Thursday, November 30, 2006

NHRC comes out on Pyeongtaek

The national human rights commission issued their statement on human rights violation in the areas surrounding pyeongtaek involved in the US base expansion. All the complaints though, are around issues of police questioning and harrassment, none deal with compensation schemes or excessive violence and demolition of housing. Here's the link.
You can also read Cindy Sheehan's reflections on her visit at Znet.

Irregular worker's bill passed

Seems the irregular worker's bill was passed today. I would love to see a translation of it, seems that it may expand irregular work significantly if it has not been changed much over the past year. More on this later...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Buses, Buses, Buses

Today's anti-FTA events were not as big as last week's. The government sealed the entire city hall park with riot buses, leaving groups with no place to rally. A few thousand gathered in front of Lotte department store down the street from city hall, and there were small confrontations between the police and demonstrations, mostly the throwing of some cabbages and a few police charges. The demonstrators eventually were moved into Myoung Dong near the Cathedral where a vigil was/is being held at time of writing.

Another reason why the protests were smaller than anticipated is because police were mobilized at toll stations on the highways around the country, making it nearly impossible for protest buses to get through on the highway. The picture above is from a redian story (in Korean). Yonhap news also reported that over 200 buses full of farmers were sent back at a number of toll booths. That's a pretty aggressive crackdown.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's Wednesday, here we go again...

Today is the third wednesday of protest in as many weeks, with two more set to come. Here is a Korea Herald article on the continuing protests. Like most articles on the FTA it ignores the substantive issues surrounding the actual agreement on focuses on the threat of violence.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wednesday's 'People's Uprising'

(Image from the Hankyoreh. Image Caption: President Roh Moo-hyun flies back to Korea, poring over plans for the "Roh Moo-hyun Memorial."On the ground below there are fires burning, namely "real estate," "unemployment," and "education." Near the destruction, you also see massive street protests. One is in opposition to a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. The other is a protest by part-time and contract workers calling for better legal protection.)

Wednesday's 'people's uprising' against the FTA, and its aftermath.

(Updated and re-edited: Sunday, November 26th)

Angry demonstrations spread across the Korean penninsula Wednesday as part of a large, broad-based campaign to oppose the current negotiations over the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement and the general state of labour relations and foreign policy on the penninsula. Although it is difficult to estimate the exact number of participants, it seems clear that around or over 100,000 participated. The groups organizing the day's events had promised that it would be a mini 'people's uprising'; while that term may be a bit exagerrated, one thing seems clear, the reaction from the government to the protests has been both reactive and punitive, with the result that public sentiment will most likely continue to boil on this issue until more conciliatory or progressive policies are implemented. What follows is an assessment of wednesday's event, its reaction, and some of the tensions that informed the turnout and which will continue to shape some of these social issues for the near future.

First off, it is hard to get an official number of participants as the police, unions, and media tend to give different estimates. But, based on these and other media accounts, lets say that there was roughly 100,000 workers on strike (gov. says 56,000, KCTU says over 150,000); in addition, police reported that 80,000 participated in rallies nationwide throughout the day, with some of the largest taking place in Seoul, Kwangju, and Taejon (where scuffles turned particularly bad), but also in smaller regions such as North Kyeongsang and Gangwon provinces where things protests were just as fierce. This number could probably be increased a bit if we take into account workers who participated in the walkout but did not join demonstrations. Also, police estimations tend to be a little conservative. Anyways, it seems that somewhere in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 people participated in the events. Though this may not be the 'people's uprising' that was promised, the turnout is very very significant compared to other anti-corporate/anti-capitalist globalization protests, especially in light of recent caimpaigns by other social movements here which have mobilized tens of thousands each month. In addition, on Saturday the conservative union federation, the FKTU, which did not participate in Wednesday's protests, had its own protest of 80,000 in downtown Seoul. By comparison, the 1999 Seattle protests against the WTO were more global in scope, had very little accompanying strikes, and still only brought out a similar number -- and with a long year of organizing ahead of time.

