Tag Archives: South Korea

South Korea News | Gay & Bisexual Men

South Korean soldier convicted of same-sex sexual activity
  • South Korea’s military court sentenced him to a six-month suspended prison sentence under the Military Criminal Act, which will lead to a dishonorable discharge.
  • While same-sex relations are not illegal for civilians, the South Korean military code criminalizes homosexual activity by military personnel, among which all able-bodied men must serve for two years.
  • Human rights organizations have reported that military leaders have ordered the revelation and tracking of gay military members, though the army has denied the allegations.
Read

South Korean military court hands army captain suspended prison sentence for having gay sex with fellow soldier” (The Independent | May 2017)

Korean soldier convicted of gay sex” (The Korea Times | May 2017)

South Korean soldier given suspended jail term for gay sex” (BBC News | May 2017)

South Korea Feature | Women

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.

Read:
Gender Colors Outrage Over Scandal Involving South Korea’s President” (The New York Times)

Additional:
Anti-Park protests flare up across the country; 600,000 people gathered in Seoul” (The Korea Times)

(Image Credit: Lee Jin-man/Associated Press, via The New York Times)

May Day || Global

Global May Day 2016

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:


Asia Pacific

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.

Throughout East Asia, workers rallied to draw attention to labor conditions and call for reforms, from ending contractualization in the Philippines to protecting job security in South KoreaHong Kong saw thousands take to the streets to demand fair and standardized working hours along with a universal pension program. In Malaysia, PM Najib Razak took the day to announce an increase in the national minimum wage and an insurance scheme proposal.

Europe & Eurasia

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.

The Americas

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 Egypt blocked 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 Korea News | Sex 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.

Read more:
South Korean Court Upholds Ban on Prostitution” (The New York Times)
South Korea prostitutes decry court ruling, demand right to work” (Reuters)
South Korea Upholds Tough Anti-Prostitution Laws” (AP via ABC News)

(Image Credit: Jean Chung/The New York Times)

South Korea News | Women

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.

Read more:
South Korea ‘comfort women’ reject deal with Japan” (Deutsche Welle)
South Korean ‘comfort women’ protest against accord with Japan” (Reuters)
Group says as victims were not consulted, ‘comfort women’ deal not final” (The Japan Times)

(Image Credit: K. Hong-Ji/Reuters, via Deutsche Welle)

 

South Korea News | Dissidents

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.

Read more:
Police detain 49 protesters” (The Korea Times)
South Korea vows no tolerance after violent protest in Seoul” (Reuters)
S Korea protesters clash with police in Seoul” (BBC)

(Image Credit: Choi Won-suk/The Korea Times)

South Korea Feature | Jehovah’s Witnesses

South Korea’s Prisoners of Conscience

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.

Read more:
South Korean Jehovah’s Witnesses Face Stigma of Not Serving in Army” (The New York Times)

Other coverage:
South Korean conscientious objectors keep up fight against military service” (The Los Angeles Times)
South Korea, world’s top jailer of conscientious objectors, resists giving them alternatives” (Fox News)

(Image Credit: Jean Chung/The New York Times )