Thursday, May 15, 2008
At blogcatalog today is the day to blog about human rights. I am glad to participate since our office blog is mostly about human rights, peace and democracy. But on a personal basis here on my personal blog I am wondering what to write about. Or should I just link those articles I have written about human rights? Good questions?
This evening at 6:00 PM we will have a reception party for the delegates and guests of the 2008 Gwangju International Peace Forum (2008 GIPF). An annual international event that gathers human rights activists and social development workers to Gwangju to network and exchange, learn about old and new issues, appreciate Gwangju and May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising (518), pay respect to the heroes of 518 and witness the awarding ceremony for the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. Particularly for this year it is hoped that a Gwangju network will be created so collaboration will be much easier especially with the perception that most Asian countries are back sliding to authoritarianism and their governments becoming more of an illiberal democracies.
Particularly in the Philippines, Filipinos have been calling for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down. Aside from the corruption her families is embroiled, the unabated extrajudicial killings of journalists and activists are reasons enough for her to give up her position.
Also with the upcoming 30th Anniversary of 518 the international community is being engaged on how it will be celebrated and commemorated.
As a migrant or Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) here in Korea I am aware of the issues of fellow migrant workers since I interact with them at the Catholic Church on Sundays. But personally I have not done much to help address their issues. Anyway migrant workers here in Korea are well taken cared of compared to those who work in Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East aside from their unique culture and religion they do not have a vibrant civil society movement. There are no NGOs and Migrant Workers Centers to go to when you get in trouble. To think that almost half of these countries’ population is composed of migrant workers building their economy. In Saudi Arabia if you are not Muslim you are not allowed to practice your religion openly. So a lot of religious groups congregate in secrecy and privacy of their homes.
I could really say that migrant workers here in Korea for that matter are far better off than their counterparts in most Middle East countries. Here there are migrant workers centers to go to and NGOs to seek help. Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist groups run programs or ministry for migrants, thus, lucky are the Embassies whose role is reduced to issuing visa and renewing passports and maintaining diplomatic relations since their peoples problems are attended to by the civil society groups in this country.
Although on a personal and official capacity, since the Foundation I work with is providing some financial assistance to a migrant group, and I was asked to work on their issues, I will then be more involved and engaged. This is an opportunity that I have been waiting for and I do hope that I can be of help this time.
But another of those human rights that I would like to look into is the rights of multiethnic or multicultural families. It is amazing to experience a birthday party where you could see a mixture of race and colors. Indeed Korea is turning into heterogeneous society. Statistics shows an upward trend on this situation.
It is now a big challenge for Korea to redefine itself. Institutions are beginning to adjust and wake up to the fact that a new Korea is emerging just decades after its rapid successful economic growth. It is a big pressure to the society and the citizens in particular who are constantly deluge by rapid changes. But the “pali-pali” (rush-rush) culture here I would surmise is capable to adapt to all these present phenomena.
At the Catholic Church also I would encounter Filipino women most of them I suppose are not oriented of their rights and aware of women’s issues. Perhaps “rights” is the least of their concern since productive and hard working as they are, they need to contribute to the families coffer with constant increase cost of living.
At the 2008 GIPF the National Human Rights Commission of Korea will be doing a forum that seeks to address the concern of multiethnic families. They will look and assess the responsiveness of local human rights ordinances to the plight of these multiethnic families. I think this is one the strengths of Korean governance, although cautious they welcome and embrace change easily. There’s even one political party that had a Filipina married to a Korean, in their slate of candidate running as representative to the Korean Assembly. But unfortunately she did not make it.
Indeed it is an exciting times here in Korea. And I do admire and pay respect to the sacrifice of the patriots and heroes of May 18 Gwangju Democratic Uprising. For without them this might not be the Korea of their dreams, free and democratic. Their death was not put into vain after all. For they have paved the way for Korean democratization and for its rapid economic development. Today, both Koreans and migrants alike are reaping the rewards of their sacrifice. Truly, Gwangju should be considered as one of Asia’s sacred places for human rights, peace and democracy.