In the aftermath of Wednesday's protests, the government has banned all future protests by the coalition of 300 groups that organized them. In addition, it has declared that it will take action against the striking teachers who participated in the event by using their vacation to attend the protest, the government has summoned over 80 protest leaders and declared that arrest warrents will be issued for them if they do not voluntarily show up. These punitive measures in combination with the numerous amount of union organizers currently in jail speak to the breakdown of the government's involvement in labour relations, and, in fact, any contentious social issue that resonates strongly with civil society and social movements. This point is hammered home in a newly translated video released this week by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and Labournet. The film documents the repression faced by female train attendants, civil servants, and construction workers trying to organize their own unions, in each case they met with overwhelming violence. Female workers are forcibly dragged from the station, construction workers are literally thrown off of cranes and beaten in the streets, civil servants are welded into their union offices. This is a shocking video to watch, and it makes one surprised that demonstrations are not all the more massive.

In spite of all this, organizers did vow to bring out a million people nationwide, and even by the most optimistic of accounts, these numbers failed to materialize. The following is an attempt to illustrate some of the tensions that may inform these struggles, and maybe provide some reasons why it has been difficult to get even more out on the streets. It should remembered, however, that in comparision to anti-corporate globalization movements elsewhere, Korean social movements are still quite far ahead of the game in their tendancy to mobilize thousands, repeatedly, and in the face of stiff repression. However, they face difficulty in consolidating the gains from this mobilization, and the following may provide some answers as to why, even though these issues only begin to scratch the tip of the iceberg.

1. Union density declining: Korea's unionization level is at 10 year low, making it harder to get people out on the street. Labour flexibilzation has proceeded apace since the 1997 crisis, and this is creating serious difficulties for the unions as these workers are sometimes harder to mobilize as they work longer, harder hours, and are quickly becoming disillusioned with labour politics. This is compounded with a rift between the two labour federations caused mainly by the conservative union federation's negotiation of tripartite agreement with the government and business without the consent or participation of the KCTU. This tripartite (or 2.5-ite) agreement included the suspension of union pluralism for three years, thus delaying union democracy in the workplace and protecting the FKTU from having to more effectivily work for its membership in order not to lose workers to the KCTU. Within the KCTU as well there is tension as to how to mobilize these workers and what the role of irregular workers and other precarious workers should be in the labour movement is creating some difficulties. One dissapointing fact about Wednesday' s protest, and the previous week's warning strike was the migrant labour labour issued did not seem to be addressed, given that migrant labour is partially mobilized within the KCTU, it was a shame that their issues were not given a more prominent position in the rallies.

2. Real Estate Meltdown: A huge distraction right now is the real estate bubble, a problem which the Uri government has admitted it can't solve, and which has many concerned. Even the central bank has stepped in on this issue late this week. However, in my opinion, the real-estate bubble is intimately connected to overall problem of neo-liberal restructuring in the Korean economy, especially the privatization of the banks and the selling-off of a number of them, either wholly or partially, to speculative capital -- something which is 'more neo-liberal than neo-liberalism' in that the regulations for owning banks have been more lax on regulation than in some of the anglo-american countries that neo-liberal policies are often modeled on. This policy explicitly favors foreign and speculative capital by limiting bank ownership by domestic corporations. This is compounded by a lack of investment in jobs and fixed assets, a problem which has created excess liquidity in the real estate sector because, in general, financial capital seeks out what the profitable, short term investment is, and in this case it is mortgage and consumer credit. There is a lot of speculation as to why things have turned out like this, with some pointing to a capital strike by domestic chaebol, while other have pointed predation by speculation foreign capital. Not only does the real estate bubble threatens to liquidate the savings of many, the developments that many have bought into have often favored the interests of developers over environmental and local residents concerns. In fact, this form of boosterism is often closely related to the way in which industrial development has often been pursued on the penninsula, outside of the regards of the people affected by it and who labour to make a living. In a sense, Wednesday's protests were not simply about who benefits from globalization and how, but about the way in which control has been forcibly wrestled from workers, residents, and the environment. As from some of the smaller, emergent activist groups who attented the protests, I'm sure how successfully the unions have dealt with presenting these issues of both production and consumption, of working and inhabiting, as such, but it seems there is room here for a broad social consensus.

