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Theological Significance of Korean"s Unification-Liberation

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작성자 minjok 작성일04-02-23 00:00 조회5,442회 댓글0건


Theological Significance of Korean People"s Unification-Liberation Movements under the Yoke of National Division and Global Capitalization

* Dr.Soon Kyung Park

1. Survey of Korea"s Divided Situation and Unification-Liberation Movements
since 1945
2. Interreligious Cooperations for Unification and Social Affairs
3. South Korea"s Economic Development and Incorporation in Global Capitalism
4. Third Way towards Korea"s Federation State and Egalitarian World Society beyond Global Capitalism


tongilyondaesym-1.jpg I am very grateful for the organizing committee of ATC V, all EATWOT Staff, and for this host country, Sri Lanka. I am very glad to be here with all the dear participants. Long since I participated in the General Assembly, EATWOT, In Mexico in 1987, I have rather felt estranged for certain reasons from EATWOT. However, I have always been much concerned for EATWOT, and actively partake in Korea Committee, EATWOT. In January 1998, Korea Committee had an open consultation on the spirituality of unification movement, as a preparation to this ATC V. At the consultation, Prof. No Jung Sun and I presented lectures on the theme, Rev. Dr. Chung Sook Ja gave a sermon, Dr. Yoo Choon Ja responded from a feminist perspective, and Rev. Dr. Hong Keun Soo led the floor discussions. All the participants, including number of released long-term prisoners, have been involved in Korea"s unificaion-liberation movements. Thus we made Korea Committee known to people. Prof. Kim Sang Ill, chairman of the Committee made attempts to communicate the committee to North Korean Federation of Christians. We plan to develop some joint programs or dialogues with them, and hope that they will be invited to EATWOT meetings.

1. Survey of Korea"s Divided Situation and Unification-Liberation Movements since 1945

The most tragic aspects of Korea"s entire history were it"s colonization by Japan for about 36 years and it"s division between South and North in 1945. The division was a result of Japanese colonization and at the same time an imposition upon Korea by the U.S.A. The U.S.A. decided Korea"s division, in order to prevent the military force of Soviet Union, moving southward of Korean land at the end of the Second World War, to take over the land from Japan. Even the colonization had succeed by international plots and pacts between Japan -the U.S.-England. The theme national-social liberation arose in the context of Korean people"s independence movement from Japan, the theme national-social unification-liberation in the context ,of its divided situation, and has been the goal of people"s movement up to now.

In the course of national struggles for liberation from Japan people began to realize the necessity of social revolution and liberation as well . The revolution of Soviet Union provided an external impetus of the interconnectedness of national-social liberation. In 1918 and 1919 certain prominent national leaders made first attempt to establish socialist or communist party for the sake of national liberation. Thus nationalism and socialism merged with one another. Then nationalist rights and socialist lefts began to form alliances inside and outside Korea. In this historical fact we observe a revolutionary new element of the concept of nation or nationalism. This concept of nation or nationalism could not be defined in line with Western modern nations or nationalism, tied with colonial capitalist expansionism in modern era. The theme of unification-liberation is rooted in the new concept of Korean nation and society.

The word "minjung", broadly used for designating the oppressed and the poor, male and female workers and farmers, or Korean nation, came to be taken as the free subject of history and society around the end of 18th century. One line of minjung"s liberation movements, before the 1920"s took the form of democratic reformism or enlightenment movement, under the influence of Western or American political liberalism. However, the minjung the 1920"s began to take up national-social liberation movement. This is an important historical fact for understanding how the word "minjung" is spoken of in Korean people"s unification-liberation movement.

