Friday, December 17, 2010

The Migrant Trade Union's latest struggle

This pressure has increased recently in the wake of activities MTU carried out to protest the death of a Vietnamese migrant worker who fell from a second story window in the course of an immigration raid. On November 5, MTU and other organizations held a press conference concerning the incident in front of the Seoul Immigration Office, after which participants made a protest visit to the immigration authorities to ask them to take responsibility for the death. President Catuira participated in these activities. Shorty after, on November 23, President Catuira received a summons from the Immigration Service telling him he must appear before the Immigration Service’s investigation team before December 3 to be investigated based on “suspicion of violations of the Immigration Control Law in the course of applying for a workplace transfer and with relation to actual performance of work duties at present.” Inquiry by a lawyer working with MTU has revealed that the investigation team is also planning to raise suspicions that President Catuira is conducting political activities of a nature prohibited under immigration law. If the investigation team finds against President Catuira, he will lose his visa and become immediately deportable.
Via the Migrant Trade Union's website, I've noticed that the immigration authorities are now targeting its president, Michel Catuira, by attempting to get his employment contract terminated for engaging in 'political activities.' You can read the MTU's recent letters and appeals to the UN and ITUC (quoted above) for more background on the case and on the persistent violation of labour and human rights that the MTU fought so valiently against since it was founded almost 10 years ago. I might add that even though the Seoul High Court declared back in 2007 that the government must recognize the MTU, but this has still not happened. And in this case the lack of legal recognition of the MTU is one among many important factors. Sad how there is so much energy put into monitoring and repressing politicized migrants, and little into fixing the immigration system so that senseless tragedies, like the death of Trinh Cong Quan, mentioned above, continue to this day.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Urban Theory of Korean Democratization?

The struggle of 2008 is similar to the struggle of 1980, in the point that it demanded the dignity of life. But it is similar to the struggle of 1987, in the point that it was led by the community of production and living [note: I think JJH means 'of the 'lifeworld'' or for 'freedom in everyday life' here]. However, the community of production, which emerged politically in 2008, was an information-based, cognitive, and non-material community based on the metropolis, rather than the factory which was based on material activities . In this context, the struggle of 2008 is a new type of struggle originating from circumstances where financial, natural and social lives overlap with communal production.

In this struggle, the conflict between the central intelligence powers, which placed combat police and SWAT teams at the head, and the constituent power, organized by collective multitude intelligence sources, appeared radically in some ways, and was quite humorous. The constituent power mocked the ‘Myungbak Fortress’, singing the song of ‘Article 1 of the Constitution’ which defined that ‘All power of Korea come from the people’.... Unlike guns in 1980 and Molotov cocktails in 1987, words (language) circulated through various information mechanisms, becoming the tools for accessing the multitude...

I'm excited to see that Joe Jeong Hwan has put a list of his writings that have been translated into foreign languages. Included is a synopsis of his book, The Common City, which I've discussed on this blog in the past. In the synopsis, you can see that what Joe seems to be providing is something of an urban theory of the democratic activism, or, in Negrian terms, of the multitude as a spatialized, urban phenomenon that is informed by changes in the urbanization of capital -- from import to export-based industrialization and the development of factory districts, to the knowledge economy policies of Roh Moo Hyun and the capital city-centric mega-development policies of the current conservative regime. These movements of the multitude for greater democratization are conceived as reactions against capital's orderings of everyday urban life, reactions which utilize the very skills and capacities that have been produced through capitalist development in order to posit an alternative use of commonality, or common potential. Exciting stuff, unfortunately, Joe's works and that of other cognate thinkers such as the Suyu group, seems to get passed over by urban studies and critical geography as there is a lack of good translations of their work and because it is produced at a distance from established university disciplines, which are, to a large part, still rather conservative in orientation at a number of Korean universities with the exception of innovate programs at school like Sungkonghoe, KNUA, etc... Anyways, hoping that translations like these continue to appear.