PSPD English Newsletter, December 2022
This Month at PSPD
“Our Commemoration Is Not Over”
As the response to the Itaewon Disaster turned out to be poorly done, it became clear that the disaster was caused by the absence of the state and the absence of the control tower. On Saturday, November 12, 100 labor and civil society organizations gathered in front of Seoul City Hall despite the heavy rain. People held a civil memorial candlelight vigil to claim that “The State is responsible for the Itaewon Disaster, so punish the person in charge” and shouted, “It’s not your fault, a thorough fact-finding must be done.” On the following Saturday, people moved the venue to Itaewon Square to hold a memorial performance, civic remarks, and a silent light-out performance at 18:34, which is the time when the first police report was made. At a press conference on November 22, the bereaved families undergoing an unimaginable time of grief expressed their feelings in front of the camera for the first time and appealed to the government to do its best.
The bereaved families demand the government to :
- Recognize that the Itaewon Disaster was caused by the government, local officials, and the police, not by the people who went to Itaewon on the day.
- Apologize sincerely.
- Include the voices of the victims in the investigation process.
- Ensure effective communication among the victims.
- Prepare a measure to prevent secondary victimization.
On November 23, more than 160 disaster/industrial accident victims’ groups and religions/labor/civil society organizations expressed support and solidarity with the bereaved families, stressing that the starting point of the disaster resolution begins with the victims’ voices.
Civil society is also working together to realize the needs of the bereaved families. In order to prevent secondary victimization from media reports, comments, and YouTube, we plan to conduct monitoring activities with citizens, and proactively consider taking legal measures against serious harm. Above all, we will defend and unite the rights of the victims so that a thorough and independent investigation of the overall disaster safety management system is carried out with the participation of the bereaved families and victims.
Monitor the 2023 budget
A budget is an amount based on how the government allocates resources for administrative activities during a certain period of time to achieve results. Since the project is planned and operated with taxes paid by citizens, the budget should be organized to improve citizens’ quality of life and strengthen publicity. However, the budget seems unfriendly to the citizens. This is because citizens’ participation in the central government budgeting and enforcement process is not guaranteed. People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy is closely monitoring the government’s discussion of the budget plan to the National Assembly’s deliberation process on the budget. Ahead of the National Assembly’s budget review, we presented critical opinions on areas that need revision that the budget is expanded or cut.
Health and Welfare Budget: The 2023 budget for the Ministry of Health and Welfare is 109 trillion won, up 11.8% from the previous year, but most of them are natural increases in salaries due to low birth rates and aging. In other words, considering the supplementary budget and inflation, it is rather a cut. However, it is questionable whether a fiscal austerity stance is appropriate in the midst of care, livelihood, housing, and employment crises, as the more than 2-year-long pandemic still has consequences on the citizens’ livelihoods and the risk of reinfection even has not disappeared. What’s more, the budget for care has been reduced by a very large margin. The National Assembly must correct the Yoon Suk Yeol government’s welfare budget reduction.
Public Housing Budget: Despite the increased awareness since last summer’s flooded semi-basement flats caused by torrential rains, public housing for vulnerable and low-income groups is significantly insufficient for their needs. The budget should continue to increase, but the Yoon government cut the public housing supply budget by 5.7 trillion won while increasing the presale housing budget by 1.792 trillion won. The so-called “in-debt and buy” policy which eases the loan-to-value ratio only adds to household debt and interest burdens, especially when prices and interest are high. We need a drastic policy shift.
Defense Budget: Military tensions on the Korean Peninsula are increasing day by day, and there are concerns about the destruction of the September 19 military agreement and North Korea’s nuclear test. It is difficult to predict what tragedy will occur on the Korean Peninsula if the confrontation continues. Under these circumstances, strengthening the Korea-U.S. expansion, military cooperation between South Korea-U.S.-Japan, and aggressive military buildup centered on the three-axis system will rather darken the prospects for peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. We need to revise aggressive military strategies and cut excessive defense budgets.
Financial investment income tax should be implemented as scheduled in 2023
“Financial Investment Income Tax” is a tax levied when financial investment profits such as stocks, bonds, funds, and derivatives are more than 50 million won a year. Although it was introduced by both the ruling and opposition parties’ agreement in 2020, the People Power Party went back to square one, insisted on reviewing the draft, and the Democratic Party of Korea turned to the conditional suspension. Some are concerned about the burden on small investors, but only 0.9 percent of them are expected to be taxed. The argument that it is strictly taxed on earned income and not on financial income does not fit the principle of fair taxation and only increases asset inequality. We strongly urge the National Assembly and the government to implement the Financial Investment Income Tax as scheduled.
17 activists who were punished by the unconstitutional election law during the 2016 general election filed for a retrial
In July 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled that the election law was unconstitutional for its clause prohibiting voters’ rights of expression. As a result, 17 activists of the 2016 General Election Net, who were punished by the Election Act, filed a retrial with the Seoul High Court for unconstitutionality and constitutional inconsistency. Alongside this, a revision to improve the regulation-oriented election law was also prepared and submitted with Nam In-soon, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Political Reform. The National Assembly should hurry to revise the law to expand voter freedom of expression!
The petition for the revision of Article 2 and 3 of the Labor Union Act was made!
On November 8, a petition for the revision of Articles 2 and 3 of the Labor Union Act was made with the consent of 50,000 people. It includes guaranteeing all types-irregular workers, platform workers etc-of workers’ rights, strengthening employers’ obligations and responsibilities as subjects of bargaining, and limiting compensation for labor unions’ disputes & legitimate activities resulting from employers’ illegalities. For more than a decade, the National Assembly has already proposed a law, the Yellow Envelope Act posing a limitation for damages and provisional seizure claims. However, the law has not been given a proper chance for discussion. Now it’s time for the National Assembly to respond.
We condemn the Iranian government for committing extrajudicial killings for demanding women’s liberation and democracy
For two months, the Iranians have been protesting against the Iranian government’s coercion and national violence since the death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed for not wearing a hijab last September. The Iranian government sentenced a protester to death on November 13, an apparent extrajudicial murder. A group of South Korean citizens in support of the Iranian demonstration strongly condemned the death sentence, called for the withdrawal of the death sentence, and demanded an end to the suppression of protesters.
5,500 citizens demand the Board of Audit and Inspection: Conduct an audit of the presidential office relocation allegations!
The Board of Audit and Inspection has not responded since October 2022 when 700 citizens and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy filed a “public audit request for illegal relocation of the president’s office and official residence.” After we responded to the data supplementation request by the Board of Audit, the Board then delayed the decision on whether to conduct the audit, saying they are “fact-checking” data with relevant agencies and waiting for their responses. It is possible that the Board is only dragging its feet to dismiss the request for a public audit, conscious of the president. On November 17, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy held a press conference condemning the Board of Audit and Inspection and submitted the signatures of 5,587 citizens calling for an immediate audit.
Translated by a PSPD Volunteer
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