South Korea having become subservient to the domination of U.S. military government after 1945, the socialist lefts of national liberation front began to be suppressed, suppressed by the military government in cooperation with Korean ultra rights who consisted of land owners, intellectuals who had studied in the West, and certain people who had previously cooperated with Japanese government. The U.S. military government illegalized a well prepared plan of an autonomous national state, "People"s Democratic Republic" consisting of right and left national political leaders, which gained the approval of more than 80% of Korean people. Rhie Seung Man"s faction, an ultra anti-communist and anti-North, succeeded in establishing a separate South Korean state in 1948, under the protection of the military government, in spite that the majority of national leaders and people had demanded a unified democratic nation state of South and North. People"s revolt had arisen against Rhie Seung Man"s faction and the military government, only to be suppressed ruthlessly. In Cheju island, before the establishment of South Korean state, about 30 thousand people were slaughtered in connection with people"s revolt. The whole South Korea became involved in internal warfare.

The ideology of Rhie Seung Man"s government was Korea"s unification by way of destroying North Korean communists, it set up an Anti-Communist Law, and suppressed even peaceful unification talks as pro-communism. However, the burning issue of unification could not be eradicated, although all the lefts and left wing national leaders left for North. The tragic Korean war in 1950-53 was an explosion of Korea"s unification will, though miscalculated by North Korea. Since then anti-communism in South became fortified and indoctrinated into people"s minds, and South Korea became ever more subservient to U.S.A."s domination, military, political and economic. Ever since then thousands of those, who have been involved in one way or another in unification question, were imprisoned and number of them sentenced to death under the anti-communist law.

Now in 1960, there arose students" resistance movement against the plot of Rhie Seung Man"s third term presidential election, the movement which occasioned a civil democratic revolution and brought the end of Rhie"s dictatorship. In this democratic atmosphere there resurged students" and people"s unification-liberation movement. However, this explosion was very soon to be suppressed by Park Chung Hee"s military coup in 1961, his suppression was necessitated as a means to gain U.S.A."s support for his coup, and his military dictatorship became justified by his modernization and industrialization of South Korea"s economy, at the cost of workers and farmers.

The period of the 70"s was characteristic of democratic human rights movement against Park"s military dictatorship, in a way KNCC became a center of the movement, and Catholics and Protestants were actively involved in workers"s and farmers" movements for equity and rights. The textile factory worker, Chun Tae Ill"s burning himself to death in 1970 gave rise to systematic labor union movements, male and female. In order to suppress students" democratic resistance movement, Park"s government fabricated an incidence of "people"s revolutionary party" as being in line with communism and 8 young people were executed to death in 1975.

Minjung theology arose in the context of the 70"s democratic human rights movement. This movement, as represented by KNCC, Catholics, and Christian students in general, did not deal with the problem of the anti-communism of the church which had and has contributed to the hardening of Korea"s divided situation, and left out the questions of national-social unification-liberation. However, the unification-liberation theme came to resurge under the name of "South Korean People"s Liberation Front", toward the end of the 70"s, only to their imprisonment and death. Generally speaking, the 70"s democratic human rights movement, whether in line with liberal capitalism or in line with unification-liberation, provided an important impetus for the unification-liberation movement of the 1980"s.

With the year 1979, when Park Chung Hee was assassinated, Chun Doo Whan"s new military faction was on the verge of political riot, while students" democratization movement was at the peak. In it"s midst, Kwang Joo students" movement was taking place, which was led to a civil revolt in face to face with Chun Doo Whan"s military force, mobilized in order to suppress it . Now, could the military mobilization against Kwang Joo minjung happen without the approval of U.S. military authority? This suspicion led students" movement to take a turning point from a democratization movement of the 70"s to national-social unification-liberation movement in the 80s. There arose unification theology in the early 80"s, the motive I trace back to the 1920"s when some attempt was made at correlating Christianity and Marxist socialism. National-social unification-liberation began to be spoken openly as the theme of the theology in connection to people"s movement.

