Thursday, August 28, 2008

buddhists protest

From today's Hankyoreh:

Buddhists protest perceived bias in Lee administration

200,000 protesters demand apology from President Lee and resignation of National Police Agency Chief Eo

In what was the first event of its kind, approximately 200,000 Buddhists belonging to 27 Buddhist denominations protested in downtown Seoul on August 27 against what they called religious discrimination on the part of President Lee Myung-bak’s administration.

The Ven. Wonhak, head of the organizing committee for what was called the “All Buddhists’ Assembly for Denouncing the Lee Myung-bak Administration’s Constitution-Destroying Religious Discrimination,” said that Korean Buddhism is in the most “distressful” state it has been in “since it came to Korea 1,700 years ago.”

“Buddhism has been kicked out into the street by thoughtless fanatics who dream of a Christian republic,” he said.

Monks and regular believers filled the streets in front of Seoul City Hall, from Taepyeongno and Deoksu Palace to the corner of the Hanwha Building.

Kim Kwang-jun, an Anglican priest who is head of the National Council of Churches of Korea’s Committee on Interfaith Dialogue, issued a statement of solidarity.

“As a Christian I apologize for cases of religious discrimination, like when Rev. Jang Gyeong-dong caused controversy for insulting Buddhism,” said Kim. “The Lee administration has discarded the principle of separation of church and state and even the principles of democracy, all in the name of pragmatism.”

Protesters issued a resolution demanding an open apology from President Lee, the resignation of National Police Agency Chief Eo Cheong-soo, the legislation of a prohibition on religious discrimination, and “favorable consideration” by the authorities for people wanted for involvement in the candlelight protests.

Organizers said they will be operating a “Religious Discrimination Monitoring Group” to determine whether President Lee takes action in good faith on their demands, and that they will organize similar protests across the country if he does not.

In the afternoon, protesters marched to Jogye Temple, going from the Sejongno intersection to Jonggak and on to Ujeonggugno. The police mobilized approximately 7,000 police officers from 85 riot police units.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government says it will fine the organizers for “using” Seoul City Hall Plaza without a permit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh se chul arrested

This is from the Korea Times:

Economist Nabbed for Praising Socialism

By Bae Ji-sook
Staff Reporter

Police arrested a renowned economist for speaking out against capitalism, which is in violation of the National Security Law. Civic groups and academics are criticizing the government for suppressing so-called progressive scholars over false information.

Some are worrying whether these new moves will bring back the ``public security'' era when police used excessive force against people under the name of ``keeping the peace'' in the authoritarian era of the 1970s and 1980s.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said Wednesday it had arrested Oh Se-cheol, honorary professor at Yonsei University, and seven other Socialist Workers League of Korea members on Tuesday. The eight are now being questioned in Ogin-dong, central Seoul, over whether they have criticized capitalism and praised socialism as well as other acts considered benefiting the enemy ― the North Korea.

The police spokesman said Oh, chairman of the league, and others have released leaflets and other materials denouncing liberal capitalism. The group's flags were seen at the candlelit protests against U.S. beef imports, he added.

The investigative body also said Oh openly sought the establishment of a revolutionary socialist group saying, ``We are the revolutionary forces that declare the world proletarian revolution publicly and express the determination to struggle with the proletariat of the world including Korea in the history of the workers' movement and communist movement in Korea after 1945,'' on the group's Web site.

However, academia and others are criticizing the police's moves since Oh is well known for denouncing North Korea. Roh Hoe-chan of the minor New Progressive Party said, ``Oh and his groups constantly said the North has been polluted with other ideas in socialism, which all socialists should `refrain from following'. Shouldn't the group be defined as anti-North Korean?''

About 10 civic groups held protests in front of the investigation room saying, ``Why should they be punished for talking about what they believe in, which is obviously not praising the enemy?''

``Oh criticized capitalism even under the military junta in the 1970s but was never prosecuted for violating the law. I do not understand the government's ethics on the issue,'' Prof. Han Sang-hee of Konkuk University said calling for the government's respect on a variety of social ideas.

Some speculate the investigation will see a revival of the debate about whether the National Security Law should be abolished. The law bans all kinds of praise, promotion or sympathy toward the enemy. In this case, the enemy is North Korea, experts say.

Since a reconciliation mood swept the Han peninsula in 2000, there were only two other cases of such groups being involved in violation of the law. During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the law was submitted for abolishment at the National Assembly.

Meanwhile, Suwon District Public Prosecutors' Office said it caught a female North Korean spy disguised as a defector. According to the office, 34-year-old Won Jeong-hwa disguised herself as a defector in China, married a South Korean man and came to the South in 2001. Then she contacted several military officers and handed over confidential information to the North.

The office has also arrested a military captain who handed over information and another man for delivering such stuff to the North.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


In the news today:

Gap between regular and irregular workers has grown
Widening difference in salaries and income growth between the two groups since irregular worker protection law was implemented

A survey has revealed that since July of last year, right around the time a law to protect irregular workers went into effect, the income gap between regular and irregular workers in their 20s and 30s grew.

The company Incruit took a look at the 2006 and 2008 first-half wages (based on fixed salaries) of about 30,000 of its own website members between the ages 20 and 39. The data, released Monday, shows that the salary gap between the regular and irregular workers grew by almost 100,000 won in the two-year period. In the first half of 2008, the average monthly salary of regular workers at the company was 2.282 million won, while that of irregular workers was 74 percent of that at 1.689 million won, producing a gap of 593,000 won. The gap had grown from two years earlier. In 2006, the average monthly salary of regular workers was 2.154 million won, while that of irregular workers was 77.1% of that at 1.661 million won, producing a difference of 493,000 won.

There was also a difference in income growth -- this year, regular workers made 5.9 percent more than they did two years ago, while irregular workers only made 1.7 percent more.

This trend can be confirmed in a March survey by the Korea National Statistical Office. In 2007, the salary of irregular workers was 64.1 percent of that of regular workers.; this year, it had fallen to 60.5 percent.

Song Min-jung, a researcher at the Samsung Economic Research Institute, believes that the quality of employment for irregular workers fell after the protection law went into effect, with many irregular workers switching to by-the-hour work or dispatch work with poor working conditions.