* A Dialogue between Prof. Sang-jin Han (President of the Joongmin Foundation) and Prof. Eloisa Martin(editor-in-chief of Current Sociology )was published in the March 10 issue of the Hankyoreh. Prof. Martin visited Korea on February 27 for an ISA writing workshop. This dialogue , arranged by the Hankyoreh, took place on March 7 at the Joongmin Foundation for Social Theory. In this dialogue we can find an interesting comparison of President impeachment in Brazil and South Korea. In addition, the two scholars agreed that politics of conviviality and sympathy are needed for social solidarity. Here is the the translation of this dialogue article. Original link:
Social engagement created through cooperative ‘conviviality’
March 9, 2017
REPORTED by Ahn Chang-Hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org), PHOTOGRAPHED by Kim Myoung-Jin (email@example.com)
ENGLISH TRANSLATION by Park Sae-Seul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Professors Eloisa Martin and Han Sang-Jin sat down to discuss their thoughts on candlelight politics and social theory.
l In Brazil, the Right gained power after the impeachment of the Leftist government
l Korean students are competitive but must find hope for solidarity
l Women changed protests through candlelight and cultural events
l Politics based on ‘compathy’ is necessary for coexistence
Citizens’ candlelight protests against the Park Geun-hye – Choi Soon-sil political scandal may draw to a close depending on the ruling of South Korea’s Constitutional Court on March 10th.
“I witnessed the candlelight protests at Gwanghwamun and participated in the International Women’s Day celebration,” says Professor Eloisa Martin of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. This is her first visit to Korea. “I was deeply impressed by the dynamism of the Korean citizens.” Professor Martin has been the Editor of Current Sociology, the official journal of the International Sociological Association, since 2010. During her stay in Seoul, she took part in the ‘Candlelight Politics and Social Theory’ seminar jointly held by the Korean Society for Social Theory and the Joongmin Foundation for Social Theory on March 8th. On the 7th, The Hankyoreh sat down with Professor Martin and Professor Emeritus Han Sang-Jin (President of the Joongmin Foundation for Social Theory) to listen in on their discussion in the conference room of the Joongmin Foundation.
Han Sang-Jin (hereafter HAN): The confrontation between rival citizens, the pro-impeachment ‘candlelight citizens’ versus the anti-impeachment national flag-waving citizens, has received due attention from the international community. This is your first visit to Korea; what was your impression of these demonstrations?
Eloisa Martin (hereafter MARTIN): I had the chance to see the candlelight protests on the anniversary of the Sam-il (March 1st) Movement, and I also took part in the street march on March 4th in commemoration of International Women’s Day. During this time, I thought about ‘the impeachment of a female president’. Brazil also impeached its female president in August last year. Impeachment, in and of itself, is not an inherently good or bad thing. In Brazil, the conservative Right seized power. It is the opposite in Korea.
HAN: After 8 years of control under former President Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores), Dilma Rousseff of the same party assumed the presidency. One year after her reelection, in the 14th year of the government under the Workers’ Party, President Rousseff was impeached for improper abuse of power.
MARTIN: President Rousseff’s political power was weak and vulnerable. In a time of political isolation, the execution of the budget was not transparent. Some of the budget for the following year was pulled forward to the current one, leading to a situation wherein revenue and income were higher than spending. It is an age-old practice, but the ruling power was criticized for corruption. It was possible to criticize the situation as ‘fiscal pedaling’, but it was not a crime.
HAN: Then how did that lead to impeachment?
MARTIN: In Brazil, the House and the Senate decide on impeachment. President Rousseff’s ruling party was not the majority party of the assembly at the time. Additionally, conservative media conglomerates such as ‘Grupo Globo’ monopolized print, television and radio news to instigate fierce attacks against the corruption of the Workers’ Party. Prominent economic organizations in São Paulo, conservative religious groups, legal professionals, and the like fostered an environment which supported impeachment.
HAN: I’m curious about the responses from citizens.
MARTIN: There were demonstrations supporting impeachment. Economic organizations provided financial resources and facilities and conservative media outlets splashed these demonstrations on news headlines. Amidst a social atmosphere of strong denunciation of the progressive camp’s alleged corruption, labor unions, Leftist social organizations, and citizens’ movement groups did not have much power and the media largely ignored their opposition demonstrations.
HAN: Did the two groups clash on the streets during their demonstrations? What happened in Brazil after the impeachment?
MARTIN: The rival demonstrations were held on different dates. In comparison, the Korean experience is dynamic and interesting. The ‘candlelight protestors’ and ‘flag protestors’ have different opinions but they find a way to coexist without resorting to violence. In Brazil, the power was turned over completely to the Right and the public’s welfare expenditure was curtailed while policies for education, health and labor became worse as neoliberal policies took hold. Brazil suffers from extreme inequality. The top 5% live lavishly but the bottom 70% struggles to eat. Impeaching the president brought about the destruction of social justice. The impeachment signaled not the end, but the beginning of new problems
HAN: This experience signaled the impeachment of the progressive political party. What lessons can we learn from this?
MARTIN: The weakness of the progressive camp is its immense internal discord and its unwillingness to understand or even listen to the disadvantaged groups in society while attempting to convince others of its core beliefs. There is a serious gap between the educated Leftist politicians and the working and poor classes. Even laborers want their children, at the very least, to receive a good education; hence, good schools should be built in poor residential areas. However, the progressive camp is blind to these problems. It cannot communicate with society and it does not have the capability to pursue widespread solidarity.
HAN: In Korea, there is a new opportunity for progressive groups but they conduct affairs of the state with ideology and organization rather than the policies of life world embracing those who are most vulnerable in our society. There are many citizens who are worried about what will happen if these groups assume power.
MARTIN: Korean university students have great anxiety about the future, coupled with intense competition in the society. Everyone wants to be ahead of the others. Solidarity does not come from everyone becoming winners and earning benefits over others. Coexistence requires concessions and sacrifices. I believe this is the political task that the progressive camp must achieve. It must embrace the weak and vulnerable and view them as partners. In this respect, I believe that Professor Han’s Joongmin theory or ‘middling transformation’ strategy is significant.
HAN: Your statement is too generous. In the last 15 years of candlelight protests in Korea, the participation by women protestors has stood out conspicuously. Even housewives march in the protests with their children. In accordance with this, the candlelight protests can sometimes become a classroom, or even a festival or cultural event.
MARTIN: Female participation in the candlelight protests is important and topical. Women have shared values which extend beyond social class, education, and political affiliation. They show high interest in concrete problems such as education and social welfare. This may even introduce the possibility of bridging the fragmented ideological orientations of the progressive party. Korea’s social networking services (SNS) are the most advanced in the world – but aren’t the uncontrolled emotional outbursts often expressed on these services also a hindrance to meaningful communication? I emphasize the importance of cooperative ‘conviviality’ enjoyed by all. The crux of democracy is the embracement of diversity, going above and beyond cultural hegemony. Korea’s civil society may be confrontational but it shows the potential for such coexistence.
HAN: In similar vein, I want to emphasize the role of ‘compathy’. I believe that politicians with outstanding capabilities for communication and social governance must lead the way to the future. This is because in this ‘risk society’ of economic polarization, coexistence cannot come solely from the competitive reasoning of survival of the fittest.
MARTIN: I now see the task for Korea’s progressive camp through this dialogue. Rather than being preoccupied with ideologies or power struggles, a new politics of ‘compathy’ should be pursued to achieve inclusive solidarity. This is where the future of politics lies.