In the 80"s all those who had been concerned for democritzation came to the fore and took the leadership of people"s unification movement. Rev. Moon Ik Whan"s secret visit to North Korea gave an important impetus. A leading front of people"s democratic unification movement came to be organized, led unification rally in 1990, and came to the formation of "Pan Korean People"s Alliance for Unification", consisting of South-North-Abroad Korean people. This has been illegalized till now. Since 1994 there have been discords among the unification leaders, and now there are several unification fronts. The complicated discords are beyond my explication here. They are in a sense occasioned in connection to the appearances of Kim Young Sam"s and the present Kim Dae Jung"s governments, who were in various ways related to the democritization movement since the 70"s.
The major demands of representative unification fronts have been the withdrawal of U.S.A."s military forces from Korea, permanent peace settlement by a treaty between the U.S. and North Korea replacing the armistice treaty since 1953, the abolishment of the National Security Law (former anti-communist law), and the establishment of one unified federation state which will be discussed more later on.

2. Interreligious Cooperation for Unification and Social Affairs

Interreligious cooperations have been taking place instantaneously case by case, whenever necessary. In the main, progressive Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists are active in unification movement, and each religious institution has its own unification programs. An important event to be noted was the event of KNCC"s declaration in 1988 of the Jubilee-unification year 1995, the 50th year of Korea"s liberation from Japan and at the same time Korea"s division in 1945, although there were oppositions on the part of the conservative Christians who cling to traditional anti-communism or anti-North Korean ideology. Due to disagreements among the churches of KNCC, the programs of the Jubilee-unification year 1995 were performed in insignificant dispersed ways. Rather Christian Women groups displayed better united performances. However, it must be said that the significance of Jubilee for unification and society was not in general understood.

However, it is to be noted that KNCC"s declaration of Jubilee-unification provided an occasion for world churches to recall the long forgotten meaning of Jubilee. To be sure, the fact that the Catholic church set up the Jubilee year 2000, which may produce some concrete effects, for instance, upon the movement of debt remission, the debt incurred by the Third World in the process of capitalist globalization. In general, progressive Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists can cooperate, when ever necessary, in social welfare programs and toward unification. In fact they have done much together and separately in food provision programs for North Korea. However, most parts of religions, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or other religions, are not aware of the necessity of unification in the direction of social liberation. We may note liberational spirituality implied in the aspirations of religions for transcendental freedom from existing world. Now this dimension of religious liberational spirituality must be explored and practiced in connection to concrete world reality, political and economic, national and social, in confrontation with global capitalism. Religious liberational spirituality would remain abstract, if pursued apart from the problems of material world, under which entire humanity is distorted and made subservient to the domination of global finance capital. Religions in general are yet to learn and realize enough from the cries of the poor, the oppressed, the suffering minjung and women in the world. Religions in general have been too well domesticated in capitalist world and lost chance to learn from socialism. KNCC emphasized the necessity of Christian repentance about Korean Christian anti-communism or anti-North ideology. After the collapse of socialist world, the call for repentance disappeared. The direction of unification talks on the part of the majority of Christians remains ambiguous. They may opt for the assimilation of North Korea with existing South and capitalist globe. That would mean the loss of the original theme of national-social unification-liberation. In general, Buddhism may have the same problem. It is necessary for religions to learn from socialism, though socialist bloc collapsed, in order to understand the problem of global capitalism.

3. South Korea"s Economic Development and Incorporation in Global Capitalism

Korea"s potentiality for national autonomous economic development, in confrontation to Western expansionism in 19th century, was curtailed by Japanese infiltration and colonization. Japan"s colonization was made possible by cooperations and pacts between Japan and the U.S., and Japan and England.

North Korea suffered a total ruins by the Korean war, 1950-53, yet built up in a short period an autonomous socialist economic system and even surpassed South Korea"s economic growth in the 60s. In the 60"s Park"s government set off its plan of economic modernization or industrialization. To a certain extent, this drive of modernization succeeded in economic growth, noted as an "economic miracle", at the cost of workers and farmers, and that in subordination to the U.S. politically and militarily.

