Back from a busy and vitalizing day in Seoul. I go there every couple of months to meet with a group of activists to get updates and discuss what's going on. That is beneficial to the teacher's networks I run, TEA-KOR and FREED, electronic lists that serve as helplines and a means of sharing information especially for expat teachers, and that try to be connected to labor and peace movements in Korea and internationally.
There's been a resurgence of activity on the labor and student fronts, mainly in Seoul, because the population has gotten behind the efforts of labor, particularly the railway workers, to thwart privatization of public services including KORAIL. The previous and current right-wing governments in South Korea have been promoting privatization of education, etc, but the voters generally object. The issue of the railway system is therefore an opportunity for labor and other popular movements to rebuild themselves.
While our Korean labor activists friends had to carry on with some labor education activities after the meeting, the rest of us went to this memorial rally to mark the 5th anniversary of the deaths of five individuals protesting the redevelopment of Yongsan area. They died while squatting in a building slated for demolition and under attack by water canons and fire bombs as ordered by the current Lee Myeong Bak administration. Many people lost small businesses and homes, but most of the cleared lots are boarded up and empty today. Tragic. After the first rally, we marched to join KORAIL workers at Seoul train station and continue the rallying with their support there.
Getting involved in community and popular struggles may sound like work, but it is the path to social justice and change, and definitely healthy and good for the overall health of society. Keeping up with what's really going on may take getting out there and asking questions yourself, or getting tuned in to alternative media, but it is worth it. With the crisis that the world is in these days, you can't afford not to. You need to make it part of your routine; incorporate it into your daily practice.
There are many ways. Do what is available and workable for you, whether it's art, charity, social service, conservation, discussion, writing, fitness, political lobbying, fundraising, whatever: use your skills and knowledge and contacts, find something that your passion and compassion responds to an activity that is accessible and suitable within reasonable limits. I'm sure you'll find, as I have over the many years, that despite drawbacks and setbacks, being involved makes you feel good and in better control of your life. It can help you find direction, give you purpose and energize you. You meet all kinds of interesting and inspiring people doing wonderful and creative things, and some of them may turn out to be significant friends.