Things about Korea from an anarchist, radical left perspective?

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NannerNannerNan...
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Feb 2 2013 02:50
Things about Korea from an anarchist, radical left perspective?

Ok, so I picked up Max Hasting's shitty shit book the Korean War. I knew it was a shitty shit shit book because I just did, but I was interested in the military history side of it all so I just skipped his """"analysis"""" of the situation. I also felt that it would also pay attention to the soldiers actually fighting, but he mostly just pays attention to commissioned officers and generals and their shit opinions on everything. When he does talk to the people who actually did the fighting and dying, he's either emphasizing their disgusting racism (and sometimes justifying it because right-wing shitheads have a checklist to fill out) or letting them actually tell their story for about two or three sentences. He does not say a goddam thing about the other sides, and the whole shit book is from the perspective of US and UK divisions. I liked that he emphasized the military history side of the whole thing, (sometimes his battle descriptions just blew me away!) but it was, on the whole, a shit book.

So when I finished the book and dropped it off at the library, I picked up The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cummings. I thought the book was excellent for not only decisively showing the horribleness of the fascistic Sygmann Rhee regime, but for emphasizing that it was deeply unpopular and highly elitist. I also learned about the directly democratic People's Committees that were established by working people. Oh and that the south korean regime probably committed genocide but let's not talk about that

What confuses me, however, is that the book kind of implies that the Korean Communists had popular support amongst the landless peasants and the urban proletariat across the peninsula. The book even says that the Korean War was a civil war and sort of dances around the idea of Kim Il Sung not being that bad. Every source I go to to find out more about this stuff is either some crazy right-winger or a literal neo-stalinist. I seriously have a goddam pdf of literal DPRK propaganda trying to find out more about this!

Are there any radical left, anarchist or even unbiased literature on the nature of the North Korean regime before Kim Jong Il? About why the south is rich and why the north is in continual famine? Were things better under Kim Il Sung? Any books, pdfs, epubs or whatever to read to find out more about postwar Korea in general?

batswill
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Feb 2 2013 05:57

You should watch this korean movie which even had a hardened bastard like me reaching for the tissues.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386064/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

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Feb 2 2013 09:12
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Are there any radical left, anarchist or even unbiased literature on the nature of the North Korean regime before Kim Jong Il? About why the south is rich and why the north is in continual famine? Were things better under Kim Il Sung? Any books, pdfs, epubs or whatever to read to find out more about postwar Korea in general?

I saw Cumings speak (in English, but he was reading from a paper) once at a conference at Seoul National University in the mid-1990s. It was one of the most fucking boring academic lectures I've ever heard in my life. Not only did I fall asleep, but the comrades on either side of me did as well -- as did at least 1/4 of the entire audience of over 100. My Korean comrades, some of whom were discovering council communism and the Situationists, said he was "too pro-Stalinist" for their tastes. I got the sense that he has Trot-like anti-imperialist politics that make him support North Korea by default. Add to that his wife is Meredith Jung-En Woo (who formerly published as Meridith Woo-Cumings), a Korean-born American academic and it becomes clear why he has a soft spot for Korean nationalism, although tempered by her Schumpeteriansim (his words at the above lecture).

Regardless, Cumings 2 volume The Origins of the Korean War is a crucial historical survey despite its ideological bias. Some of the original materials he dug up about the People's Committees and nationwide attempts to coordinate worker's power, like Chun Pyung the "All Korean Labor Council," are essential to understand that hopeful period before the Korean War.

Books that I've read that show how by the 1980s fortunes had reversed and South Korea overtook the North industrially are below. They make clear that during the colonial occupation, from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese had more fully developed the industrial infrastructure in the northern part of the peninsula. And the Korean War devastated both halves, but the North bounced back more quickly with support of their allies. The corruption of Syngman Rhee's kleptocracy meant that in 1960 South Korea had a per capita income lower than India's. It was Park Chung Hee's 5-year plans after he came to power with a military coup in 1962 that led to the forced march out of labor-intensive light industry (e.g., textiles and wigs [no shit, they were the world greatest in the 1960s!] for export) and into capital intensive heavy industry (e.g. cars, shipbuilding, steel and electronics), especially with his Yushin Constitutional reform of 1972 (using the same Chinese character as Meiji, meaning "renewal," in Japanese: 明治), that pushed the South past the North.

A very dated, but also incredibly insightful book despite its ideological slant (kind of Baran-Sweezy Monthly Review politics), is Alice Amsden's Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (1989). It has an excellent account of Park Chung Hee's forced march.

The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea (1993) by Martin Hart-Landsberg, which is a very good overview of the South Korean Industrial Revolution and class struggle from a lefty perspective that covers some of the same period when the South overtook the North.