South Korean industrialization and the process of global capitalism were set out about in the same period of the early 70"s. The incorporation of South Korean economy in global capitalism was inevitable. About two decades South Korean economy could to a certain extent manage to build up an independent economy. After the collapse of socialist bloc, the process of the incorporation became accelerated. The collapse of Soviet Union removed any counterweight to U.S."s domination throughout the peripheral regions of the world. Now South Korea like other peripheral regions of the world had to surrender to the disadvantageous conditions of Urgui-Round. And then, how did South Korea become member of OECD?

According to a report of New York Times (February 16, 1999), the NEC (National Economic Council?) of the U.S. had an intensive discussion on the finance liberalization of South Korea and on the strategies of inducing South Korea to joining OECD, in order to ease American bank investments (memorandum of the Finance Ministry, 20. 6, 1996). The strategies were : buying South Korean national credits and stocks, and allowing South Korean corporations short and long-term foreign funds, in order to make them approach foreign capital investments easily. After all, South Korean government and corporations followed the paved path to globalization, under it"s own globalization propaganda, became vulnerable to the inflow and outflow of foreign capital, and came to face the foreign exchange crisis in 1997.

Now South Korean government at the mercy of IMF aid, followed its conditions or prescriptions faithfully, raising up bank interest rate which led thousands of middle and small enterprises to collapses, legalizing the adjustment dismissal of workers which brought about the dismissal of millions of workers. Innumerable workers, being unable to maintain their family life, became homeless street-sleepers. The poor have become poorer and the gap between rich and poor has been ever since widened. According to a research of a civilian organization in South Korea and UNDP, one fourth of Korean people is counted as belonging to the poor. Almost all the limitations, formally put to foreign capital investments, are removed, and the privatization of government or public enterprises has been propelled. The ups and downs of stock market is dependent upon U.S. stock market.

The incorporation of South Korea in capitalist glove has rendered the direction of unification very precarious. Would Korea"s unification-liberation from capitalist domination be achieved? Kim Dae Jung"s embracement policy in relation to North Korea has to a certain extent mitigated tensions between South and North, and North and the anti-North American republicans. However, the direction of the embracement policy is ambiguous. Would it mean embracing North Korea into the cooperative system of South Korea-the U.S.-Japan? This direction is implicit in the embracement policy which is in line with neo-liberal, global capitalism. That would render the unification-liberation theme of Korea"s modern history meaningless. How could this theme be carried out in the future? That is the acutest problem our representative unification movement to answer.

There have been taking place minjung"s allied rallies, consisting of students, workers of Democratic Labor Union, and inter-religious groups over against the government"s neo-liberal policy, demanding survival rights for the poor, the stabilization of employment, the reduction of working hours, the equity for workers, male and female, etc. These social demands are always tied with the demand of the total abolishment of National Security Law (that is, former anti-communist law), which has been used as the means of suppressing not only people"s unification movement but also workers" democratic movement,. There has been a nation wide campaign, demanding the total abolishment, with no result yet. Thus social and unification questions are interconnected, although the direction of national-social unification-liberation movement remains precarious.

4. Third Way towards Korea"s Federation State and Egalitarian World Society beyond Global Capitalism

Under this final topic we want to consider the following interconnected questions; How is Korea"s unification possible? And What does it mean for the liberation of the oppressed poor in our Third World and in global world as well?

Unification by way of Federation or "Korea Federation" has been proposed by North, and South korean representative unification movement has been speaking for it openly, that incurred imprisonments. Federation means one federate state with two different social systems, avoiding any incorporation of one part into the other. A complete unification of the two social systems is left open to future generations to work out. South Korean government has thus far rejected the federation proposal, and instead proposed a confederation of two independent states accordingly with two different social systems, and a complete unification in terms of democratic republic, that is, in terms of capitalist principle. This position would nullify the unification-liberation theme, thus far sustained at the cost of innumerable imprisonments and life. There is also a mediating synthetic proposal of confederation as first process to federation and complete unification. However, such a process of step wise would not be able to guarantee a transition from confederation to federation or unification. It would be far more effective to start from positing a federation state after certain period necessary for resolving anti-unification conditions. Since the collapse of socialist bloc, Kim Young Sam"s government calculated the collapse of North Korea , and the embracement policy of present government alleges a peaceful coexistence of both parts. However, the embracement policy implies in principle an incorporation of North into capitalist world, that would put an end to the third way of unification-liberation toward an egalitarian korean society, which would have to be realized in cooperation with the movements of minjung in the world, counteracting the powers of global capitalism.