3. The FTA versus 'neo-liberalism". Expanding on the last point, it seems that the FTA is only a moment in a larger process of neo-liberal restructuring. The nationalist inflection that some of the protests have had may, in the end, be an important catalyst in getting people to look at the wider issues, but it seems to me there are many examples of neoliberalism at home that also need to be addressed, the first is the restructuring of the financial system that I mentioned above, but there are many other sets of neoliberal policies that need to be considered. Continuing corporate governance restructuring in line with neo-liberal ideas about shareholder value certainly has consequences. That is not to say that the system should only benefit the chaebol instead but why not democratize the institutional structures that exist (a mixture of family-led conglomerates and an increased amount of foreign owned corporations) in a way that is conducive to many, and then figure out a way to increase investment in key sectors that will provide jobs, growth (and hopefully not environmentally destructive development), rather than re-modeling the market on an anglo-american model: indeed, corporate transparency may certainly minimize the back door influence of the domestic chaebol on politics, but stock-market capitalism is certainly not too reconcilable with economic democracy in the end. It's ironic, but it seems perhaps that a government that came to power from the democracy movement would be the one to improve the power of private capital.

4. Trade liberalization. Domestically focused forms of neoliberalism aside, bilateral trade agreements between South Korea and other countries, particularly the US but not limited to it as the South Korean government is now negotiating several agreements at the same time. At any rate, in terms of the Korea - US free trade agreement, the key issues here are are social security and agricultural production. Culture industries are important here too, but some of the problems they are facing are also stem from the financial restructuring outlined above. These are the core issues that are the real risks from the FTA. Farmers will lose big time, they simply can't compete with American agribusiness. The fact that the US got the Korean government to agree to keep certain drugs off their pricing system is also retrograde, and sets an eerie precedent for other bilateral trade agreements.

5. Expansion of irregular work and other forms of precarity. Neoliberal labour market restructuring is also huge issue here and it stems in part from the faulty financial restructuring in the sense that smaller firms have problems investing and keeping costs down, especially as the government has gotten out of industrial policy, and continues to do so even beyond the bounds, in some cases, of the countries it models its policies on. Thus, flexibilization here is perceived as a way to give industry a chance to save on costs, but it ends up benefiting the larger corporations and keeps the smaller ones in a race to the bottom. Actually, it should be mentioned that 'irregular' work, in the legal definition of the term is only one aspect of precarious employment relations. 'Irregular work' in the sense of lack of job security, democratic voice, and sketchy workplace standards has long been a feature of the Korean model and even persists today in many sectors. Note the myriad levels of subcontracting relations. You certain see this in the areas around Dongdaemun where small basement and attic sweatshops persist in the thousands, not just in the peace market area but north of the station as well. Many or most of them in the latter are owned by the women who work in them, so, in a sense they are not irregular workers, but their situations are often more precarious than the officially 'irregular' or contract workers we so often talk about.

Finding an appropriate tactic that can organize these workers, in addition to unionized workers as well as the myriad other subjects affected by neo-liberalism, or just plain capitalism, in South Korea seems quite an urgent chore at the moment. Especially if the large labour federations want the support of these people in the battle against the policies that effect them more directly such as labour repression and the labour relations roadmap.

6. Empire: or state making and war making in NE Asia. Not to sound obtuse, but the end of the cold war on the peninsula would certainly help in the sense of limiting the governments ability to continue conscripting young men to battle labour and social movements in the streets. There still is a militarization of protest policing on the peninsula which is a direct result of the survival of cold war militarism. Of course, there is also the influence of regional inter-state competition here as well, and this keeps tensions up, and thus provides an excuse for maintaining arms, but protest could probably progress much further if only the military presence (both foreign and domestic) here could be minimized. That way you wouldn't see military operations against elderly villagers in Daechuri (as happened last may to 'seal' the area to make way for base expansion) or ten thousand police in downtown Seoul every weekend in anticipation of the next protest.

