Fearing the Decline of South Korea’s First Female President
The widening scandal President Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s first female president, has become embroiled in has created an environment some women and gender equality advocates worry will poison the prospects for future female presidential aspirants. Ongoing revelations of Park’s connection to her friend Choi Soon-sil’s alleged use of state power to extort businesses has led to mass demonstrations and increasing calls for her resignation from men and women alike. Some Korean women have expressed concern about the failure of her presidency being unfairly generalized to cast doubt on the abilities of female executives as a whole, and as advocates have drawn attention to data showing increased gender inequality across key metrics since Park took office in 2012, some advocates have sought to separate Park’s historic achievement from the effects of her presidency. The New York Times examines the complicated gender dynamics of anti-Park sentiment and fears of its impact on the future of gender equality in politics and beyond.
One of the few truly global holidays, International Workers’ Day (May Day) is both a worldwide celebration of the working classes as well as a day to draw attention to ongoing insecurities workers around the world face. May Day has historically had a twofold purpose: a day for workers to voice their concerns over contentious labor policies and for governments to reaffirm their commitments to workers’ rights and just labor practices. At times little more than public relations campaigns and at others violent clashes between governments and workers, global May Day events have highlighted the diverse relationships between labor, employers, and government around the world. Here are the highlights of May Day 2016 in more than 30 countries:
Bike rallies were held in Pune as Indian PM Narendra Modi saluted workers on Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas, a public holiday. Pakistan‘s major labor unions convened in Lahore to speak out against poor working conditions, violations of international labor conventions, and ongoing privatization in the country. As Bangladeshi officials addressed labor relations and welfare reforms amidst a day of union-organized programming, in Kathmandu, Nepali workers marched while awaiting the ratification of the Labour Act, which guarantees greater social security for workers. Across the Indian Ocean, Australian union leader singled out penalty rate protection and tax reform as major Labour Day issues, with the date of the holiday having been a point of contention as well.
In cities across France, tens of thousands marched in protest against proposed labor reforms that would loosen the country’s controversial employment and job security policies. Jeremy Corbyn became the first U.K. Labour party leader to attend a May Day rally in a half-century when he spoke to a crowd of thousands in London, reaffirming solidarity against anti-immigrant sentiment and addressing anti-Semitism accusations that have plagued his party recently. Spain saw thousands across its cities gather, many protesting ongoing austerity measures. An estimated 800,000 gathered in Rome‘s San Giovanni Square, with this year’s event dedicated to slain Italian student Giulio Regeni.
Some 2,000 convened in rain-soaked Zagreb to hear labor leaders protest the increased retirement age and ongoing poverty in Croatia. Moscow hosted a mass demonstration in the city’s Red Square estimated in size from the tens of thousands to 100,000, while thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district under a heavy police presence in the wake of urban suicide attacks and ongoing violence across Turkey.
From New York to Los Angeles, demonstrations in the U.S. highlighted widening economic inequality in the country and an election season marred by racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic sentiment. While most protests took place without incident, a peaceful march turned violent in Seattle, leading to five injured officers and nine arrests. A similar outbreak in Montreal led to one injury and 10 arrests.
In Latin America, Brazil‘s embattled president and Workers’ Party leader Dilma Roussef rallied alongside hundreds of thousands across the country as her impeachment proceedings continue and workers fear the inauguration of her center-right vice president. Cuba‘s May Day parade continued the national tradition of expressing support for the Castro regime rather than directly celebrating labor or expressing concerns over labor conditions. In Argentina, President Mauricio Macro backed employers and touted labor proposals that had spurred mass demonstrations only days before. Elsewhere in the region, minimum wage increases were announced in Venezuela and Bolivia and a march took place in Santiago as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a review of her labor reforms after the Supreme Court rejected a key provision granting exclusive negotiating rights to unions.
Middle East & Africa
Police in Egyptblocked hundreds of workers from assembling in a Cairo office as labor leaders and international organizations called for the government to decriminalize independent union organization. In Israel, more than 5,000 youth marched in Tel Aviv, while a Palestinian trade union renewed its call for the establishment of a minimum wage and the dismantlement of the Gaza blockade. A government-sponsored event in Dubai reportedly drew nearly 200 workers, though labor practices in the UAE continue to draw international scrutiny.