South Korea: Dissent within the Economic Miracle (1991) by George Ogle is an excellent history by a foreign "insider," since Ogle was co-director of the Urban Industrial Mission from 1960 to 1971. He covers the rise of working class militants -- often hak chul college students dropping out to organize -- who were able to use this Protestant pro-labor umbrella group as a cover to do clandestine organizing in factories. In 1973 Ogle became a professor of Industrial Relations at Seoul National University, until he was deported for his pro-worker activities. This book mentions the 1946 Railroad Strike -- that spread into a national general strike -- and the1980 Kwangju Uprising, both of which he gives some of the most sympathetic coverage I've ever read.

Take anything Katsiaficas writes about Korea with a grain of salt. I received some rather severe dressing downs from Korean comrades for calling the 1980 Kwagju Uprising a "commune" in the early 1990s -- a decade before Katsiaficas applied his one-size-fits-all "eros effect" to that event, comparing it to the Paris Commune of 1871. These comrades pointed out that Kwangju was a desperate defensive struggle -- amidst 2 massacres by the military -- largely devoid of radical politics, hence its cross-class nature.

batswill
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Feb 2 2013 10:07
Quote:
Hieronymous wrote:
NannerNannerNannerNannerNanner wrote:
Are there any radical left, anarchist or even unbiased literature on the nature of the North Korean regime before Kim Jong Il? About why the south is rich and why the north is in continual famine? Were things better under Kim Il Sung? Any books, pdfs, epubs or whatever to read to find out more about postwar Korea in general?

I saw Cumings speak (in English, but he was reading from a paper) once at a conference at Seoul National University in the mid-1990s. It was one of the most fucking boring academic lectures I've ever heard in my life. Not only did I fall asleep, but the comrades on either side of me did as well -- as did at least 1/4 of the entire audience of over 100. My Korean comrades, some of whom were discovering council communism and the Situationists, said he was "too pro-Stalinist" for their tastes. I got the sense that he has Trot-like anti-imperialist politics that make him support North Korea by default. Add to that his wife is Meredith Jung-En Woo (who formerly published as Meridith Woo-Cumings), a Korean-born American academic and it becomes clear why he has a soft spot for Korean nationalism, although tempered by her Schumpeteriansim (his words at the above lecture).

Regardless, Cumings 2 volume The Origins of the Korean War is a crucial historical survey despite its ideological bias. Some of the original materials he dug up about the People's Committees and nationwide attempts to coordinate worker's power, like Chun Pyung the "All Korean Labor Council," are essential to understand that hopeful period before the Korean War.

Books that I've read that show how by the 1980s fortunes had reversed and South Korea overtook the North industrially are below. They make clear that during the colonial occupation, from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese had more fully developed the industrial infrastructure in the northern part of the peninsula. And the Korean War devastated both halves, but the North bounced back more quickly with support of their allies. The corruption of Syngman Rhee's kleptocracy meant that in 1960 South Korea had a per capita income lower than India's. It was Park Chung Hee's 5-year plans after he came to power with a military coup in 1962 that led to the forced march out of labor-intensive light industry (e.g., textiles and wigs [no shit, they were the world greatest in the 1960s!] for export) and into capital intensive heavy industry (e.g. cars, shipbuilding, steel and electronics), especially with his Yushin Constitutional reform of 1972 (using the same Chinese character as Meiji, meaning "renewal," in Japanese: 明治), that pushed the South past the North.

A very dated, but also incredibly insightful book despite its ideological slant (kind of Baran-Sweezy Monthly Review politics), is Alice Amsden's Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization (1989). It has an excellent account of Park Chung Hee's forced march.

The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea (1993) by Martin Hart-Landsberg, which is a very good overview of the South Korean Industrial Revolution and class struggle from a lefty perspective that covers some of the same period when the South overtook the North.

South Korea: Dissent within the Economic Miracle (1991) by George Ogle is an excellent history by a foreign "insider," since Ogle was co-director of the Urban Industrial Mission from 1960 to 1971. He covers the rise of working class militants -- often hak chul college students dropping out to organize -- who were able to use this Protestant pro-labor umbrella group as a cover to do clandestine organizing in factories. In 1973 Ogle became a professor of Industrial Relations at Seoul National University, until he was deported for his pro-worker activities. This book mentions the 1946 Railroad Strike -- that spread into a national general strike -- and the1980 Kwangju Uprising, both of which he gives some of the most sympathetic coverage I've ever read.

Take anything Katsiaficas writes about Korea with a grain of salt. I received some rather severe dressing downs from Korean comrades for calling the 1980 Kwagju Uprising a "commune" in the early 1990s -- a decade before Katsiaficas applied his one-size-fits-all "eros effect" to that event, comparing it to the Paris Commune of 1871. These comrades pointed out that Kwangju was a desperate defensive struggle -- amidst 2 massacres by the military -- largely devoid of radical politics, hence its cross-class nature.

You are fountain of Korean history, it's very generous of you to elucidate, from your grounded experiences, some of the hidden secrets of a mostly maligned region of the world. Good on you, very interesting!

