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[Editorial] Change Does Not Come From “One Way or Another”


The Quarterly Changbi 173, Autumn 2016



We have just been through a long and hot summer, during which we could not help worrying about not only human beings but also how all things and the earth itself were faring. However, it was not just the record-breaking hot weather that heated up the season. From the surprise announcement of our government’s decision to deploy THAAD to the extended student protests at Ewha Womans University over the establishment of the Future LiFE (Light up in Future Ewha) College, serious events made it impossible for us, working at our desks, not to feel almost ashamed of complaining about the heat. Indeed, the intensity of the protest struggles surrounding these events is still burning.

The benefit of the THAAD deployment to our national security or for foreign relations is questionable, at best, while its threat to peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia, as well as its causing various other kinds of damage to us, is clear. Nevertheless, the Korean government unilaterally made the surprise announcement that it would deploy THAAD to Seongju in Gyeongsangbuk-do province. There might be many reasons why Seongju was selected over many other previously discussed locations. What is clear, though, is that Seongju must have seemed insignificant to the central government, as demonstrated by an incident in which the vice minister in the Ministry of National Defense confused Seongju with Sangju in front of the Seongju residents who visited his office to protest the decision. In addition, the current administration would not have announced its decision without holding prior discussions with its residents unless Seongju was a traditional stronghold of the ruling party. In other words, the place was an easy mark. However, now the struggle by Seongju’s residents, which began in opposition to THAAD deployment in Seongju, has developed into a full-blown demand that the administration re-consider the decision to deploy THAAD itself in the context of peace on the Korean peninsula. As if thumbing its nose at the administration’s tactic of isolating Seongju, its residents are expanding their solidarity with “outside forces” through peace rallies.

Despite predominantly negative public opinion nationwide concerning THAAD deployment, the views of various forces toward the Seongju struggle appear to be complicated. Some are cynical about this struggle, pessimistically viewing the THAAD decision is irrevocable. There are even those who ridicule Seongju’s residents for reaping the fruits of their actions—that is, for being trampled upon after enthusiastically and persistently supporting conservative parties. Although the opposition parties conveniently ride the waves of negative public opinion toward THAAD, they do not seem to have the will to stop its deployment either. The attitude that accepts the deployment of THAAD as a done deal, even while criticizing it, and the attitude that pays more attention to the limits of protest than to trusting and aiding the struggle share the same sentiment, which might be called “one way or another.” That is, the opposition parties believe that the majority of voters will eventually support them “one way or another,” even if they neglect a critical issue in current affairs. Similarly, the current administration and ruling party have maintained the arrogant attitude that their core supporters “one way or another” will not desert them, even if they are ignored. This “one way or another” mentality, a way of thinking that has largely dominated recent Korean politics, is still alive, despite the fact that it was dealt a significant blow in the recent general election.

In addition, the political arena is not the only one in which this attitude has been prevalent. Ordinary citizens have shown a similar attitude toward the struggle of Ewha students, which for the first time successfully halted a university “reform project” that the Ministry of Education had forced upon colleges by using financial support as a weapon. Even while declaring their support for the students’ struggle, some people presupposed that it would not change the ministry’s policy, since Ewha was just one case. Others even criticized the struggle as an act of defending the vested interests of a handful of privileged and elite students. And still others condemned, ridiculed, or sexually harassed the female protesters, acting under the assumption that “one way or another” the protest could not aid the cause of helping public interests in higher education.

This attitude of focusing on and criticizing the limits of a struggle—rather than embracing it and listening to the resisting voices—stands out in particular when the struggle at issue does not fit the mold of existing movements. Many individuals, including activists, did not readily join the struggle of the Seongju resident against the deployment of THAAD or hesitated to support Ewha students because these movements erupted atypically from a region that had supported the conservatives and from a relatively privileged women’s college, respectively. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the struggle of Seongju residents confronted head on the attitude of “one way or another” concerning the THAAD deployment and that the Ewha students’ struggle put the brakes on the university authorities’ attitude of “one way or another” obedience to the Ministry of Education’s coercion while also acting autocratically within the school.

A recent controversy over a new trend in feminism, represented by the online community Megalia, represents yet another example of many people’s inability to overcome the sentiment of “one way or another.” Feminist campaigns have rapidly spread in our society after last year’s incident involving a young Korean man who claimed he joined the Islamic State because of his hatred of Korean feminists and the ensuing publication of “Anencephalic Feminism Is More Dangerous Than the Islamic State” by a male columnist. The online community Megalia was established to fight this trend of misogyny. In particular, since the murder in May at the Gangnam Station, one of the busiest and most upscale areas in Seoul, in which the police investigation revealed that a woman had been randomly killed for being female, women have come forward with testimonies about feeling threatened in their everyday lives, drawing our attention to the misogyny prevalent in Korean society. By adopting a “mirroring” tactic, in which misogynistic rhetoric is turned back on men, Megalia triggered a society-wide controversy. Although we could point out strengths and limitations of this tactic, there is no doubt that this online community has contributed to the fracturing of the “one way or another” sentiment in our society’s attitude toward discrimination against women, by resisting the misogynistic “affect” that has been largely tolerated. Nevertheless, forces that hastily judged and criticized the limitations of this movement’s strategy have tended to tolerate misogynistic actions in our society as “one way or another” being inevitable.