Protests ongoing

The above is by no means conclusive, and there much more depth we can go into in terms of the many tensions informing the current forms of restructuring and the protests against them. Instead, it is better to conclude by stating that even in the midst of all these tensions, Wednesday's protests, while perhaps not a 'people's uprising' were still very significant, and, in some ways, an important example for other movements in the region. Not simply for the courage and determination of South Korea's social movements, but also for their resilence in the face of crackdown and repression. I think many hope that movements in the region and internationally will show the same level of resilence, and hopefully coordinate around many of these issues in the future. Now is certainly a time for solidarity, with the Seoul government banning future demonstrations by Korea's No to FTA coalition. Nonetheless, protests will continue with protests scheduled for this coming Wednesday and the next; with the government racheting up tensions, it seems that messy confrontations will also continue.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

cindy sheehan visits pyeongtaek

I meant to post on this a few days ago. Anyways, at the moment Cindy Sheehan and Code Pink are in Korea. This visit comes at a good time as 37 lawmakers submit a resolution to get Korean troops out of Iraq and things turn worse near Pyeongtaek as Chairman Kim Ji-tae of daechuri was sentenced to 2 years in prison for organizing protests against the base expansion there. Besides visiting daechuri, Sheehan will be giving talks and attending today's Anti-FTA rally.

fta demo livecast

The Korean NOFTA site will have a livecast of today's (Wednesday) demonstration up on their page. I won't be at my computer while the demo is on, but if anyone sees it, please post a comment on how the livecast turned out.

multiple demonstrations tomorrow

Well, tomorrow is an omnibus day of protest, including most of the anti-FTA and labour relations roadmap issues we've been covering some time now. Here is a quick pre-protest story from the Korea Herald, and another from KOILAF. Seems that they are having trouble seeing how all these issues are connected; nonetheless, tomorrows events should, hopefully, create more popular cognitive connections between the struggle over decent working conditions, fair rather than free trade, and democracy in the workplace. Well, let's hope that message comes across.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

And now for something completely different

I've been looking into the issue of property speculation a little recently for my own research, dealing in part with the growing expansion of financial capital here on the penninsula. As most people know, there is a speculative bubble in the real-estate market that is growing and growing right now, with the consequence that a lot of property appears to be over-valued, with some of those cookie cutter concrete apartments now reaching the price of some European castles. Actually, that is what this following story from the Korean times is all about: the type and location of European castle you could sell your apartment in order to buy, no joke.

The warning strike and after

Here is my post for interlocals on yesterday's warning strike.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) held a warning strike yesterday in protest of several pressing labour issues including: the negotiation of the Korea US Free Trade Agreement, the signing of a tripartite agreement without consent or participation of the KCTU, the expanse of irregular work and oppression against their organizations and the sorry state of workers accident insurance and workers compensation.

The Korea Herald reported that, in all, 57,000 workers joined the four hour strike, though the KCTU reported that substantially more participated. Several more thousand rallied in front of the National Assembly during the afternoon and then marched to the headquarters of the ruling Uri Party where a vigil was held into the evening.

Originally, Wednesday's event was supposed to be the beginning of an indefinite strike but that event has been delayed to November 22nd. This was partially as a response to media criticisms of the KCTU's choice of the 15th, as it is the day that national university entrance exams begin, but also the decision to delay the indefinite strike was also declared as a way to give the government time to respond to the four major criticisms the KCTU voiced yesterday before deciding on further action. If the indefinite strike begins on the 22nd, KCTU workers will be joined by lots of other protest groups, including farmers and student groups, who will making that day an omnibus event against the FTA. The nation's police are already up in arms about what could turn out to be one of the largest protest of the year, following large anti-FTA protest and heavy police response in July.

