[KS] Fulbright Forum June 7

Horace H. Underwood hhu at fulbright.or.kr
Fri May 24 00:33:16 EDT 2002


Fulbright in Seoul (the Korean American Educational Commission) is pleased
to invite you to attend the final Fulbright Forum for the spring semester,
which will be held on Friday, June 7, 2002, at 6:30 p.m. at the Commission
offices in Mapo.

The topic this month is "For Strength and Honor:  Daewoo Motor Workers'
Struggle against Restructuring."  The speaker is Jong Bum Kwon, Ph.D.
candidate in anthropology at New York University and a current Fulbright
grantee in Korea doing research for his dissertation.

On Feb. 16, 2001, 1750 workers from the Daewoo Motor Bupyong Plant were laid
off after emergency negotiations between union leaders and company
representatives broke down.  As of now, between 200 and 250 remain to
continue the struggle.  In his presentation, Mr. Kwon will provide a cursory
explanation of the current situation of the Daewoo struggle, give a brief
description of those men participating in the struggle and offer a glimpse
of why these men have struggled for the past 482 days, despite having
experienced police brutality, physical illness and exhaustion, breakup of
their families, and virtual destitution.  Also, he will show a short video
clip shot by one of the union members of one of the defining moments of the
struggle.  Please read the additional background information below this
Forum announcement.

We welcome to the June Fulbright Forum all Fulbrighters, senior lecturers
and junior researchers, as well as Board Members, Fulbright alumni, Peace
Corps alumni, Korean studies scholars, foreign graduate students, RAS
members, and any other interested friends of Korea and members of the
Fulbright family.  We particularly welcome the American Fulbright
International Education Administrators grantees in Korea, who will be
finishing their two-week program of visiting Korean universities - the Forum
will be an opportunity to meet them as well.

The presentation will be followed by a buffet reception (in lieu of dinner.)
We hope many friends will come to enjoy the lecture, the discussion, and the

Place: Fulbright Building
168-15 Yomni-dong, Mapo-gu
see maps on our website: www.fulbright.or.kr
or call Ms. Park: 3275-4000 for directions
Date: Friday, June 7, 2002
Time: 6:30 p.m.

See you at the Forum!

Horace H. Underwood, Executive Director
Korean-American Educational Commission (Fulbright)
Seoul, Korea
hhu at fulbright.or.kr

For Strength and Honor:  Daewoo Motor Workers' Struggle against
Jong Bum KWON, New York University

On Feb. 16, 2001, 1750 workers from Daewoo Motor, Bupyong Plant, were laid
off after emergency negotiations between union leaders and company
representatives (including government, creditors and management) broke down.
On April 30, after months of negotiations with the government and creditors,
GM concluded a contract to take over the bankrupt company for 251 million
dollars.  A vague agreement was reached with the union leadership
stipulating that 300 workers would be recalled by the end of the year but
without guarantees as to which workers would be reinstated and under what
conditions.  As of now, of the 1750 workers fired between 200 and 250 remain
to continue the struggle, demanding the union's right to determine who may
be recalled.

The takeover of Daewoo Motor, once one of the top five chaebols, marks a
critical symbolic victory on the part of the government to signal to foreign
investors its commitment to aggressively complete the restructuring of the
economy according to neo-liberal principles mandated by the IMF after the
Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.  If the Asian Financial Crisis saw not the
failure of the logic of global capitalism but the overcoming of the
irrationality of alternative capitalisms, the completed sale of Daewoo Motor
heralds the triumph of market rationality over the irrationalism and
irredentism of militant labor.  Since 1997, labor has in fact been in
retreat.  In an ironic twist, after the apparent victory of labor in the
early months of 1997, blocking the unilateral passage of labor laws at a
clandestine pre-dawn session at the National Assembly, the KCTU ultimately
capitulated to the government and capital's demands, forfeiting legal
protections against lay-offs and job instability.

The events of 1997 stage the re-entrenchment and disciplinary power of
market rationality as it has infiltrated the practices and discourses of
labor itself.  My research project aims to examine and understand the
practices and discourses of labor since the Asian Financial Crisis, as labor
attempts to recreate and legitimate its own rationale.  More importantly, my
project aims to concretely situate and describe the lives of the workingmen
who participate in the labor struggle.  For the past year, I have conducted
ethnographic research on the Daewoo Motor struggle, living and fighting with
those men to understand why they struggle.   It is on the face a simple
question, and for the workers themselves, one that is quickly answered by
"to eat and live," "to take care of my family," "for my reputation/honor,"
"to be a good husband and father," "for my tongji," "for the liberation of
labor," and the ubiquitous, "rage (punno)".  Asking the question of why
laborers struggle (or not struggle)  -- the conditions under which they
choose, and how their choices articulate with their concerns over family,
their relationships with their wives, children and fellow workers, their
position at work, in the union, and in the broader society, and their
self-conception of themselves as men and workers -- reveals the points of
tension and conflict in the current labor movement and culture as well as
provide an analytical link between the lives of the men and the current
tribulations of the wider movement.


Mr. Jong Bum KWON

New York University, Dept. of Anthropology
	Ph.D. Candidacy, since Spring 2000
	M.A., Anthropology, 1998
Thesis:  From Village to City: The Limitations of Confucian Explanations in
Korean Ethnography.

Macalester College
	B.A. and Honors in Anthropology and English Lit.
Honors thesis:  Black is Black in a Chinese Store: An Ethnography of a
Korean Immigrant Store in Milwaukee, Wis.

Fellowships and Honors
Fulbright Grant, 2001-
Blakemore Foundation Grant, 2000
Kriser Fellowship in Urban Anthropology, 2000
Dean’s Travel Award, 2000
McCracken Fellowship, 1996-
Malinowski Award for Ethnographic Research, 1993

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