We are living in an era when various subjects wage struggles in unexpected ways and in unusual places, as David Harvey points out in the Special Focus corner in the current issue. It is critical for us to embrace and expand the potential that these unusual movements offer in our task of achieving fundamental social change. Further, different struggles often use different languages and have different cultural practices specific to their fields. Thus, it can be difficult to understand one another’s backgrounds and histories. Further, even if we understood one another, we might not agree on everything. Not only do differences in perspectives between genders exist, but also those who have taken the existing system for granted may not automatically understand movements by minority groups who have been excluded from it. Therefore, we should actively try to overcome the temptation of a passive “one way or another” sentiment in order to collaborate with minority movements, which have been becoming gradually more important currents in our social movements.

Ultimately, we cannot build solidarity based on a “one way or another” sentiment, and as long as we cannot find the means of attaining solidarity, we cannot expect to create a new society. Therefore, our efforts to create fundamental change and to build hope should begin with overcoming this passive “one way or another” sentiment both in social movements and in our lives. Our struggle is always and inevitably unsatisfactory. And the forces that raise new issues cannot help but be rough around the edges. But we neither wage struggles with predetermined results nor live lives with set consequences. Instead, we believe arduous efforts to trust the possibility of a new solidarity and to guard against a customary “one way or another” approach will be one of the crucial ways of building the foundation for fundamental social change.


This issue features "Capitalism in Crisis, Momentum for Change". It reflects our efforts to confront the changes and critical situations occurring in today's capitalist system, thereby to monitor how our daily lives are changing, and ultimately to try to find alternatives for new life through social movements based on a well-founded diagnosis of our present reality. The first entry of the feature is the special conversation between Paik Nak-chung, the editor emeritus of Changbi, and David Harvey, who paid a visit to Seoul, in June 2016, to attend the Changbi's 50th anniversary commemoration conference. It includes many intriguing topics for discussion, ranging from the prospects of China and the world, to the history of capitalism and some theoretical issues regarding Marxism, to more recent struggles for "the right to the city". Right after the conversation, Harvey's article, based on the lecture delivered in the above-mentioned conference, is also printed, in which he insists we should break out of the illusion of limitless growth, and then find the way to control "accumulation for accumulation's sake", for "the spatial fixes", the very mechanism by which capitalism has coped with the crises of surplus accumulation so far, is now driving the world out of control. In particular, his insightful perspective on the city will be of great help for us with regard to setting the agenda of our own social movements; since the capitalist system produces wealth only through the realization of value, he insists, we should create cities for people to live in, not to invest in.

Kim Jong-yup argues that the peculiar position Seoul occupies in Korea, despite its belonging to the middle rank in the world system, functions as the main cause of not a few pathologies of our society, such as the centralization toward the metropolitan area in terms of incomes as well as resources. He believes the key to fix these problems is the combination of the relocation of the administrative capital with the integration plan of national universities, the two main projects of the Participatory Administration. To overcome the capitalist mode of accumulation, 'an educational-social fix' should be adopted, instead of 'the spatial fix', by constituting the unifying network of national universities, with Sejong-city as its center. We expect this audacious suggestion will be followed by a lot of active discussion. Seo Young-pyo insists that creating the city for people, not for capital, requires much more than the rules to explain the structural contradictions and a social movement suggesting normative goals: by regaining 'the sense of body' distorted by the rapid urbanization, we need to have a keen awareness of the violence of the capitalistic time-place. Lee Pil-Ryul criticizes the 2015 Paris Climatic Change Conference for setting unattainable goals without regard for the fast-changing reality of mankind. Calling our attention to technological development and predictable changes in population as well as the changed mode of capitalism in the solar energy/digital age, he insists the current arguments on climate change must be reconsidered from the very premises. It is expected that his challenging assertion will evoke further controversies.

In Literary Criticism, Hwang Hieon-sann, the literary critic, reads The Complete Works of Park Young-keun published in memory of the 10th anniversary of the poet's death with elaboration, successfully reviving the turbulent life of the late 'worker-poet' and his desperate poems into the readers' attention. The young literary critic, Kim Jo-sup submits his conscientious analysis of the short stories by Lee Ki-ho and Hwang Jung-eun, focusing on 'the competing words' circulating in Korean society to struggle for the truth after the Sewol Ferry Disaster. Despite the two authors' wide difference both in style and mode, their efforts to articulate how to create a 'post-Sewolho' community have much in common.

