It has been a fascinating and joy filled day discussing important world issues with very committed anti-imperialist peace activists. There were presentations on Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan. Most people present were either Japanese or Korean and associated with the Asia Wide Campaign committees in their respective countries, aside from the three Taiwanese activists and our contingent of migrant workers in South Korea.
We finally met our Nepali ally, a doctoral candidate of education living in Seoul who has been following our work closely and corresponding regularly with me, but who has never made it to any of our meetings. He attended the meeting all day. He’s a very pleasant and warm fellow close to my age who’s lived in Korea for five years. Now we are good friends, especially considering that he agreed to go with me to find my hostel some six subway stops away. We trudged around for nearly an hour after exiting the subway line at the correct stop, and it wasn’t until we made it to a police station that we found out exactly where it was. What a guy! Escorting me made him late for an appointment with some buddies.
When we parted, he hugged me three times and said, “I love you!” in Korean. That means he loves me for my commitment to worthy causes that he shares, and for introducing him to some like-minded people. The relationship between activists in the cause of the people can be very special. Even if you don’t know each other personally very well, there is a special feeling because of our shared causes and comitments.
I hope we can get together one more time before I go home on Monday. We both are experiencing problems with our mobile phones. Mine has a mysterious service issue, and both of ours ran plumb out of power today.
S was there. He is planning to leave Korea in June, and he broke the news to the others in our group today. Now he\s planning to get a position in a school in the Arctic! That’ll certainly be different. It also means that he won’t be very available for the solidarity work in Canada. Pooh.
After the program ended for the day, all the delegates went to the shrine at City Hall to pay there respects to the victims of the ferry disaster. A chrysanthemum filled alter was there, and we lined up with the hundreds of people waiting to place a chrysanthemum stalk at the alter and say a prayer. They say about 600,000 people have been through there so far.
The ferry disaster was discussed in the report from Korean activists. They blame the government for deregularization and trade liberalization. They explained how ownership of public assets is shifting to the private sector and safety and work standards being pared back. We can expect more catastrophes and workplace injuries and deaths as a result, they say. In fact, there was a big subway train accident in Seoul yesterday in which about 200 people were injured. The subway system is getting outdated but maintenance is lagging behind. We could easily cite other examples. This argument seems credible. It is worse in South Korea where standards have been way behind those of modern countries, and the people’s character is kind of reckless anyway.
That said, it is also true that the society generally lacks social conscience and regard for others. For instance, drivers rarely give way to emergency vehicles on the road. For another, people are impatient and push and shove where crowds gather and in transit, creating additional congestion and impeding the flow of traffic.