIn the beginning, we never thought we would have 1000 protests. But because political prisoners and social problems persist, we keep going. It would not have been possible to do the Thursday protests for 21 years without those around us – organizations and individuals – supporting us,” Jo Soon Deok responds.In reference to the previous week’s 1000th protest at Topgol Park, I asked how she felt about it. Many of the speakers that day had mentioned that while sad that the NSL and political prisoners had continued for so long, the protests were nonetheless a testament to the mothers who had persisted for so long.

The use of the National Security Law had peaked in 1996 with the Yonsei University Uprising. The Korean Confederation of Student Councils was labeled an enemy of the state, and many of its student activists became fugitives and were arrested under the NSL. When Kim Dae Jung came into office in 1998, the NSL persisted, but many of the accused were pardoned and the number of incarcerations under the NSL drastically dropped. Then in 2004, President Roh Moo Hyun stated he would put the NSL in a museum as it was outdated. This inspired massive mobilizations in civilWe move on to Minkahyup’s current demands. Kim, Hyun Joo the Administrative Coordinator answers, “Our demands are the release of all prisoners of conscience and the abolition of the National Security Law.” Minkahyup also engages in various struggles around democracy, prison conditions, and peace in the Korean Peninsula. All the issues are part of a struggle to build a better world. As one of the key organizations against the National Security Law, Kim, Hyun Joo gives us a brief overview of the National Security Law and the struggle against it. She recounts its origins from a Japanese Colonial law used to capture and oppress independence fighters. bannerOn December 1st, 1948, it became a Korean law under its current name. While we were talking, Jo, Soon Deok slipped out and came back with an old photo. Kim, Hyun Joo notices and mentions, “That’s a picture of our annual funeral for the National Security Law in December 1st, 1998.” Every December 1st, social movements gather to call for the abolition of the National Security Law, thus celebrating not its birth but future demise.

Currently, the NSL discussion has taken a backburner since 2004 because there were so many other struggles like the Ssanyong Auto Workers Struggle, or the Yongsan Eviction Tragedy. The NSL struggle never reached the peak it did in 2004. Minkahyup, Alliance to Abolish the National Security Law, Human Rights Groups, or the Korea Alliance of Progressive Movements – we keep holding protests every December 1st calling for the abolishment of the NSL.society to get the NSL abolished. A thousand people fasted for its abolishment in Yeoido Park (near the National Assembly). Yet, the growing protests and mobilizations sparked a backlash from conservative groups. Kim, Hyun Joo recalls, “The conservative groups argued, ‘If the NSL is abolished, how are you going to lock up a person that goes out to Yeoido waving the North Korean flag and yelling long live Kim Il Sung?’ My response is: ‘So what?’ When Obama comes to Korea, aren’t there people outside waving US flags and saying long live Obama? How is that any different?” Ultimately, the NSL failed to be abolished or even reformed. Nonetheless, it was rarely used under Roh Moo Hyun. It was only after the conservatives came back into power with Lee Myung Bak’s election that the NSL began to be used to investigate, prosecute, and convict people. It continues to be so used under the conservative Park Geun Hye administration.

Currently, conservative groups are trying to introduce legislation that would confiscate property and mete out harsher punishment against those that join organizations deemed enemies of the state. While individuals can be arrested, the NSL cannot disband these groups. So, other people can still join the organizations. So, the Saenuri Party introduced these types of legislation where property would be confiscated or there would be harsher punishment if you joined such illegal organizations. We have managed to keep this legislation from being introduced in the National Assembly.

I wonder at the survival of such vestige from Japanese colonialism and the Cold War, “What would it take for the NSL to be abolished?” Kim, Hyun Joo explains that the NSL is linked to inter-Korean relations. She elaborates, “When inter-Korean relations are better, when we view each other as partners in reunification and cooperation, then the National Security Law loses significance. Back when hundreds a day would visit Mount Geumgang – when exchange was very active – all of those were infractions of the NSL; yet, so many people were doing it, that the NSL dissipated from the hearts of people. But now when inter-Korean relations are bad, and the government has a policy of pressuring North Korea. We start to think, ‘If I say anything nice about the North Korean government, will I be violating the National Security Law? And so they self-censor.’ Roh Moo Hyun’s statement about abolishing the NSL in 2004 had only been possible because there had been a policy of engagement and reunification since Kim Dae Jung’s presidency because the Mount Geumgang tours were happening, because the exchange was very active. So the struggles for improving inter-Korean relations and for abolishment of the NSL are interconnected.

As we wind down our interview, Jo, Seong Deok has the last word, “I hope that the NSL is abolished, that there will no longer be any political prisoners, and that we no longer have to have the Thursday protests.”

‘Till that day.

[1] Jeong Eun Hwang is the ISC Communications Coordinator.

[2] Stephanie Park is an ISC intern.

[3] Dae-Han Song is the ISC Policy and Research Coordinator.

[4] Minkahyup was established in 1985 by families of political prisoners. In protest of President Kim Yong Sam’s statement that “there are no political prisoners in Korea,” they held their first Thursday protest in September 23, 1994 at Topgol Park. Since then, regardless of the bitter cold, scorching heat, and pounding rains, they have held their weekly Thursday meetings. On October 16th, they held their thousandth Thursday protest.

[5] Jo, Soon Deok has been Minkahyup[5] president since 2011. Previously, she served as president 2002-2005. She has been a member since 1996 when her son, a college student at the time, became a fugitive under the National Security Law. After two years as a fugitive, her son was pardoned when Kim, Dae Jung took office in 1998.

[6] Kim, Jeong Sook was Minkahyup president in 1992 and 1998. She has been a member since 1989 when her son, a college student at the time and now the deputy-Mayor of Seoul, became a fugitive under the National Security Law.

[7] Kim, Hyun Joo has been the Minkahyup administrative coordinator for 4 years. She joined the social movement as a university student upon witnessing students incarcerated for violating the National Security Law.



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