South of the Sahara, events popped up across South Africa as politicians sought to address the country’s high unemployment rate and appeal to workers ahead of August elections. In Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari spoke to thousands of workers in Abuja, touting his anti-corruption campaign. A Mozambique labor leader addressed a crowd in Maputo about the debts of state-owned companies and the need for wage and workplace reform. As the decline of oil prices has created economic hardship throughout Angola, the country’s two labor unions marched to draw attention to deteriorating worker conditions and the need for infrastructure maintenance. Workers in Ghana protested the privatization of the management of the state-owned Electric Company of Ghana, while the government insisted the company was still run by the state. Meanwhile, Ethiopia sidestepped Sunday commemorations altogether by moving May Day to May 3, when labor leaders plan to highlight ongoing struggles to organize Ethiopian workers.
South Korean sex workers protest court ruling upholding criminalization of sex work
Pro-sex work activists protested the Constitutional Court’s decision to uphold a 2004 law that set punishments for both sex workers and customers, arguing it unfairly limits women’s economic opportunity and punishes poor clientele while paid relationships among the wealthy persist.
Sex workers and consumers face up to a year in jail or a fine of 3 million won ($2,600).
Activists say the ruling violates their right to work and announced intentions to petition the United Nations.
Protesters demonstrate against Japan’s accord with South Korea over Korean “comfort women”
Hundreds protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul following the release of the terms of the agreement between the two countries over the long-divisive issue of the Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels in WWII.
The terms included a 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) fund for survivors and the reiteration of an official national apology.
Protesters argued that none of the 46 public survivors had not been consulted when the terms were set and that the agreement still allowed Japan to evade responsibility in educational and diplomatic channels.
Police turn water cannons and tear gas on protesters as Seoul demonstration turns violent
More than 60,000 turned out for a protest in Seoul against President Park Geunt-hye’s policies, which ended abruptly when police clashed with participants attempting to move through barricades.
Around 10 protesters were injured and some 50 were arrested in the largest street protest of President Park’s term.
The protesters–including 53 labor, agriculture, and other civic groups–were demonstrating against President Park’s labor reforms reducing employee job security and textbook reforms perceived as whitewashing Korea’s authoritarian history.
South Korea leads the world in the incarceration of conscientious objectors, jailing hundreds each year who refuse the country’s manditory military service on the basis of conscience and belief. The vast majority of the imprisoned are Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of a Christian sect that has seen tens of thousands jailed in the half-century following the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War. The New York Times profiles the ongoing struggles of the community and recent developments that could finally see movement in the fight for their freedom of conscience.
Marriage agency DUO surveyed attitudes of South Koreans towards dating foreigners and found that the vast majority were open to dating non-Koreans and that a significant proportion even prefer to do so.
88.9% (men) / 85.8% (women)
South Koreans who are open to relationships with foreigners
30% (men) / 37.2% (women)
South Koreans who prefer pursuing relationships with foreigners rather than other South Koreans
Individuals associated with curated content are not affiliated with Outlas, and their inclusion is not an official endorsement of any opinions expressed but is rather a part of a representation of diverse perspectives on global multicultural life.
Beauty vlogger Ane recounts workplace reactions to her hair, funny grocery store encounters, and the paparazzi treatment as she shares her experience as a black woman living in South Korea and visiting China.
Individuals associated with curated content are not affiliated with Outlas, and their inclusion is not an official endorsement of any opinions expressed but is rather part of a representation of diverse perspectives on global multicultural life.
South Korean court rules LGBT march can proceed as planned following the police’s injunction against the event
Police had earlier denied the necessary permits to the Korean Queer Cultural Festival as a result of permit applications filed by conservative Christian activists to block the event.
Last year’s march saw conservative activists disrupting the parade through route blockage and protesting.
Organizers expect around 20,000 to participate in the march.
“This court’s decision in relation to the police’s unjust notice prohibiting assembly is important. … Within a democratic country, built on civil society, the guarantee that society can use their voice has a deep meaning.”
China confiscates citizens’ passports along its Kazakh border, former South Korean comfort women reach out to Nepal, two Canadian girls fight for a gay-straight alliance, France reexamines its secularist policy, and more in today’s news rounds…Continue reading The Wednesday Rounds→
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