Labor rights

ISC Open Lecture #2: “Where Workers Rule”

Filed under: Labor, Workers Tagged: labor, Labor rights

ISC Open Lecture #2: “Where Workers Rule”


Taking Down Samsung’s No Union Policy: The Samsung Electronics Service Union

On July 29th, The International Strategy Center’s Policy and Research Coordinator Dae-Han Song and Communications Coordinator Hwang Jeong Eun met with Sunyoung Kim, the chair of the Samsung Electronic Service Union for the Yeongdeungpo District in Seoul of the Korean Metal Workers Union to talk about the union’s struggle and their trailblazing as the first union recognized by Samsung.

Can you give us a brief background to the Samsung Electronic Service Union?


70s Women Workers

Among the key worker struggles during the Yushin Regime of Park Chung Hee were those waged by women at the Cheonggye, Dongil, and YH Unions. After watching the play 70 Women Workers by the Arts Collective for a New Era, we spent a weekend meeting up with its three protagonists. Our first day, we got a tour of Pyounghwa Market (the primary textile district in Korea) by one of its then-organizers Shin Soon Ae. Our second day, we sat down at a Gwanghwamun café to talk with Lee Cheong Gak and Choi Soon Young presidents of Dongil and YH Union during its most intense and fierceest struggles.


A Reflection on Community Education

by Erica Sweett

Coming to Korea 1.5 years ago, I could never have imagined how much this country and its people could teach me. For me, education is about discovery. It is a shared knowledge that opens your mind to worlds beyond your own. Instead of passively learning about the culture and history of where we are living, we become active members of retelling and reshaping the future.
In March I was invited to see a play about three women who worked in the Korean garment factories during the 1970s. The women read their stories alongside actors who reenacted the scenes. Choking back tears, they spoke of the inhumane treatment, humiliation and violence they endured in the factories.

The Korea these women spoke of was not only of a different time, but of a completely different world. Their stories allowed me to see, from a personal perspective, the struggles many Koreans face.


“Enforce the labor code! We are not machines!”

by Stephanie Park

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Korea’s labor movement knows the name of Jeon Tae Il, the iconic young male worker who self-immolated in protest of working conditions in Korean factories during the 1970s, as well as the words he shouted that fateful day in Seoul’s Pyeonghwa Market. I first learned about Jeon Tae Il through a college class on Korean cinematography, where we watched A Single Spark, a film that dramatizes his life and the events that led him to such drastic action.


Being the Change We Want to See

By Taryn Assaf

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”­- David Foster Wallace


ISC Research Paper: Global Movement for Higher Minimum Wage and the Real Situation of Korean Companies Operating Abroad

Recently, demonstrations have been breaking out around the world demanding an increase in the minimum wage. This is the result of wages that have remained too low since the financial crisis exacerbated by the continuous inflation along with exchange rate increases which have made it impossible to guarantee a minimum standard of living. According to the “Global Wage Report 2012-13” by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the global average real wage (excluding China) has not increased since the 2008 financial crisis. Minimum wage became a big issue not only in Asia, known as the world’s factory due to its cheap labor but also in the US and the UK. In the US, the movement is spreading propelled by fast food workers.


Everyone Has the Right: An Interview with Nazmul Hossain from the Migrants Trade Union

Written by Kellyn Gross

Interview by ISC Media Team

“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” -Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1)


2,202 Days

By ISC Media Team

Contributors: Ben Cooper, Dae-Han Song, Kellyn Gross, Taryn Assaf

We are all leaders, not just as a collection of individuals, but as persons embedded in different kinds of institutions and communities of struggle. – Staughton Lynd

On November 9th, the ISC media team met with two women from the JEI workers union, Oh Suyeong and Yeo Minhee. They are union leaders in a six-and-a-half-year struggle against their employer, Jaeneung Educational Institution (JEI). The women’s recent struggle is a symbol of self-sacrifice for the special workers movement—one that is in the spirit of the venerable Jeon Taeil who self-immolated in 1970 on behalf of garment workers.


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