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Entdinglichung
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Feb 2 2013 11:26

contemporary stuff: http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?rubrique41

batswill
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Feb 2 2013 12:32

Good stuff, luv the fight against the complex.

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Feb 18 2014 15:56

and there is a useful piece but only in German by Hans Maretzki who was East German ambassador in Pjoengjang 1987-90 (Kim-ismus in Nordkorea: Eine Analyse des letzten DDR-Botschafters in Pjöngjang), basically an unemotional book by a former East German bureaucrat whose basic experience was that North Korea and its ideology were completely weird and alien, even for a "Marxist-Leninist" from Eastern Europe and that Marxism-Leninism and Juche are two different ideologies, ... for Eastern European diplomats, an assignment to Pjoengjang was generally considered to be a kind of punishment

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Feb 2 2013 19:12

While staying with comrades in Potsdam in 1999, I met an elderly scientist -- astronomer I think -- from the former East Germany who'd done a scholar exchange (as punishment, perhaps?) to Pyongyang decades before. He was quite observant and his accounts sound a lot like Hans Maretzki's above, calling it a bizarre police state where obedience for juche ideology and religious reverence for the Great Leader was compulsory. The scientist was also well informed about Korean history and as we discussed the tradition of dynastic succession, during Shilla, Koguryo, Koryo, and Chosun dynasties, we agreed that the succession of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il (and now Kim Jong Un) was simply a continuation of not only the tradition of Korean emperors, but that of imperial dynastic succession that originated in China.

Also, a disclaimer: my partner was a hak chul who left university in the mid-1980s and went to work in factories to covertly organize. She and all her comrades were locked up during the Great Strike of 1987 as Chun Doo Hwan's military dictatorship tried to quash it with an iron fist. My understanding of events in Korea are informed by her experience.

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Feb 2 2013 19:50

another interesting piece: http://kasamaproject.org/international/3821-53gary-leupp-north-korea-as-a-religious-state by an MLer but some interesting insights

batswill
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Feb 2 2013 20:35

It is my anarchist nature to slot religion into the totalitarian basket, sooo, wierd and alien could be just an identity issue, traditional dynastical constitutions are no different to monarchist social structures, and what may appear to the western view of the east as blatant dictatorial excesses could almost be described as a neo-colonialist attitude. There must be an ex-colony backlash, Korean and Vietnam wars were symptoms of what appeared to be an ideoligical cold-war but was infact a public relations war, colonialism was taking its last gasp before expiring, they had to re-invent and make it ideological, out of nationalist pride , a rivalry between socialist and capitalist multinationals. With their perfected PR, capitalism dominates just as much with their candy-coated regimes and their militarized disney dynasty.
I consider the struggle to be a uniform one which in this global hegemonic condition does not single out particular nations.

batswill
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Feb 2 2013 20:44

PS, Hah, nice link, also thinking

"Heaven and Earth Shake with Cheers for Obama" hah!

Gotta make the power of love overcome the love of power, which Statism is a symptom of.

NannerNannerNan...
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Feb 3 2013 16:01

Damn, I thought this was only going to be two or three posts, this is amazing! (especially hieronymous' bounty of book recommendations) All I've got to say is that I'll be a bit busy for the next couple of weeks or so.

Also, batswill, there's nothing inherently wrong with power - it just depends on whether it's twelve rich assholes using it to get richer or if it's the vast majority of everyone using it to do away with it (although those certainly are excellent principles to live by!)

baboon
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Feb 3 2013 18:16

I wouldn't have thought that the majority of people in the region would have welcomed this war in any way, particularly just a few years after the end of the previous carnage. It was fully part of the imperialist manoeuvring of the "cold war". Kim Il Sung was under orders from Russia to launch the offensive which went back and forwards for two years with devastating effects. Two million dead and all towns in North Korea bombed flat. It's also one of the first real thrusts of Chinese imperialism that we see gathering pace today.
Interesting piece from the ICC here: http://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/201211/5325/korea-its-liberation-colony-plunging-war-and-division

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Feb 3 2013 22:04

I'm afraid I don't have much to add, I did quite like Glyn Ford's North Korea on the brink, I bought from a Labour for peace (Or Labour Peace Action or something) stall I encountered during a TUC March. Its mainly focused on North Korean society under Jong Il but does go into some historical detail. Glyn apparently was or is considered by the North Korean government to be one of its friends and so has had many trips to North Korea and been given rare access, I can only assume they didn't read the book for despite its strong pacifist tone its descriptions of Korean society and its leaderships excesses are pretty critical.

