PSPD People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
The Resource Center for Asian NGOs and Leadership
- 2000.10.31 (00:00:00)
The Resource Center for Asian NGOs and Leadership
A. The Resource Center for Asian NGO's at SungKongHoe University
The Resource Center for Asian NGO's (RCAN) was founded in 1999 as an auxiliary institute for the Department of NGO at SungKongHoe University in Korea. Reflecting the rapid growth and development of NGOs and civic movements in Korea for the last ten years, the Department of NGO at SungKonghoe University was founded in 1998. Since then, faculties and students have been devoting themselves not only to academic study of NGOs but also to actual development of NGOs by directly participating in various NGO activities. By combining theoretical perspectives with practical activities, they have been seriously seeking more effective and more participatory ways of bringing a true democracy to Korean society. In spite of unmeasurable growth of NGOs in Korea, however, they found that Korean NGO movement needed much more peoples direct participation and international solidarity and cooperation. Especially, the Asian economic crisis in 1997 made movement leaders feel strongly the necessity of communication and cooperation among Asian NGOs. To achieve this goal, visionary faculties at SungKonghoe University and leaders of important NGOs founded the RCAN last year, as stated above. RCAN is really young and ambitious as the first center for Asian NGO studies in Korea.
The main areas that the RCAN is focusing on are collection and dissemination of information on Asian/Korean NGOs, research activities, educational work, and facilitation of volunteer work.
First of all, the RCAN is exerting its efforts on compilation and dissemination of information on Asian NGOs for the use of Korean NGOs and concerned scholars. At the same time, the RCAN has been collecting resources and information on Korean NGOs which will be provided on the web in the future. Moreover, the RCAN is working with the main library at SungKonghoe University to make an excellent collection of resources and materials in the area of NGO studies. The RCAN believes this activity is the first step towards active and fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences between NGOs in Korea and NGOs in Asian countries.
Second, the research emphasis at the RCAN is on interdisciplinary and collaborative research that analyzes and articulates issues critical to the characteristics and development of NGO movements. The RCAN seeks to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with diverse academic, private, and public communities concerned with civic movements in Asian countries.
Third, the RCAN is working on education and reeducation of college students, NGO activists, and related Korean and Asian people in the form of workshop programs, curriculum development, grassroots and sectoral workshops on controversial issues and other specialized topics in the field of NGO studies and social movements. Especially, the RCAN will launch a leadership program for migrant workers in Korea this year, which will be described more in detail in the next section.
Fourth, facilitation of volunteer work is one of the most important areas that the RCAN is working on. The RCAN has been appointing appropriate NGOs to the students at SungKonghoe University according to their interests and purposes. In the near future, the RCAN will organize an exchange education program for students and activists in Korea and other Asian countries.
All in all, the RCAN wants to build a communication network among Asian people to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation by sharing experiences from democratization movements, NGO activities, people’s struggle, recent economic crisis, and so on. As I mentioned above, recently, the RCAN has organized a leadership program for migrant workers in Korea. In the next section, I would like to introduce this program more in detail.
B. Leadership Program for Migrant Workers in Korea
1. migrant labor issues in Korea
It has been getting obvious that the issues of migrant workers can no longer be hidden or ignorable in Korea. From the late 1980s, there was a remarkable shift in direction in labor migration towards destinations within Asia itself and particularly towards those countries that had shown rapid and sustained economic growth including Korea.
The rapid employment creation and the slowing in growth of the labor forces in some industrial sectors in Korea has resulted in a transition from labor-surplus to labor-deficit economies and a shift from labor export to the importation of labor. As of April, 2000, there were 236,000 foreign workers who are working mostly in small and middle sized firms in Korea. Until quite recently, Korean society has not noticed that the issues of migrant workers have been concerned with globalization process and socioeconomic problems in Korea. Since mid 1990s, the issue of migrant labor has been getting attention from Korean churches, scholars, and related NGOs after several demonstrations of migrant workers. They raised the very important issues of migrant protection and migrant rights, particularly in the firms where significant numbers of the migrants were ‘illegally’ employed. Since then, migrant workers and Korean supporters have been struggling together for better status of migrant workers in Korea. Especially, large numbers of the undocumented migrant workers are still in most vulnerable positions. Demand for cheap labour has led to subcontracting mechanisms, adoption of “trainee” schemes and increasing feminization of migrant labour. This translates into absence of accountability of companies especially transnational corporations (TNCs), unjust wage structures, absence of economic and social security, and violence against migrant workers. The migrant workers, uprooted from their families and communities, have to work under hostile, abusive and exploitative situations, and are generally denied their right to organize and unionize.