In addition to Wednesdays protest, there were also solidarity actions in Australia and in other cities world-wide. Finally, the KCTU recently put out a film about Korea's labour relations issues, 10 years after the OECD: trade union repression in Korea which you can watch over at the Christian's CINA blog.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

walkout wednesday

As the KCTU walkout starts today, CINA has some stories on this protest and some others that are scheduled for the month.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

MWTV news in English

I'm a big fan of Migrant Worker Television Korea, I think it is an excellent project that is really breaking down barriers and promoting migrant's issues. They have news in multiple languages which you can view on their broadcast on in text on their website. However, I've had problems for months opening their english news because of some bugs on their site. However, the problem seems fixed at the moment and, after some prodding by myself, they have started pasting it in text rather than attaching it as a pdf file (which I think was the cause of the problem). Anyways, I'll reprint below the migrant news from the last week of October. As you can read, there are some interesting developments in terms of policy, with the last few workers under the trainee system now being merged into the Employment Permit System, which is a mildly progressive step, but still one which does not address the overall contradictions of the EPS, or basically any form of guest worker policy which does not address the crisis of long term residents and the fact of immigration -- of which there is of yet no clear policy. I've written a bit about this issue before, back when the EPS was first being introduced, you can read it here, but keep in mind that numbers have doubled since then, and that crackdowns continue apace, though they range quite a bit in periods of severity.

Click 'view full posting' to read the latest MWTV news...
The weather's taken a sharp turn toward winter in the last couple days, so be sure to bundle up when you're heading outside.

Welcome to Multilingual Migrant Worker News for this, the fourth week of October.

I'm Linda Kwon.
Our top story tonight...

With just two months left until the Industrial Trainee Program is abolished, the Korean government has announced that the organizations currently involved with the industrial training program will become involved with the Employment Permit System after the industrial training program is discontinued.

In the fourteen years of the Industrial Training Program's existance, migrant workers have become well acquainted with these affiliate organizations such as the Korean Federation of Small & Medium Businesses.

These agencies are renowned for taking illegal commissions for job placement services. In spite of this, the Korean government has decided to join hands with these organizations to become official partners in handling the Employment Permit System. Which indicates that the government does not have a specific plan to reform and improve policies for migrant workers.

Labor human rights organizations are protesting against the proposed system and began various protests including sit-ins and rallies on October 11. They stated that official agencies of the/handling the Employment Permit System should be formed as an independent organization, or appointed by the Human Resources Development Service of Korea which is currently responsible for the Employment Permit System.


Migrant workers are still not being adequately protected under Korean labor law. According to the Ministry of Labor, about 81% of companies hiring migrant workers
violate wage agreements and other labor regulations such as physical harassment and overtime work.

Although about 1,270 labor violations were reported regarding migrant workers, only 510 cases have been settled. Among the reported cases, over 90% are about unpaid wages which total over 1.6 billion won.

Hyunggyu Maeng from the Grand National Party said that there must be many more migrant workers than have been reported who are suffering due to employer labor violations. He also asserted that the government should provide more effective and proactive solutions.


According to the Ministry of Labor, last year 56 employers were reported for sexual harassment charges and 60% of the total cases happened in small & medium size companies. The primary victims of sexual harassment were women in their 20s who totaled 46% of the cases. While 75% of those facing harassment charges were men in their 40s.


Keumsil Gang, former minister of labor and the current ambassador of women’s rights expressed grave concern about the issues of female migrant workers. She pointed out the seriousness of migrant women’s issues, especially the women who have come to Korea through international marriage. Gang is planning to visit Vietnam and the Philippines for detailed survey. She also announced that proper solutions for migrant women’s issue would be discussed through cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Gang was appointed to the post of women’s rights ambassador this past September.


A high school teacher donated an apartment worth over 600 million won to a medical center for foreign workers. Last August, Sunhee Min, a teacher at Il-Sin girl’s commercial high school donated her apartment in Bundang to the medical center for foreign workers in Garibongdong in Seoul. Her husband passed away in 1993 with acute leukemia and he left the apartment. She said that her husband would be pleased to know that the money would be used for saving lives. Min had worked at a factory when she was young. She finished her college education as a part time student and obtained a teacher’s qualification. She has worked as a high school teacher for the last 26 years.