Oh and if your interesting in North Korean society and culture I found Pyongyang by Guy Delisle pretty interesting. Its a comic book detailing his experiences whilst overseeing Frances outsourcing to North Korea. It also explores (briefly) the pro market reforms that were enacted in the last years of Kim Jong Il's life. Unfortunately Guy is a bit of a smug dickhead, an being a comic I wouldn't site it as a source in an essay or article.

bobabounces
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Feb 10 2013 08:19

If you think American history is biased you should see Republic of China propaganda about the KMT. They always forget to mention the part where Mao and Cheng are married into the same family. They even rewrite history (the Americans do this, too, when talking about Cheng). They talk about Cheng as representing their ideological struggle of Capitalism v. Communism. Cheng Kai-Shek was not even 'capitalist' in the liberal-bourgeois sense, he was just a gangster. Most of the KMT were either nationalist-republicans, national socialists or (old sense) social democrats. The parties here lie to themselves for ideological convenience, because they don't want to remember the socialist roots of the KMT or the disagreeable character of its later leadership.

proletarian.
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Feb 11 2013 02:18

Film director (and some say Anarchiste) Chris Marker visited Korea in the 1950's and wrote a short piece:

http://www.markertext.com/coreenes.htm

Taken from the overpriced book of photos available to buy here:

http://store.wexarts.org/chrismarker/coreennes.html

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Dec 13 2013 13:21

the official press release about the recent show trial: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/12/13/north-korea-report_n_4438172.html

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Feb 18 2014 15:39

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Korea/NK02Dg01.html (December 2012)

Quote:
Recently journalists from The Guardian newspaper reported an important change during stays in Pyongyang: two large portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin - long a prominent feature of Pyongyang's central Kim Il-sung square - were nowhere to be seen. Instead, the images have been replaced by a more dominating portrait of Kim Il-sung.

This news was repeated by countless outlets worldwide, but the reports were slightly outdated. In fact, the portraits were removed almost half a year ago, in early April 2012.

In a sense, the disappearance of the portraits is yet another sign of the ongoing ideological transformation in North Korea. Even though it is routinely described as a 'communist country' by outsider observers, North Korea has long ceased to label itself as a Marxist-Leninist state.

Nonetheless, until recently the North Korean ideological authorities have occasionally expressed some indebtedness to the Marxist tradition - but these expressions were largely for foreigners' consumption.

The North Korean state was created in the years 1945-48 by, essentially, an unequal alliance of Korean Marxist revolutionaries and Soviet generals (the latter being in nearly full control). It was meant to be just another Marxist-Leninist regime created according to the Soviet blueprints of the period. Predictably, it described itself as a state whose sole ideological foundation was 'the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism'.

In the mid-1950s there began a series of significant changes in the North Korean leadership. Initially a very important role in the North Korean leadership was played by underground communist activists from the pre-1945 era, most of whom were well educated intellectuals, fluent in foreign languages and well versed in the Leninist orthodoxy of the period. In the early and mid-1950s, though, they would begin to be purged by Kim Il-sung and his supporters whose backgrounds and worldview was rather different - they were, in the main, poorly educated farmers with little exposure to the outside world, but with strong (red) nationalist convictions.

Kim Il-sung's supporters did not spend their youth perusing works of Western classical economists or arguing over the finer points of Marx and Hegel - rather, they were waging a courageous, some would say suicidal, guerilla war against the Japanese colonial army in Manchuria. Many of them were indeed committed communists, but they were a rather different breed of communist for whom nationalist goals and a strong Korean state were of paramount importance. With their ascent to power in the 1950s, parochial nationalism, pervasive amongst Korean radical leftists until now, began to take over from the universalist abstractions of Marxism.

The first sign of the changes to come was the Juche Speech of Kim Il-sung in 1955. In this speech, Kim Il-sung, the young North Korean dictator, used the word Juche to mean something ideological - and it would later go on to become the governing ideology of his country. The word itself is often misleadingly translated as 'self-reliance'; but what it means is 'the main subject'. In a nationalist Korean context, Juche basically means: putting the nation first, ahead of other nations, stressing that the nation is important and should be protected.

In the speech, Kim Il-sung lambasted the uncritical acceptance of foreign (ie Soviet) culture and tradition, and stated that Koreans - especially officials - should never forget about their superior national culture and roots. Soon after, Kim Il-sung began to steer his country away from Soviet influence, and by the early 1960s his relations with Moscow had become very frosty (relations would partially recover after 1965, but North Korea still was more distant from Moscow than nearly all other communist countries, save China).

It took over a decade for Juche to be elevated to the level of coherent ideology - or something which could be passed for such. Until the early 1970s, North Korea claimed itself to be a Marxist-Leninist state. When relations between the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe went sower, the North Korean media claimed that much of the communist world had been spoilt by revisionists. It was also claimed that North Korean Marxism was perfectly pure and thus superior to that of Moscow or Warsaw, while Kim Il-sung was portrayed as the world's best living Marxist theoretician.

Things began gradually to change in the late 1960s. Around this time, the hitherto only occasionally mentioned Juche began to be transformed into North Korea's ideology. This was politically necessary because, at the time, the North Korean government was trying to maneuver between quarreling Moscow and Beijing, trying as best it good to remain out of the Sino-Soviet split. Pyongyang would indeed claim that they had their own ideology that was in fact superior to those of its giant neighbors. Juche was to become that ideology.