Eventually, more and more Korean people and NGOs are getting aware of the necessity of migrant protection and migrant rights. According to them, migrant workers, whether documented or undocumented, have rights as workers and as human beings as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and other international conventions.
Furthermore, even though foreign workers in Korea represent relatively small proportion of the total labor forces, it does not necessarily mean that the foreign workers make an insignificant contribution to Korean economy. They tend to undertake jobs that are low-paid and that local workers find difficult and dangerous, and they fill important “niche” activities in local economies.
One of the most important issues concerned with migrant labor in Asia is the ‘reintegration’. On the one hand, the return of migrants to their home countries raises the issue of their reintegration into their home countries. Overseas contract workers are used to earning wages far in excess of those that can normally be earned at home, and suddenly to be thrust back into a stagnant economy may be a cause for frustration. On the other hand, returning migrant workers can take a role of bridging the gap between Korea and their own countries.
All in all, the RCAN recognized that Korean society should have better understanding of migrant labor in relation to world capitalist system, proper policies for migrant workers in Korea, and solidarity among Asian migrant workers. As a first step to achieve those solutions, the RCAN has been preparing a leadership program for migrant workers and Asian community leaders in Korea.
2. Purpose of the Program
On the basis of experience and achievement from the democratization movement and various civic movements in Korea, this training program has been organized to provide leaders and activists of asian communities and migrant workers with education and training in the knowledge and the strategies for organizing and strengthening necessary social movements to challenge social problems in Asian countries and serious issues of migrant labor in Korea. The program will emphasize the importance of structural understanding of global economy and origin of migrant labor flow and cooperation with Korean workers, especially contingent workers who are main victims of Korean economic crisis since 1997.
The program will be offered to mainly two groups of Asian people in Korea.
First, Asian activists who are already staying in Korea, and focusing on labor issues, human rights, peace, social welfare, democratization, and Asian civil networks, and planning to devote themselves to the realization of participatory democracy when they return to their countries can apply for the program.
Second, leaders of Asian communities and migrant workers who want to learn about social movements, Korean society, and structural and international perspectives on migrant labor to have better understanding of migrant labor issues in Korea are welcome to apply for the program.
First of all, the RCAN wants this program to contribute to the improvement of migrant workers’ human rights and wellbeing in Korea. However, the RCAN believes that only concerted efforts among conscious and well trained social movement activists can tackle the issues of migrant workers. Therefore, the RCAN expects to share ideas with participants and to intimately interact with them.
The RCAN also hopes this program will be the first step towards building an effective and democratic network among Korean workers/NGOs and migrant workers/Asian activists.
5. Program Activities
There are two 12-week courses in the program: basic and advanced.
Each course consists of 20 lectures divided by five major themes. Each theme consists of 2 two hour-lectures on every Sunday for two weeks. Each theme will be organized and directed by the representative lecturer appointed by the executive committee. Representative lecturers will invite activists and specialists to provide participants with specific and better understanding of concerned subjects.
In each courses, the executive committee will organize two workshops to give participants a chance to communicate and discuss with lecturers and concerned scholars.
Participants who successfully complete the program will receive a certificate issued by the executive committee.
Curriculum for the basic course has been already set up. Curriculum for the advanced course will be organized on the basis of further discussions and actual experience from the activities of the basic course. Lectures will be carefully organized to meet participants’ needs and levels using various video and audio resources.
6. Curriculum for the Basic Course
Theme 1: Migrant labor and foreign workers in Korea
Professor Park Kyungtae (Sociology, SungKonghoe University), the organizer of the first theme will start with the definition and the origin of migrant labor, role of migrant labor in global economy, introduction of competing theories on migrant labor. He will discuss the history of international migrant labor, the role of NGOs for better conditions of migrant workers. Especially, a guest specialist will give a lecture on migrant labor issues in Korea: policies, related laws, history of migrant labor in Korea since 1980s, and so on. Some examples of policies for migrant workers to be discussed are as follow:
(a) Policies to manage migrant flows
Systems of proper documentation of foreign migrants.
Bilateral communication between countries needs to be improved in order to reduce the incidence of illegal migration and to facilitate cross-border collaboration.
While the most effective policies to manage migration are likely to be in the form of government-to-government agreements, multilateral paths should also be explored. Besides existing international agencies such as ILO or ASEAN, the role of concerned NGOs to bring structural changes to Asain countries and people including migrant workers will be intensively discussed.