There are no famous actors or world famous directors. However, the 1st Migrant Worker Film Festival has attracted the media's attention. The film festival kicked off in Pocheon on the 1st of October, and since then, has held screenings in Ansan, Seoul, and Daegu. A number of films made by migrant workers themselves were included among the 30 featured domestic and foreign films. These films show the current situation of migrant workers. The film festival has been touted by Korean media as a good opportunity for Korean society to better understand migrant workers and break down the wall of mutual distrust.

On October 22, We Too Love Bucheon 2006 Multicultural Festival was held in Bucheon. Migrant workers from 12 countries including Nepal, Russia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Bangladesh participated in this event. The festival kicked off with an parade of participating migrant workers. In addition, cultural performances of different countries, a quiz show, sport activities including a cricket tournament, and an exhibition of traditional cultures & food were prepared.

The highlight of the festival was an actual traditional Bangladeshi wedding ceremony between a couple from Bangladesh. There was also a concert featuring traditional music from Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, and Sri Lanka.


This year's Nobel Peace Prize went to Dr. Muhammad Yunus along with the bank he founded, Grameen Bank for the simple, yet revolutionary, idea of lending tiny sums to poor people to start businesses, helping hundreds of millions of people earn their way out of poverty. Grameen Bank was founded in 1976 and the world has long recognized Yunus and his bank’s contributions to reducing poverty by providing ‘Micro-credit’ over the past three decades. On October 18, Yunus visited Seoul to receive the 2006 Seoul Peace Award. In spite of a tight schedule, he met with migrant workers from Bangladesh at the Shilla Hotel on October 19. In the meeting, Yunus asserted that migrant workers should work together to reduce poverty in Bangladesh. Participating migrant workers also discussed current problems they are facing here in Korea. After receiving the 2006 Seoul Peace Award, Professor Muhammad Yunus left for Bangladesh on October 20.

We have a couple announcements for you tonight...


Starting next year, the Ministry of Labor has revised work safety laws to ensure faster reporting of industrial accidents. The revised regulation states that if a death or serious accident occurs at the workplace, it must be reported within 24 hours. In addition, the reporting process will also be improved so that there will be someone to receive calls at night and on weekends. The phone number to call to report any serious accidents at work is 1588-3088.


The first annual Migrant Worker Film Festival "Films Without Borders, Moving Imagination" has been successfully touring various regions around the country and will continue to run until November 19.

The remaining dates are as follows:

October 29th, in Pusan at the Community Media Center as well as in Maseok at Shalom House.

Sunday, November 5 in two locations: Bucheon at the Migrant Worker House and in Uijeongbu Songuri - Songuri-dong Office.

And lastly, Sunday November 19 in Shiheung at the Jakun Jari Migrant Worker Center.

For more information, please visit the MWFF website at [or you can call 6366-0621].


That's all for this, the fourth week edition of Multilingual Migrant Worker News for October.

You can watch rebroadcasts of the news on our web site at or
Thanks for being with us. Good night.

Getting ready for Wednesday

I personally missed it (how dissapointed thy must be) but yesterday was the big rally, or Labour Assemby (but no march) downtown in anticipation of the KCTU's warning strike to take place on Wednesday -- which will include 4-hour walkouts or more at numerous workplaces. There has a been something of a back and forth between the Seoul authorities and the labour movement recently over permits for the march, which was originally denied for this event until the KCTU resubmitted a compromise saying that they wouldn't march but only meet. It seems that they stuck to this agreement as you can read from the two mainstream media stories I'll link to (here and here) on the event. It's pretty disappointing however that the media is more focused on the traffic planning than the substantive claims about worker's rights and their curtailment that the unions are raising. Especially in regards to the increased repression the labour movement has seen this year (Pohang irregular workers struggle and the KGEU crackdown being the two most publicized -- but also the recent crackdowns on migrant workers which have included the raiding of a local mosque last month). Wednesday strike, which is also an international day of action, is designed to foreground these struggles within the overall context of the Labour Relations Road Map which is being through without KCTU consent or participation.

