The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) or Bayan, the alliance of organizations of various sectors of society fighting for national freedom and democracy in the Philippines, extends its warmest solidarity with the workers and people of South Korea as they hold their one-day general strike and series of protests against irregular work and for wage hike, workers’ greater voice in governance, nationalization of industries, and socialization of social services.
The demands of the workers and people of South Korea are just, and reflect the demands of the workers and people of the Philippines and the world. Irregular work has been a major bane for workers — pressing down wages, eliminating benefits, denying employment security, and attacking the right to form unions and other basic labor rights. The value of minimum wages, long been insufficient for a decent standard of life, has been continuously eroded — despite increasing workers’ productivity and capitalist profits over the years.
During times of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, workers’ voices in governance are muffled even more by governments and big capitalists — even as it is workers who suffer from decisions made by the latter. Big capitalists lay off workers en masse, and without concern for workers’ rights and the future of workers’ families. The cost of what should be basic social services such as health, education and housing are further increased by big capitalists, all profit-hungry, at a time when workers demand these even more as basic needs and rights.
Behind the glamor and glitter of South Korea’s renowned cultural exports of late, the Korean workers and people are suffering from overwork, underpay, huge debts, repression by big capitalists and the government, and denial of basic social services. Decades of outright authoritarian rule have given way to elite democracy, but genuine democracy that serves the workers and the people remains elusive. Decades of state protectionism have been replaced by IMF-World Bank-imposed neoliberal policies, and the majority remains exploited and oppressed. No wonder that in Squid Games and other cultural exports, South Korea has also given the workers and people of the world some sharp criticisms of capitalism.
The general strike and series of protests provide the workers and peoples of the world another perspective to understand the most watched South Korean cultural exports such as “Squid Game,” the most watched series in the top film streaming platform, and “Parasite,” a film that broke many records. The South Korean elites and their neocolonial masters have made the economy a dog-eat-dog world for the majority. Class inequality is wide, exploitation is severe, and poor living conditions are prevalent — while those who try to fight back are attacked violently. These shows are mirrors held up to the reality of South Korea and the world — and also reflect people’s growing consciousness of the big picture.
The economic and political elites of South Korea remain subservient to US imperialism, continuing to implement its dictates despite the immense suffering that these inflict on the workers and people especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2007 US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement remains in place, which empowers US monopoly capitalist businesses to legally contest domestic laws that they dislike, or that runs counter to their interests. South Korea’s puppetry to the US scheme of dividing the Korean peninsula, continuing the war with North Korea, and being a base of US intervention in the region are already well-known.
The general strike, series of protests and other forms of action taken by the South Korean workers and people are just. They have held various forms of smaller protests and were met with forms of repression that were often downright illegal. Through the general strike and other forms of national protest, they will be able to show their collective strength and assert their just demands more forcefully. And this is most necessary, as they are up against big capitalist class interests in the government and big business — avaricious, selfish, incapable of listening, impervious to reason, and always on attack mode against workers and the people.
We call on the government of South Korea to respect the rights of the workers and people to assemble and protest. The world is watching, and we will condemn any form of repression that will be used against the protests. We condemn the various legal offensives against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions or KCTU, an example of a militant and progressive labor center in the world and recognized leader of the general strike and protests. The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as an excuse for repression. It has only made the situation of the workers and peoples of South Korea and the world more unbearable.
Solidarity with the workers and people of South Korea!
Junk irregular work! Higher minimum wages for workers!
Greater workers’ voice in governance!
Nationalize important industries! Provide social services to the people!
Down with US imperialism!
Fight for national freedom, democracy and socialism!