Our gratitude is extended to the writers who contributed such wonderful poems and stories to this issue. Succeeding the poems published in the last two issues, 25 younger poets representing the growing stream of Korean poetry have sent us their new poems; wherever the poets--from Jeon Dae-ho to Ko Young-min-- cast their gaze, they never fail to create their own world of unique characteristics and beautiful words. And these poems are followed by new poems from Han Yeun-hee, the winner of the 2016 Changbi New Poet Award. One novella and three short stories are presented in this Autumn issue: a novella by Kim Um-ji who has constantly showed her own singular aesthetics and grammar, short stories by Jung Hwa-jin and Ki Jun-young with their characteristic literary worlds, respectively, and the 2016 Changbi New Writers Award-winning short story by Lee Joo-hye.

In Literary Focus, Kim So-yeon and Baik Ji-yeon, along with Park Jun, the poet, have a fruitful conversation on the noteworthy collections of poetry and short stories published for the last season. Their penetrating analysis, different from or similar with each other, on each piece of work will greatly impress readers. In this issue, Focus on Authors covers Han Soo-san's Goonham-do, the deplorable story of 400 or so Joseon (Korea) people during the Japanese Invasion who risked their lives to escape from 'Goonham-do' (Battleship Island), where they had been brought into requisition as a labor-force. And Shim Jin-kyung, the literary critic, listens attentively to the distressing process of writing, from the hidden stories of the people back then to the conception and the revisions of the novel from the author himself, who has made such a heroic endeavor to disclose the truth around Goonham-do.

The Dialogue, featuring "The Inside of 'The Conservative Forces' in Korea", deals with the issues concerning the conservative civil organizations, as its third topic, from their historical background and operating mechanism at the present, to their future perspectives. The operating mechanism of those groups in government circles, such as 'Ubui Association', and in particular, their taking the underhanded financial support from major businesses, shockingly demonstrate the deterioration of democracy for the past ten years in Korean society. The four attendees who have considerable expertise on the topic give a historical survey of those groups as well, inquiring about the future of conservative movements in Korea.

The articles by Hsu Jinn-yuh and Oshikawa Jun are based on the presentations delivered in 'The Conference of Critical Journals in East Asia', one of the commemorative events of Changbi's 50th anniversary. At the conference, Hsu Jinn-yuh drew both sympathy and criticism from the panel by asserting that China's "One Belt, One Road" initiative is a paradigm "embracing globalization" replacing the hegemonic foreign policies of the US. His article provides a starting point for understanding the "One Belt, One Road" initiative, which has great ramifications on the peaceful and great change coming to the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, it will be of great help if read together with David Harvey's aforementioned article, also insightful but quite contrasting in its directions for the future. Oshikawa Jun argues that after the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, the public anger triggered by daily life issues, such as a shortage of daycare centers, led to the Japanese people's resistance to government corruption and its attempt to undermine democratic process. What arrests our attention is the contention that Japan's postwar pacifist constitution could be defended by people's everyday protests against corruption.

Na Young-jung addresses the issue of sexual minorities for the third topic of "On the Fields", Diagnosing Korean Society From the Viewpoint of Minorities. According to the author, the citizenship of sexual minorities should not be confined to the inclusion strategy of the contention. Rather, a more subversive concept such as "queer citizenship" should be requested, emphasizing the fact that the resistance to sexual oppression itself could develop the process of social justice a step further. This article raises our awareness of the issues faced by sexual minorities by demonstrating the multifaceted connections with those of our society at large.

We prepared two interviews in the corner of "Voice of Readers - What Readers Expect from Changbi."; Kim Taewoo and Han Young-in at the editorial board had interviews with Cho Hi-yeon, the superintendent of education of Seoul City, and Ryu Han-seung, the team manager of Seoul Labor Center, respectively. We feel special gratitude to both of them who didn't spare criticism while also offering precious advice on the direction of the journal. And Book Reviews, as always, provides readers with both a guide to important books in many fields and the pleasure of reading useful and individual reviews.

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of The Quarterly Changbi, we decided to realign the prestigious MANHAE Literary Award, including raising prize money, establishing special prizes, and settling on a judging process. We ask for readers' special attention to the list of nominees for the prize announced in this issue. The 34th SHIN DONG-YUP Literary Awards went to Ann Hee-yeon, the poet, and Keum Hee, the novelist. As for the 2016 Changbi New Writers Award, even though we couldn't select the winner for the category of criticism, we are happy to have discovered outstanding new poets and short story authors.


Paik Young-Gyung