Working out unification theology thus far, I have been trying to explicate the federation principle as a third way of unification, a third way which would also open up a way of rapprochement between christianity and Marxist socialism. The concept of a third way is derived from the national-social liberation-unification or unification-liberation movements of Korea"s modern history, from the historical fact that the concept of a nation or nations approached so closely to Marxist socialism, beyond Western modern nationalism, which became after all colonization power.

The concept of nation or nations have acquired a revolutionary dimension and potentiality towards national-social liberation, by the stimulus of Marxist socialism or socialist revolution, the significance of which the Korean church or the churches of third world have on the whole failed to realize. This failure is the major cause of the Korean church"s anti-communism or anti-North ideology.
The Korean third way stands in a partial agreement with a "third way" as asserted by Karl Barth in his Die Kirche zwischen Ost und West, 1949, and with the motive of a "dritte Geselschaft" as asserted by Roger Garaudy in the 60"s, a former theoretician of French Communist Party. Both thinkers tried to steer a way of bringing in their ways Christianity and Marxist socialism into a mutual complementary new relationship. Their efforts had impacts upon Christian-Marxist dialogue in German speaking Europe in the 60"s. "Christian socialism" in Italy and in Canada in earlier period may be comprehended in this line of a third way. I have also taken EATWOT"s liberation theology in this terms, and expected that this theology would perform a historical role towards the birth of a new Christianity and world society beyond the dominations of Western and world Christianity and capitalism, beyond the tie of Western Christianity with capitalist first world. Can we still hope for it? Or should we give up this hope in face to sweeping global capitalism? Or should Christianity remain part of global capitalism? Let EATWOT theology answer this question?
Now a new "third way" is asserted by Anthony Giddens, Toni Blair and Gerhard Schroeder, which may in general characterise European socialism today. Presupposing in principle neo-liberal market economy or global capitalism, it seeks ways of humanizing capital economy and of some equitable distribution of capitalist profits for the deprived. It seems that the European third way is a version of capitalist economy in the direction of modulating its unlimited profit pursuits. To be sure, it seems that the whole world must deal with capitalist economy, and the European third way is to be taken into consideration. However, the European third way has not in practice shown any efforts to bridle the unfettered market economy and expansionary finance capital, sweeping across all nation states, making them subservient to its power. And the way does not deal with the problem of capitalist domination over the peripheral regions of the world. Yet the way may, to a certain extent, help Korean and world minjung struggling toward an egalitarian society beyond global capitalism.

Various criticism and strategies against global capitalism and limitless market economy are raised and the necessity of international networks for people"s alliance is called for, in order to counteract the domination of global capitalism. Taking these voices into consideration, it is necessary for EATWOT to define anew its methodologies theoretical and practical. How can we sustain our faith in eschatological resurrection and proclaim the eschatological coming Kingdom of God, without being practically engaged in the liberation of the poor minjug of the world from the powers of global capital? Christianity, that has become part of capitalist world, has lost the meaning of divine salvation through Jesus Christ, and made impossible to proclaim the actual coming Kingdom of God. Human liberation movement toward transformations of the world order is a preparatory correlative to the proclamation of the salvation and coming Kingdom. Interreligious spiritualities must be explored and built up in terms of their responsibility for human liberation. The ultimate determination of the meaning of their spiritualities may belong to the freedom of the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus Christ.

- The End -

This article was a presentation for Fifth Asian Theological Conference of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT), January 9-16, 2000, Lewella, Kendy. Sri Lanka. EATWOT, Sustaining Spiritualities with Living Faiths in Asia in the Context of Globalization (Colombo: The Centre for Society and Religion, 2002), 18-29.
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