Kwon Young Ghil

Kwon Young Ghil

Some fellow Greens and I met today with Kwon Young Ghil, President of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) of South Korea prior to a speech he gave today in L.A. at the Korean Immigrants Workers Association.

Kwon ran for President in South Korea in 2000, getting 3% of the votes. Last year, in the local elections the party polled 8.1%, effectively making them the serious third party in South Korea. They expect to win several national seats in the upcoming 2004 election.

The DLP, roughly, is the Green Party of South Korea – a fast growing third party aimed at major reform of the system. And yes, he’s been accused of helping elect the wrong guy (shades of Nader!) however, unlike here, they are allowing him into the Presidential debates…

South Korea has some major politics happening. The North Korea – US war of words (so far) over nuclear facilities is obviously of huge and immediate interest to them. The DLP favors no nuclear facilities on the peninsula, negotiation between North Korea and the US, and reunification as equals. Kwon pointed out that the breakdown of the North Korea – US agreement was at least as much due to the US as to North Korea and wondered if the US was doing this out of ignorance or deliberately.

The killing of two South Korean schoolgirls last summer in a US military accident has spawned huge mass vigils and major serious “anti-Americanism”. The soldiers who ran over the girls were whisked out South Korea, and found not guilty in US court. A petition signed by 1.3 million Koreans (in a country of 40 million) was delivered to the White House. George Bush refused to receive it. I’d say they have legitimate grounds to be angry. Kwon favors revision of the Status of Forces Agreement, the laws which, in effect, state that US military are not subject to Korean law.

He spoke about how the sad working conditions of much of the labor force is directly related to Neo-liberalism, flexible labor, and other such policies that favor the monied class but leave little for anyone else.  Some of the nasty union busting tactics include laws that permit union and personal assets to be seized if a strike occurs because such money might be needed to pay damages if they should occur. Workers under such laws can’t collect paychecks, and homes have been seized and sold.

He pointed out that when you have floating capital going round the world finding the absolute cheapest price someone will work for, then exploitation can be expected to happen.  Yes, DLP are Socialists. I’ve decided a working definition of a Socialist is someone who believes the “invisible hand of Capitalism” is actually giving them the finger.

One final thought; a South Korean friend was talking about North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and how what the West views as a cult of personality is actually something more complicated. Then she laughed, saying, “Well look at your President in the State of the Union address. All the Congress kept jumping up to applaud when they were supposed to. Which country has the cult of personality?”


Articles about Kwon: Korea Times, recent speech at Cornell Univ.