Monday, May 24, 2010

Freeters, Migrants, Samsung

As I get back to posting on a more regular basis, I'm going to make a few large summaries of issues that I haven't followed for a while. So, starting with contemporary labour issues, here is a string of links:

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) has dismissed 134 public school teachers for being indicted, along with other civil servants, by prosecutors on charges that included membership in the minor opposition Democratic Labor Party (DLP). Korean teachers cannot join political parties. South Korea has not ratified ILO Convention 87, on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, or ILO Convention 98, on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. This has led to calls by the ILO for Korea to improve labour standards.

The government is expanding its crackdown on undocumented migrant workers in advance of November's G20 summit. You can read more on the recent history of the migrant movement here.

Samsung has come under a lot of criticism lately not only for possible collusion with government prosecutors but also because of the high incidence of cancer among its workers. Activists protesting the death of another young Samsung worker were recently arrested. Stop Samsung has more on the high rate of blood cancer among young Samsung workers.

One out of 10 Korean workers was found to be paid less than the legal minimum wage, according to a recent survey. South Korea's gender wage gap was also found to be the highest in the OECD, as was the number of industrial accidents (though there may be some issues of reporting standards here).

The KWWA has been protesting the low wages that 'interns' receive, as has a newly formed Youth Union based on the Japanese Freeter movement (picture). That's all for now.

The politics of minority

Yet more Korean social thought. The Politics of Minority (English summary) was the first of Suyu Noma's Bookzines and contains some interesting articles. It is from 2007/2008 and has elements of a postdevelopment critique of Korean progressive thought. Remember that this was the time when Sonjinhwa (joining the advanced countries) ideology was gaining popularity, and Roh's regime had deepened its neoliberal turn. The editors attack what they see as a stage-ist theory of democracy and development that subordinates human and other forms of life to market and state forces, highlighting the struggles of migrant workers, disabled citizens, and the diverse ecology of Saemangum, among other 'minorities.' They have published a few other issues since then, and I'm curious if they've yet to expand their notions of alter-revolution and commune-ism to forms of economic practice. It seems to be one of the loopholes of their broader oeuvre: while they have reimagined political democracy, I've not seen much from them on economic democracy. I think they would embrace a position similar to JK Gibson-Graham, judging from some of their political commitments and the structure of their commune or 'research machine' as they call it.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Korean financialization

I noticed via Wallflower that there is a new book out called, roughly, 20 years of financial (portfolio development) rage in Korea. I think the title of WF's post, 20대 꼬붕론 , means 20-year bender, but I'm not sure (translation anyone?). It would be interesting to find out what the perspective of the book is, i.e. how critical of the process of financialization it is.

On a related topic, I got a book a last year called, Korean Society and Strategies for Rebuilding the Left (also a rough translation), which features interviews with Ha Joon Chang and essays on finance by a number of the intellectuals associated with Tae-an Yeondae (the Alternatives Network), some of whom have joined some of the sessions I've organized in the past on financialization, neoliberalism and (formerly) developmental states.

Some other recent writing on finance would also include Jeong Seong Jin's essay: The Korean Developmental State: From Dirigisme to Neoliberalism. I make similar arguments but with a bit of different, perhaps more relational, perspective, in my dissertation. I have a few chapters there about financial policy and debates about financial restructuring among the Korean liberal left. I'm interested in updating this material so it is always interesting to see new material coming out.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Common City

While updating some of my links and writing the last post, I noticed that Jo Jeong Hwan has a new book out called The Common City (you can buy it here). Jo Jeong Hwan's thought is similar to autonomia, and this book seems to be about popular events in urban space such as the Kwangju Uprising and more recently the Candlelight Protests of 2008. This book is probably of particular interest to critical geography and urban studies; however, it is interesting to note that those disciplines themselves, in Korea at least, do not produce texts like these. It seems that it is the more independent writers, with only very loose academic affiliations (in various informal 'institutes' or 연구소) that seem to write this stuff.

Korean Poststructuralism Pt. 2

While reading blogs by Korean academics recently -- I'm trying to find how certain debates on development, modernity, and civil society have played out in recent years -- I stumbled across Lee Taek Kwang's blog. He seems to write about the history of critical social thought, and, as an addition to my earlier entry on Korean poststructuralism, I'll repost a CFP he has written for a special issue on Deleuze and the non-West.

CFP Special Issue of Deleuze Studies

Deleuze and the Non-West edited by Alex Taek-Gwang Lee

Is Deleuze a Western philosopher? This question seems to raise a problem that Deleuze studies should properly deal with. If Deleuzian thought belongs to the tradition of western philosophy, in what sense does the non-West regard Deleuze as a philosopher? Philosophy is always related to knowledge which does not privilege understanding. Philosophy is equal anywhere on earth. Since Descartes’ “discovery” that the non-West could think, western philosophy could no longer ignore the presence of the non-West, a philosophical otherness in reality. If philosophy argues the idea of truth, what it needs is to persuade its other. Deleuze recognized the problem of the non-West and suggested a solution with the concept of “geophilosophy.” In What Is Philosophy?, Deleuze , along with Guattari, uses this term for a philosophy of the earth. For Deleuze, thinking is not a matter of the dialectic between subject and object, but rather “the relationship of territory and the earth.” The territory-earth relationship creates the absolute plane of immanence, and Deleuze argues that Greeks invented the plane of immanence for Western philosophy. In this way, we can “speak of Chinese, Hindu, Jewish, or Islamic ‘philosophy’ … to the extent that thinking takes place on a plane of immanence that can be populated by figures as much as by concepts.” According to Deleuze, the plane of immanence is pre-philosophical, in the sense that “it becomes philosophical only through the effect of the concept.” The philosophical is always related to the non-philosophical. This means that philosophy has no internal necessity – Western philosophy is a miracle because it had accidentally encountered the territory of Greece. Therefore, it is not unusual to relate Deleuze with the non-West or place Deleuze in the non-West; rather the very Deleuzian way to speak of Deleuzian philosophy is in relation to the non-Deleuzian. With the above perspective, the special edition of Deleuze Studies seeks papers on Deleuze and the non-West.

Possible topics include but are not limited to the following:

-. The non-Western plane of immanence
-. The non-Western reception of Deleuze
-. Globalisation and Deleuzian Politics in Asia
-. Deleuze as a philosopher of non-Western ethics
-. The translation of Deleuze into non-Western languages
-. Geophilosophical studies of Deleuze
-. Deleuzian concepts and non-Western philosophy

If you would like to contribute to this special issue of Deleuze Studies please contact the issue editor Alex Taek-Gwang The deadline for all submissions is March 2011.