Sunday, January 20, 2008

Prof. Katsiaficas on 518

The lecture of Prof. George Katsiaficas about the May 18 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising was very interesting and it provoked a lively discussion among the audience, mostly the expats of Gwangju but there were also people involved during the uprising or popularly called 518. The 518 was remarkable and unique among the other revolutions as compared to the less successful uprisings in other Asian countries. Here in Korea, their homogeneity as to language and culture unlike the diversity, factionalism, regionalism, and tribalism of other countries was a factor that made it possible for the people to assert freedom and democracy. Thus gaining people's sovereignty over the military and dictatorial rule and paving the way to the rapid economic development of the country. It should also be noted that many Koreans are very passionate when it comes to promoting and protecting their civil liberties this is due to their high level of education, awareness of social issues and involvement in addressing them.

The Gwangju International Center (GIC) is a resource center for the expat community in Gwangju, Korea It is unique because of the services it offer. It conducts a forum regularly on Saturdays and publishes a monthly newsletter called the Gwangju News. The success of its operation for the last seven years is attributed to the dedication of its expat and Korean volunteers. Click GIC to check its website.

Below is an abstract of the talk by Prof. Katsiaficas on Neoliberalism and the Gwangju Uprising in Seoul last June 2006.

Drawing from US Embassy documents, World Bank statistics, and memoirs of former US Ambassador Gleysteen and Commanding General Wickham, US actions during Chun Doo Hwan’s first months in power are examined. The Embassy’s chief concern in this period was liberalization of the Korean economy and securing US bankers’ continuing investments. Political liberalization was rejected as an appropriate goal, thereby strengthening Korean anti-Americanism. The timing of economic reforms and US support for Chun indicate that the suppression of the Gwangju Uprising made possible the rapid imposition of the neoliberal accumulation regime in the ROK. With the long-term success of increasing American returns on investments, serious strains are placed on the US/ROK alliance. Read more

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