(b) Policies to improve migrant welfare
Effective networks need to be established to diffuse information to migrants regarding their rights in Korean society. NGOs may provide a suitable vehicle for such activities. Information on the rules, regulations and procedures relating to foreign labor needs to be diffused to potential employers as well as to the migrants themselves. The RCAN believes this program is an effort to build a network for this matter.
The system of recruitment should be revised for welfare of migrant workers. There have been a lot of suggestions and discussions about this issue. Lecturers will succinctly summarize those ideas and collect student s’ opinions.
Those issues stated above are just some examples for Theme 1. In the advanced course, the lecturers will organize the program reflecting students’ opinions and experiences in the basic course. This principle will apply to all the activities related to this program.
Theme 2: Korean Culture and Workers’ Life
Professor Jin Youngjong of English Department will introduce Korean traditional culture and labor movement culture to participants for mutual understanding and better communications.
Focusing on Korean folk culture such as mask dance, farmers’ music, traditional folk games, theme 2 will emphasize the characteristics of Korean traditional culture which have been encouraging sense of communality and hospitality among Korean people. It will be noted that Korean folk culture has been adopted as an important resource of strategies for student and labor movements since late 1970s.
Second, workers’ condition in Korea will be discussed, After watching two important movies on Korean workers’ life and struggles, migrant workers will discuss and share their experiences with each other.
After introductory lecture and discussion, the lecturer will provide a chance for migrant workers to taste and experience Korean folk culture. They will learn Korean dances, songs, and playing traditional musical instruments. This program will be an ice breaking session for both Korean lecturers and migrant workers.
Theme 3: International Solidarity for Asian People.
Professor Cho Hyoje will lead participants to international field. He and his guest lecturers will talk about actual examples of international solidarity and activities of international civil society. As well known, globalization produces global problems which affect all the people over national borders.
The challenge to migrant workers, concerned NGOs and Asian people is formidable. The relentless drive of the capitalists to pursue globalisation, and the governments’ abdication of their responsibility to the people do not allow us to face globalization individually. Therefore, International solidarity for new global contexts and global coexistence should be pursued more seriously than ever before.
As one of exemplary cases of international solidarity, Professor Cho will give an overview of the Amnesty International; its origin and history, activities and purposes concerned with civil/political/economic/social rights.
Finally, the relationship between labor movement and international solidarity will be discussed; neointernationalism for labor movement in globalization: labor issues in global contexts, relationship between labor movement and international civic movement, conflicts between North and South in terms of labor issues.
Theme 4: Social Movement and Movement Strategies in Korea
Professor Cho Heeyeon will present the democratization process in Korea. Focusing on development of social movements for the past thirty years, he will discuss historical and structural background of the social change in Korea and give clear understanding of how and why some social movements were successful to bring democracy to Korean society, and some were not. As an active participant in People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Professor Cho will suggest effective strategies and concrete agendas for migrant workers in Korea. Some important issues to be discussed are as follows:
1) Korean modern history since 1945; 2) Development of Social movement in Korea; 3) The relationship between democratization and social movement; 4) Recent development of NGOs in Korea; 5) Movement Strategies and Solidarity against Neoliberalism
Theme 5: Urban Informal Economy and Contingent Labor
Most of migrant workers in Korea are employed in the urban informal sector. Therefore, migrant workers need to know the roles and characteristics of urban informal economy in Korea to place themselves at appropriate positions in Korean society. The author of this paper will lead this course with helps from a couple of related NGOs. Especially, I will focus on impressive cases of migrant workers’ movement in Seoul metropolitan area and solidarity between migrant workers and Korean contingent workers who are main victims of neoliberalism and the economic crisis in 1997. I will introduce some important activists who have been working for a national group of contingent workers. They will talk about how to make networks between migrant workers and contingent workers both online and off-line. I expect the participants to talk about their factory life and urban life they experienced in their countries and in Korea.
C. Inquiries and Communications
The RCAN welcome any inquiries and questions regarding this program, resources and information on Korean and Asian NGOs, and further communications and relationship.
The Resource Center for Asian NGO's
Director: Prof. Cho Heeyeon
Research Fellow: Dr. Lim Jungkeun
TEL) +82-2-2610-4314 FAX) 822-683-8858 firstname.lastname@example.org
address) (152-716) SungKonghoe University, Hang-Dong 1-1, Kuro-Ku, Seoul, Korea