In 1972, the Juche Idea was elevated to that of the state ideology, and was enshrined in the constitution as such. It was however described as "the creative application of Marxism-Leninism to Korean realities". Around this time it became impossible for the average Korean to check how truthful this creative application was. In the late 1960s, the works of Marx, Lenin and, in fact, almost all non-Korean Marxist authors' works became forbidden reading for the average North Korean. These books were to be kept in special sections of the major libraries, being only accessible to a privileged and trusted few. A few very harmless books were exempted from this policy, and collections of quotations from key Marxist authors were also made available.

For a brief while, the North Korean authorities even coined a new term "Kimilsungism". It appears in fact that in the late 1970s the North Korean leadership (including the then young Kim Jong-il) toyed with the idea of a complete break from Marxism. At least, in 1976, Kim Jong-il wrote: "Both in content and in composition, Kimilsungism is an original idea that cannot be explained within the framework of Marxism-Leninism. The Juche idea which constitutes the quintessence of Kimilsungism, is an idea newly discovered in the history of human thought. However, at present there is a tendency to interpret the Juche idea on the basis of the materialistic dialectic of Marxism. (...) This shows that the originality of the Juche idea is not correctly understood".

In the mid-1970s, North Korea's philosophers and luminaries claimed that Kimilsungism would eventually displace Marxism and Marxism-Leninism as the leading scientific theory of the modern world. They stated that Marxism was a progressive ideology from the early capitalist period, while Leninism was its latter day adaptation to the period of high imperialism, but that Kimilsungism was the idea for the contemporary era - an age allegedly of collapsing imperialism and the spread of revolution worldwide.

This meant that, according to North Korea's agitprop, Kim Il-sung was the most far-sighted sage of our era (a distinction he probably did not mind), but also allowed North Korean dignitaries to position their country above both the Soviet Union and China. After all, both the Soviets and the Chinese were still following the vintage ideologies of another age while the North Koreans were equipped with the most cutting-edge progressive ideological weaponry.

For some reason, from around 1980, North Korea's ideologues significantly pared down their claims of Kimilsungism's independence from Marxism. They basically returned to the somewhat less ambitious definition of the North Korea's ideology as a creative application of Marxism-Leninism, and they stuck to this definition until the 1990s. The reversal seems to reflect the diplomatic need to improve relations with the Soviet Union - which at the time was becoming the major source of economic aid.

However, efforts to distance purely national Juche/Kimilsungism from imported Marxism-Leninism would again accelerate in the 1990s. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and disintegration of the Communist bloc, there was little need to emphasize the common roots which once united North Korea with other radical leftist movements and governments. There were no more useful foreigners to woo with such claims. On the contrary, ethnic Korean nationalism became the only conceivable tool to ideologically mobilize people in support of the regime.

As a result, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, all references to Marx and Lenin gradually disappeared from North Korean publications. An important step was taken in 2009 when all references to the word communism disappeared from the North Korean constitution. As a result of earlier revisions to the North Korean constitution, explicit references to the Juche Idea's connection to Marxism were edited out as well.

This ideological shift to an indigenous and 'perfectly' Korean ideology was completely earlier this year. The fourth conference of the Korean Workers Party officially stated that "Kimilsungism and Kimjongilism are considered the sole ideologies of the party". And so the circle is now complete.

In this new ideological environment then, it is understandable how the portraits of Marx and Lenin have become anachronistic. And so on one morning in April 2012, the people of Pyongyang woke to discover that these two portraits had disappeared without trace. When a frequent visitor to Pyongyang asked his minder where the portraits had gone, his minder answered dryly and significantly: 'to a museum'.

proletarian.
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Feb 18 2014 16:55
baboon wrote:
Kim Il Sung was under orders from Russia to launch the offensive which went back and forwards for two years with devastating effects.

How do you know this? Bruce Cumings says according to declassified documents Sung was held back by the USSR told not to advance while Syngman Rhee was equally told to hold back by the USA.

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Feb 18 2014 22:18

South Koreans I know think Cumings is slightly pro-North, but from a mainstream lefty position. When I saw him speak at Seoul National University in the late 1990s, he called himself a "Schumpeterian." But having read the 2 volumes of The Origins of the Korean War, I think he's an honest scholar. I distinctly remember him saying exactly what proletarian. wrote above, that both sides were being held back by their respective mentor countries -- yet both sides were equally unable to contain that tension and this failure unleashed the first major conflict of the Cold War (Cumings points out that Greece was the first flashpoint).

proletarian.
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Feb 18 2014 23:13

I tried to get my hands on his two volume study but it seems to be both rare and expensive. Luckily he recently wrote a shorter, slightly updated version which I should be able to get.

