Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mobilizing intervention

As I mentioned here quite some time ago, anthropologist Linda Louis writes in Laying Claim to the Memory of May that
As a social process, the Korean cultural scenario for conflict resolution involves the public expression of grievances by both sides, as a means of informing the neighbors, of shaping local consensus, and of mustering popular support for each side of the argument.

It is above all else also a process that relies heavily on the involvement of a third, mediating party for a sucessful outcome. In fact, it is through the public airing of the dispute that the antagonists solicit the intervention of others. Intense verbal aggression and the public expression of grievances serve not as a prelude to physical violence, but function to mobilize third party intervention, to prevent just such an escalation in the dispute.
On February 16 of this year, an inmate was beaten by a prison guard and after seeing the inmate's swollen face, his father raised the issue with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, as reported here (as well as here):
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has made public a video clip of an Anyang Prison guard beating an inmate after the prison rejected the commission's call for the guard to be disciplined. "Even though it is clear that the prison guard beat the prisoner, Anyang Prison has refused to discipline the guard. Therefore, the NHRC has decided to release the video clip and let Korean citizens as a third party decide whether the incident is abuse or not," the human rights watchdog said on Sunday.
Nice to see the NHRC mobilizing third party intervention (though some think it's illegal here). Feel free to take part yourself:


Anonymous said...

I looked at that link and its calling kwangju "Koreans Tiananmen"

I am wondering what you think of that? Kwangju was full of anti government people, not because they love liberty, but because they hated and mistrusted those not from kwangju. Likewise, they loved DJ not because he was some MLK type, but because he was from the home town.

They did some wacky things like declare independence. They even tried to send a letter to the UN asking for recognition. They were trying to create a new nation in the middle of a cold war with NK.

It seems to me that during this period, it would be appropriate to put down a revolution.

Another thing I wonder is why hasn't the movement sat down and worked out a body count. DJ and Roh have had all the power necessary to get an honest number. Was it 2,000 20,000 or 200? Not that I think the movement would be honest, at least they could publish their research.

matt said...

Both Tiananmen and Kwangju featured incredible state violence directed at civilian protesters whose protests were inevitably crushed. They aren't perfect matches, but there are enough similarities between the two.

If the troops hadn't been excessively brutal towards students protesting the extension of martial law, arrests of dissidents and politicians, and the closing of the national assembly, as well as brutal towards bystanders, the "revolution" (I'd call it a revolt) in Kwangju would never have happened. If the soldiers had behaved as they had in Busan and Masan in October 1979, there would have never been an uprising and the protests on May 18 would have been forgotten.

To say that there is "the movement" is a mistake. Different groups in Kwangju view things just as differently and disagree just as much now as they did during the uprising. The book referred to in the link you followed is one of the best in English about the uprising.

There's lots more information (and links to information) on this blog - just do a search for 'Kwangju Uprising' at the top.