Korea Taking Japanese Grievances Global

By Kevin Hockmuth and George Baca

 For those who have spent even a short time living in the Republic of Korea, it is readily evident that anti-Japanese sentiments run strong and hot. On one level, it makes sense that ordinary Koreans would have a strong sense of grievance associated with the prior Japanese occupation. In the early days of the Republic, elite politicians worked frantically against the accusations that South Korea was home to the “collaborators.” Indeed, anti-Japanese rhetoric has been a mainstay of South Korean politics.

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Multiculturalism in Korea

girl-protests-against-multiculturalism-outside-national-assembly-2
 
As an anthropologist living and studying in Korea, I have become fascinated with the political uses of the idea. Indeed multiculturalism has become popular in the so-called new and “globalizing” Korea. Much like globalization, multiculturalism is an idea that comes from the West and it seeks to present the world in way that is not accurate. Korea, we are told, is becoming a “multicultural” nation because of the growing presence of foreigners. But we cannot forget the reason for these new arrivals: the simple fact of labor. Foreigners in Korea are not here – much like in Europe or the United States — so that Korea can add cultural richness to its traditional culture and society.

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Kim Jong-il’s Shadow

 

With the sudden passing of Kim Jong-il, the foreseeable future of news about Korea will be dominated by speculation about North Korea’s instability, possible collapse, and of course reunification. However, it is important to not get caught up into ideas of crisis about such a “rogue” state and keep in mind that Europe, the United States, and South Korea have undergone their fair share of destabilizing events over the past year.

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Hanjin, Kim Jin-Sook, & The Bus of Hope Movement

Since the 1980s, South Korea has become famous for the militancy of its labor movement. Korean workers movements have been successful in launching many large-scale strikes and protests since the demise of South Korea’s authoritarian regime in 1987. Though the labor movement has achieved much since the democratic transition, such protests often meet repression from the state. This seems to be the current situation with an interesting hybrid of labor conflict and social movement that has catalyzed in what has been dubbed the “Bus of Hope Movement.” Over the past two months popular support has emerged striking workers at Hanjin Heavy Industries’ shipyard located on the the small Island of Young-Do in Busan, South Korea.

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New to the Blogoshpere

Actually I am new to the world of blogging. People have suggested that I blog for a while. I have not really been too keen. However, now that I am in Korea and retooling as an Asianist it seems like a good idea. I have been in Korea for about 18 months and am developing a larger research project. I will begin developing some of my ideas about Korean society and politics.

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