I think it's worth noting that Sung, the supposed pawn of Stalin came to power throughout the country (not just in the North as mainstream propaganda would have us believe). He was elected via popular assemblies throughout the whole of the country (while vicious repression was taking place in the South). Granted, I'm not sure how 'popular' the assemblies were, their class composition or what the Party was up to, but it was in stark contrast to the South where Rhee was selected, backed and where all sorts of shenanigans went on.

mcorbs
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Feb 20 2014 02:40

I recently asked a professor of mine about putting together a directed reading course about the role of the south Korean working class in democratizing the southern regime. There is definitely a shortage of good material on this kind of stuff in English, but this is a reading list she came up with for me. It isn't exactly what you're looking for, nor was it exactly what I was looking for (lack of material in English), but I think it is definitely worth taking a look at in your case.

Abelmann, Nancy. 1996. Echoes of the past, epics of dissent a South Korean social movement. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chang, Dae-oup. Capitalist Development in Korea: Labour, Capital and the Myth of the developmental State. Routledge, 2009.

Chang, Ha-Joon. 1998. Korea: the misunderstood crisis. World Development 26 (8):1555-1561.

Chibber, Vivek. 1999. Building a developmental state: The Korean case reconsidered. Politics and Society 27:309-346.
Cho, Heeyeon. 2009. Confronting dictatorship, democratization, and post-democratization--personal reflection on intellectual and social practices in the context of dictatorship, democratization and post-democratization. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 10 (1):119-137.

Cho, Heeyeon. 2000. The structure of the South Korean developmental regime and its transformation--statist mobilization and authoritarian integration in the anticommunist regimentation. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 1 (3):408-426.

Cho, Heeyeon. 2000. Democratic transition and changes in Korean NGOs. Korea Journal 40 (2):275-304.

Chun, Jennifer .J. 2009. Organizing at the margins: The symbolic politics of labor in South Korea and the United States: Ilr Pr.

Chun, Jennifer Jihye. 2009. Legal Liminality: the gender and labour politics of organising South Korea's irregular workforce. Third World Quarterly 30 (3):535-550.

Chung, Duck-Koo, and Barry J. Eichengreen. 2004. The Korean economy beyond the crisis. Cheltenham, UK ; Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar.

Cumings, Bruce. 1998. The korean crisis and the end of'late'development. New Left Review:43-72.

Cumings, Bruce. 2005. Korea's place in the sun : a modern history. Updated ed. New York: W. W. Norton.

Doucette, Jamie. 2005. Against Flexibilization: South Korean Unions Battle Against The Expansion Of Irregular Work. Znet, May 14.

Doucette, Jamie. 2007. The Perils of Capitalist Nostalgia: Neoliberalism and the South Korean Post-Developmental State. In 민주주의와 사회운동연구소 3월 포럼. Sungkonghoe University, Seoul: Institute for the Study of Democracy and Social Movements.
Doucette, Jamie. 2007. South Korea: Labour strife escalates as new labour law comes into effect. Znet.

Doucette, Jamie. 2009. The postdevelopmental state: the reconfiguration of political space and the politics of economic reform in South Korea, Geography, UBC, Vancouver.

Doucette, Jamie. 2010. The terminal crisis of the ‚'participatory government‚' and the election of Lee Myung Bak. Journal of Contemporary Asia 40 (1):22-43.

Doucette, Jamie. 2012. The Korean Thermidor: on political space and conservative reactions. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.

Glassman, Jim. 2003. The spaces of economic crisis: Asia and the reconfiguration of neo-Marxist crisis theory. Studies in Comparative International Development (SCID) 37 (4):31-63.

Glassman, J., B.G. Park, and Y.J. Choi. 2008. Failed Internationalism and Social Movement Decline: The case of South Korea and Thailand. Critical Asian Studies 40 (3):339-372.

Gray, Kevin. 2008. Challenges to the Theory and Practice of Polyarchy: the rise of the political left in Korea. Third World Quarterly 29 (1):107-124.

Hart-Landsberg, Martin, and Paul Burkett. 2001. Economic crisis and restructuring in South Korea: Beyond the free market-statist debate. Critical Asian Studies 33 (3):403-430.

Hart-Landsberg, Martin. 2011. Capitalism, the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, and Resistance. Critical Asian Studies 43 (3):319-348.

Lee, Jin-kyung. 2010. Service economies : militarism, sex work, and migrant labor in South Korea. Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press.

Martin Hart-landsberg et al. 2007. Marxist Perspective on South Korea in the Global Economy. Ashgate.

Jeong, Seongjin, and Joyoung Shin. 1999. Debates on the economic crisis within the Korean left. Rethinking Marxism 11 (2):85-97.

Jeong, Seongjin, and J. Lim. 1998. General Strike Against Neoliberalism in South Korea. Journal of Institute for Social Sciences 16 (1):87-111.

Jeong, Seongjin. Review of “The Korean Developmental State: From Dirigisme to Neoliberalism.” Historical Materialism 17, no. 3 (2009): 244–257.

Kalinowski, T. 2008. Korea's recovery since the 1997/98 financial crisis: the last stage of the developmental state. New Political Economy 13 (4):447-462.

