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S. KOREA, "Summer Struggle"...

by KCTU/ETU-MB Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2004 at 5:04 PM

...a great experience of unity and solidarity


Last Thursday, August 19, we started the "Summer Struggle", a struggle propaganda tour through Seoul. The event was prepared by several trade unions like ETU (Equality Trade Union), Korean Union of Dismissed Workers, ETU-MB, National Federation of Urban Poor (NFUP) and others.
With the mean of this tour we wanted to visit the places where the roots for human and labor right violations are located.
The first day, Thursday morning, we visited Mok-dong’s central Immigration Office – here are sitting the cause of migrant workers sufferings. More than 100 people demonstrated here and demanded the stop of the deportation policy, legalization of migrant workers and permanent residence and work permit. Many immigration officers were watching the protest, and greedy for to catch the three present migrant workers activists, but the lack of police forces and the crowd of Korean activists prevented that.
The next station of the “Summer Struggle” tour was a taxi company, where trade union activities are banned and activists are dismissed in the past. After a “struggle lunch” (usually Koreans protest by the mean of “no food strike”, i.e. hunger strike) in front of the main gate about 50 people demonstrated against this practice. After the rally a march around the block, where the company is located, took the streets.
In the afternoon we, 5 mini busses (one plaid all the whole drive loud struggle music via the outside loudspeakers) full with activists went to Myeong-dong cathedral’s compound), the struggle area of MSSC (Myeong-dong Sit-in Struggle Collective) and the striking construction workers. After a common discussion with the present migrant workers – all three tents were full with people – and a common dinner, we celebrated MSSC’s weekly night rally together.
At around 8:30 pm the group set off for Yong-san district, the last station for that day. Here a residential area is located where 10 families are struggling against demolition of the houses (an construction company want to build here new, expensive apartment buildings) they are living in. There the rental prices are very cheap and if the families forced to move out they would lose everything, because they would not find equal payable accommodations. The struggle there started in October last year.
Here we held our team meetings, all together five teams, and got coffee and something to eat. After that we had discussions with the activists, living and struggling there. Here also spend our first night.
Next morning, after a delicious breakfast we set off for the first struggle station – Yong-san district office. Here about 200 riot cops awaited us. But even they provoked we, about 50 activists - held our protest rally and following demonstration against the use of violence against the people just defending their accommodations. Fallowing the demonstration we got a good lunch on the struggle site in Yong-san.
After the next stations, Joong-ang Royal Office Tel. and Nam-dae-mun Samsung Assurance, here union activities are hard oppressed and the leader of the last strike is now in prison, we went to Samsung Tower (Jong-no Tower, on Millenium Plaza, downtown Seoul). From there we made a short demonstration on the sidewalk to the nearby model house for a skyscraper, planned to build there. Here we wanted to protest against the forced drive out people who rented there small shops.
The background:
In the end of the 90’s Hyundai Construction Company came out with the plan to build a huge business center in the between Jong-no and Jong-no District office. They bought all the land there, but because of Korean law they were not able to build alone there. So they sold the land, and of course all the buildings on it to another company. Of course the owners of the land and the old buildings there got a lot of money, but the people who run the shops or small restaurants would get nothing, so they refused to leave their places. After years of resistance last fall after a mysterious “incident” just a huge hole was left in one of the small houses direct located on Jong-no Avenue. Following three houses were pull down and the people who run the small business there lost bases of existence. Just weeks later a huge model house were build, now advertise the planned skyscraper. And according to the plan of the construction company, in fact Hyundai, it should be just the beginning.
So on Friday evening the concerned, members of NFUP and all the other members of “Summer Struggle” tour wanted to protest in front of the model house. Short after arriving there at 6:10 pm the protesters were attacked at 6:3 pm by so called "information personnel", but in fact nothing else such as from the construction mafia hired criminals. They beaten up some of the activists - the leader of the NFUP was taken by the emergency ambulance to hospital. At 6:27 large units of the riot police (beside unit 1032 also the infamous units 1001, 1002, 1003) arrived on the scene and immediately encircled 34 of the 50 protesters. Some minutes later they arrested 33 of the encircled persons. One, with the help of Korean comrades (THANX A LOT!!) and because of the stupidity of the cops, was able to escape.

Later in the nearby struggle office of NFUP, Cheongshin-dong branch, we discussed the situation and counted the losses. At about 10:30 pm we went to Jong-no Police Station, were the comrades were held and staged a protest there, but even after two hours fights with the riot cops – during that an elder woman was captured by the cops and caused of the mistreatment had to be taken to the hospital – we were not able to free our comrades (more about this you can read here and here in Korean). And finally here you can watch the video about the attack, clash and arrests.
After next day’s breakfast in NFUP/Cheongshin-dong struggle office, where we also slept, we set off for the next rally in front of Jong-no District Office to protest against the construction plans and of course the yesterday's arrestings. There about 300 riot cops blocked the entrance or were in readiness.
After the lunch in NFUP/Cheongshin-dong office we set off for the last rally, actually planned on Millenium Plaza in front of Samsung Tower together with government workers, who are under permanent massive attacks by police and public prosecutor. On the way to there we had to pass the model house, guarded by large units of riot cops. Beside them the criminals standing in one line and tried to provoke us, but with no success. Arrived on the place opposite of Millenium Plaza unfortunately we were blocked by the next unit of riot cops. So we’d make our final rally here and even everywhere were cops hanging around – about 500 were in readiness – about 95 people, “Summer Struggle” tour activists, government workers and some students celebrated a powerful final rally.
Fallowing, at about 3 pm all together we went to Soongshil University to evaluate our propaganda struggle tour and deep in the night we finished everything with a small nice getting-together.
After all the “Summer Struggle” tour was a great event in the spirit of deep unity and strong solidarity. If we continue on this way it might be the beginning of a strong coalition of all marginalized groups in S. Korea. Because only in unity and based on solidarity we’ve the possibility to achieve a free society, a society without exploitation and oppression!
Addendum: Yesterday (Sunday) in the late afternoon all 33 prisoners were released!!

Here the pictures from Friday's clashes, made by comrade "Eu-gene"


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