Finally, I've included some pictures from the event (courtesy voice of the people). Note the aesthetics on the rally posters, kind of different for KCTU rallies, kind of reminds me of the british artists Gilbert and George, well with a more socialist edge -- interesting, nonetheless.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

After the DLP visit

here is an a short article on the recent DLP visit to North Korea. I'm actually quite curious if these visits are building stronger horizontal connections between people in this party and North Korean counterparts. In general I think non-rigid forms of connections between the two would be good. But who knows what the interaction was like. The article is also interesting in that it mentions some of the factions (the old NL and PD split) within the DLP. Here is the LINK.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Missle test reaction in Korea and US

The topic many not be as fresh now, but Matt, gusts of popular feelings, in an interesting post on propanganda has some interesting things to say about the different receptions of the North Korea nuclear test here and in the states.

There has been a lot commentary on this issue over the last few weeks, and I'm not so interested in reviewing this material except to say that although the tests certainly registered amongst people here as a genuine concern, indeed as a renewed topic of political debate, the representation of the threat posed by tests to Korean society have not had the same frenzied amplification as they have elsewhere.

Below is an excerpt from matt's post showing an example of how the US press used the incident of a regularly scheduled civilian drill that happened just after the test to make it seem like the Korean population was paniked and in fear. I'll reprint the except from his post which includes some interesting visual material, as well as commentary.

From "gusts of popular feeling":

To see an example of said American tv news in action, you need only look here. In the video clip found there, from October 16, you can hear this commentary:
In one corner of the globe tonight it is a full scale crisis. North Korea has now proven to the world it is now a nuclear nation. For its neighbours, those in close missile rangle, that is bad news, as it is for the US government, who worry that it will become at kind of nuclear arms dealership dealing with all the wrong people. Tonight US intelligence has picked up fresh evidence they might be planning another test, on the very same day when we were able to confirm that the first test was indeed the real thing.

Today, South Korea was taking the threat seriously. In Seoul, 40 miles from the border, regularly scheduled air-raid drills today, people running for underground shelters. While in the north, Kim Jong-il's second in command told a military rally they would be victorious over the united states.
I guess MSNBC was just hoping no one would put any thought into what 'regularly scheduled' means. How can South Korea be 'taking the threat seriously' by having an air-raid drill when it's a regularly scheduled one? Ah, but no matter, all you need to do is show rapid-fire shots of people running into subways in order to make it seem very, y'know, crisis-like. Follow that by North Korea saying it will defeat the US, and everybody is off to Walmart to buy duct tape.

Fox News was kind enough to also provide a video clip of their story about the civil defense drill here. I include it because, unlike NBC, you can take screen shots:

We are told, "This entire city of ten million shut down, there is no traffic on the streets, there are no people on the streets." Strange. By my place traffic continued as usual. Of course, this reporter is not exactly being truthful. There are several people in the streets, including himself in his cameraman. Look behind the man in yellow in the first picture, and you'll see some photographers with a tripod. It seems the media weren't required to seek shelter; they were too busy trying to scare the hell out of people living elsewhere in the world.

And people ask me why I don't watch TV.

These 'news' clips are basically telling Americans that it's a full scale CRISIS, NORTH KOREA WILL DEFEAT US, seoulites are RUNNING for the subways (which is utterly uncommon here) - first we confirm the FIRST TEST was the REAL THING, a genuine NUCLEAR BOMB, and now there are TWO BONGOS, A SCOOTER, AND A HALF DOZEN SOLDIERS near the TEST SITE - ANOTHER TEST could occur in OUR SLEEP! aaaAAAAEEEEIIIIIIEEEEEEAAAAAGHHHHHHH!!! Run! Run to the mall! Max out your credit cards!! (Brought to you by American Express)

Of course, when North Korea does this, its called propaganda.