Koo, Hagen. Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, 2001.

Lee, Chulwoo. "South Korea: the transformation of citizenship and the state-nation nexus." Journal of contemporary Asia 40.2 (2010): 230-251.

Minns, John. 2001. The labour movement in South Korea. Labour History:175-195.

Minns, John. 2001. Of miracles and models: the rise and decline of the developmental state in South Korea. Third World Quarterly 22 (6):1025-1043.

Park, B. G. Spatially selective liberalization and graduated sovereignty: Politics of neo-liberalism and ''special economic zones'' in south korea. Political Geography, 24(7), 850-873.

Park, Bae-Gyoon. 2001. Labor regulation and economic change: A view on the Korean economic crisis. Geoforum 32 (1):61-75.

Park, B. Territorialized party politics and the politics of local ecomomic development: State-led industrialization and political regionalism in south korea. Political Geography, 22(8), 811-839.

Park, Bae-Gyoon. 2003. Politics of scale and the globalization of the South Korean automobile industry. Economic geography 79 (2):173-194.

Park, Bae-Gyoon. 2005. The territorial politics of regulation under state capitalism: regional parties and the politics of local economic development in South Korea. Space and Polity 9 (3):237-259.

Pirie, Iain. 2005. Better by design: Korea's neoliberal economy. The Pacific Review 18 (3):355-374.

Pirie, Iain. 2005. The new Korean state. New Political Economy 10 (1):25-42.

Pirie, Iain. 2006. Economic crisis and the construction of a neo-liberal regulatory regime in Korea. Competition & Change 10 (1):49-71.

Pirie, Iain. 2006. Social injustice and economic dynamism in contemporary Korea. Critical Asian Studies 38 (3):211-243.

Pirie, Iain. 2007. The Korean developmental state: From dirigisme to neo-liberalism: Routledge.

Pirie, Iain. 2012. The new Korean political economy: beyond the models of capitalism debate. The Pacific Review 25 (3):365-386.

Shin, GW. 1998. “Agrarian Conflict and the Origins of Korean Capitalism.” The American Journal of Sociology 103, no. 5: 1309–1351.

A special issue on globalization and Korea:
http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjoc20/40/2

proletarian.
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Mar 15 2014 19:53
mcorbs wrote:
Cumings, Bruce. 2005. Korea's place in the sun : a modern history. Updated ed. New York: W. W. Norton.

Coming towards the end of this and I can recommend it as a general introduction to Korean history, the war and the development of South Korea. The bourgeois commentators who are often rabid about what they think is happening in the north obviously have no clue of what has gone on in the south, that's all I can say.

wojtek
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Oct 22 2016 03:06

What groups is the Korean Left comprised of nowadays and how weak is it?

Hieronymous, what literature would you recommend on Kwangju if not Katsiaficas? ^.^

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Oct 22 2016 14:27
wojtek wrote:
Hieronymous, what literature would you recommend on Kwangju if not Katsiaficas? ^.^

As I said on another thread:

Hieronymous wrote:
Although other, newer books delve deeply into Kwangju, like two by Lee Jai-Eui: Kwangju Diary: Beyond Death, Beyond the Darkness of the Age (1999) and The Kwangju Uprising: Eyewitness Accounts of Korea's Tiananmen (co-written with Henry Scott-Stokes), the definitive history has yet to be written. George Katsiaficas' work is devoid of a radical class analysis and treats Korean nationalism as something innocuous and not worthy of critique.

I don't doubt the veracity of Katsiaficas' research and some of his scholarship, but I strongly contest his conclusions. I met him once and brought up the subject of Kwangju (now transliterated as Gwangju, but I'll use the version in the books I mention). He waffled and gave me a line of bull about the "eros effect." I find transhistorical forumulas for revolutionary change suspect. We met at a hipster bar in Berkeley (my 1st and last visit) and he had invited some non-profit hacks who have strong pro-North Korean sympathies. One of them told me that South Korea's educational system is a "mess" due to the influence of "American imperialism." Having taught in the Korean education system myself, I was flabbergasted. The education systems of Korea, Japan and Taiwan put students through a grueling childhood-long regime of cramming for exams in order to enter a desirable institution at the next level (elementary/middle/high school/university/corporation) based on the meritocratic ideas of Confucius and Mencius and their followers. Nearly all of this testing is based on rote memorization for standardized tests. Strangely, the education system in the U.S. is becoming more like that in East Asia with all the testing on standardized testing, not the other way around.

So I realized that Katsiaficas and his fellow travelers are deeply ideological, and much of that is based on seeing the world through the lens of anti-imperialism and anti-Americanism. In that discussion, I found that he doesn't share a libcom-esque position on class struggle, but rather tends to discount the proletariat and instead fetishizes social movements -- including nationalist ones -- that fit his formula of having the "eros effect." If they don't, he shoehorns them into his model. I believe he does this with the Kwangju Uprising.

I lived in Seoul for 5 years in the late 1990s. I had brought a few books and read them before I went to Korea. They were:

    The Rush to Development: Economic Change and Political Struggle in South Korea (1993) by Martin Hart-Landsberg
    South Korea: Dissent within the Economic Miracle (1991) by George Ogle

Through the latter book, combined with my youthful romantic pro-Situ enthusiasm, I decided that the Kwangju Uprising was a variation of the Paris Commune. Once I met Marxian comrades in South Korean, this got expeditiously swatted down. The first one, connected with some Korean ultra-left comrades who migrated to the U.S., quickly told me that Kwangju was merely a "popular uprising." He went on, awkwardly, to explain that it was cross-class and largely lacked political content -- it was an inspiring defensive reaction, and even in that was limited by hardened nationalism and the completely naive belief that the U.S. might intervene as it was seen as a "defender of South Korean democracy."

An American comrade and I went to Kwangju for the 15th anniversary of the uprising on May 18, 1995. We stayed half a week and there were pitched street by university students every night, involving the cops shooting massive amounts of tear gas and the insurgents responding with molotov cocktails. But during some of the celebrations we were introduced to an American Baptist missionary who was in Kwangju during that period. He even wrote a bilingual book about his experience during the uprising (unfortunately, I gave the book to a Korean comrade back in Seoul and can't remember the book title, nor can I find it in internet searches). He too held the naive belief that he could help the insurgents get the U.S. military to help "referee" the disturbance and bring it to a peaceful end. So much so that the Korean military cut off all phone lines to Kwangju, but kept the line to his house open. They seemed to strategically have done this posit him in a possibly negotiator role, which was foreclosed by the second brutal attack on the city which was a massacre worse than the first that precipitated the whole affair.

One last anecdote: the Korean Marxist I met when I first arrived told me that the true story of the uprising might never be told due to intense censorship by the government*. This was confirmed when he took me to Seoul's main municipal library and we went to the periodical room. They had collections of international news magazines, in bound volumes by year, going back to the early 1960s. We went to the U.S. publications and pulled down Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report for May 1980. Every single mention of the Kwangju Uprising in each magazine was carefully cut out, with a stamp by the South Korean Ministry of Arts & Culture making this deletion official.

*Kwangju is in the province that had once been the center of the Paekche Dynasty (18 BCE-660 CE), but ever since has been intentionally neglected and underdeveloped. Hence it was at the forefront of many popular uprisings, from the Tonghak Movement in the mid-19th century to the 1919 uprising against Japanese occupation to the rebellion that included attempts at collectivization after World War II. But this backwardness has tempered Kwangju's self-image and accounts of struggles there. An appraisal would have to take this into account in detailing the hyper-nationalism in struggles there and the lack of class struggle politics, and instead would have to use a materialist approach to analyze the class composition of Kwangju and the Cholla region and connect it with the strike wave centered on Pusan and Masan (called the PuMa struggle), which was the catalyst for nationwide anti-dictatorship protests and the resulting declaration of martial law in an attempt to suppress them.

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Oct 22 2016 14:01

dp

wojtek
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Oct 22 2016 14:24

Wow, such a detailed post. Kasahamnidaa!

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Oct 22 2016 14:59

천만에요 (you're welcome)

Also, have you've been following the current strike wave in South Korea (centered on the port of Busan) where the railroad strike has been going on for 26 days, involving 7,330 workers (39.9% of the workforce)?

Additionally, this is the 11th day of a strike by 7,000 "owner-operator" truckers. As we all should know, this legal fiction has spread across the planet with these workers being paid a piece-rate wage, as the inefficiencies of global production networks have been externalized onto them.

An unsympathetic news story from The Korea Times: Rail safety concerns rise as strike continues

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Oct 22 2016 14:49

Yeah, great post as ever from Hieronymus.

There is a fantastic new book on the Gwangju uprising, called Human Acts by Han Kang, which is historical fiction but very accurate. There is an extract here: http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2641-factory-girl-an-extract-from-han-kang-s-human-acts

and yes while even mentioning Gwangju was illegal up until the late 1990s, since then it has been rehabilitated into the official history of democracy in South Korea. I visited there recently, and they have lots of memorials and exhibits about the uprising around the city.

While I would agree with its characterisation as a democratic uprising as opposed to a working class one as such it does seem to have had a sizeable proletarian component (it was predominantly by students and workers), although much of the leadership was middle class.

While over there I also heard about the uprisings in Busan and Jeju, so I hope to find out some more info about these to post up to the history section at some point

wojtek
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Oct 23 2016 11:36

This website has a labour news section and four excerpts from George Ogle's book:
http://www.zoominkorea.org

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Steven.
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Oct 23 2016 11:44
wojtek wrote:
This website has a labour news section and four excerpts from George Ogle's book:
http://www.zoominkorea.org

awesome, any chance you could put the excerpts up in the history section?