The Roaring of the Classic Tiger Economy: The Korean Working Class Claws Back

An in-depth analysis of the current wave of strikes in South Korea, the implications of the move towards reunification and a look at the history of the Korean working class.

Events seem to be unfolding rapidly in what was once regarded as a bulwark against socialism. Korea is in the eye of the hurricane. In 1997, the worst crisis in its history as a 'miracle economy' hit South Korea. Yet already by 1999 the Tiger seemed to be back on track with a 10.7% growth. It looks like the cat indeed has several lives. And everyone now seems to be keen on visiting Korea. How pleasant life must be over there!

Just look at the past few weeks. The EU and several East Asian states visited Seoul during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Madeleine Albright has visited Pyongyang. Several military officers have visited both. Kim Dae Jung, the president of the South, and Kim Jong IL, the president of the North, visited each other. Ford and General Motors visited Daewoo Motors to make a deal. Tens of thousands of workers have visited Seoul to hold demonstrations. What a joyous place it must be, everyone visiting each other!

Yes, Korea could be a joyous place. But it isn't! The major superpowers are scrambling to get both Koreas into their spheres of influence. Major companies are entering the Korean market. This sounds more like imperialism to us! Not much joy there. Ask the workers in the streets of Seoul, brutally exploited, working 52 hours a week on average, slipping back into poverty after the crisis, living next to the world's most heavily fortified border, suffocating in madly industrialised cities. No joy at all! Still, we wouldn't be Marxists if we believed there is no hope for joy. And looking at the Korean working class, we are filled with hope. Seeing them bursting one illusion after the other, marching into the streets, calling a general strike, building their own party. Joy out of anger, that's the spirit. But what is making the Korean working class so angry?

Explaining the Korean 'Miracle'

Right up to the 1997 Asian crisis bourgeois economists lauded the Tiger economies as 'free market success stories'. According to them, this proved the Marxist thesis of imperialism utterly wrong. The former colonies can develop on a capitalist basis, so all they need to do is follow the recipes written down in the classical liberal books of Adam Smith, David Ricardo & co. The Marxists on the other hand state that the rich countries are keeping the poor countries poor. But that is not to deny that industrialisation can take place. After all, it was the wave of industrialisation in Russia at the turn of the century that created a mass working class and so gave Lenin and his comrades their opportunity. What we do deny is that less developed capitalist countries can go through an independent and balanced industrialisation and join the big league of rich capitalist countries. But then again, wasn't South Korea allowed into the OECD, this league of rich capitalist countries?

To understand the so-called Korean Miracle, we should go back to the period immediately after the Second World War. At that time the masses rose up against Japanese imperialism and their allies in the Korean ruling class. People's committees mushroomed all over the country as a dual power next to the capitalist state, and declared the Korean People's Republic. Although the right wing nationalist Syngman Rhee became the official leader because of his involvement in the early days of resistance, the government was mostly made up of leftists.

However, due to an agreement between the US and Stalinist Russia, Korea was divided along the 38th parallel. In the industrial North the workers and peasants' committees formed the popular base of Kim Il Sung's Stalinist regime and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). The bureaucracy could only maintain itself in power through the introduction of radical social reforms, including land reform. In the rural South the American 'liberators' saw the people's committees as allies of the Soviets and thus contrary to their geopolitical interests. They turned to their natural allies in the ruling class and the state apparatus under Syngman Rhee, who founded the southern Republic of Korea (ROK). The committees on the other hand considered themselves as still part of the Korean People's Republic, so the South was swept by several uprisings in the first few years after the war.

These were the class foundations of the 1950-53 Korean War. According to the Korea specialist Bruce Cumings, "the basic issues over which the war in 1950 was fought were apparent immediately after liberation, within a three-month period, and led to open fighting that eventually claimed more than one hundred thousand lives in peasant rebellion, labour strife, guerrilla warfare and open fighting along the 38th parallel - all this before the ostensible Korean War began. In other words, the conflict was civil and revolutionary in character, beginning just after 1945 and proceeding through a dialectic of revolution and reaction. The opening of conventional battles in June 1950 only continued this war by other means." (The Origins of the Korean War, Vol. 1.)

During the occupation of the South by the northern army the peasant committees implemented land reform. When the Americans had pushed back Kim Il Sung behind the 38th parallel, they urged land reform on the South Korean regime as the surest bulwark against the red menace. And land reform is the first precondition for industrialisation. Only by raising the low level of productivity in the countryside, can the proletariat in the industrial towns be fed. This required the 'decapitation' of the old ruling class, the landlords, who normally control the state and the capitalist system as a whole by way of their bank loans. But this crushing of the landlord class by the imperialists themselves could only happen under extreme conditions, i.e. the constant threat of a socialist revolution in the context of the Cold War. Therefore, under normal conditions land reform would be the task of the revolutionary working class in an alliance with the peasantry, as Trotsky explained in his theory of the Permanent Revolution.

Bonapartism and a 'gentle' imperialism during the Cold War

Still, although land reform is a necessary condition for lasting high growth rates, on its own it is not sufficient. The first decade after the Korean War the South was in a constant state of malaise, despite the huge sums of American money pouring into the country to sustain the Rhee regime. Between 1953 and 1961 the US donated $4 billion in economic and military aid. Actually, it was these large funds which on the one hand provided the resources for a first phase of accumulation, but on the other did not give the bourgeoisie any incentive to develop the means of production. Getting as much American aid as possible was the strategy for becoming rich and powerful. By the beginning of the 1960s this had led to massive unemployment in the cities. Again the social discontent erupted in the form of an uprising against Rhee and his cronies, followed by some tumultuous months of bourgeois democracy.

The economic malaise in the South stood in deep contrast to the rapid growth in the North. In the decade after the Korean War, northern industrial production grew by a staggering 25% per year on average, thanks to the planned economy. Alarmed by the domestic turbulence coinciding with the threat of an economic take-over by the North, the military seized power under leadership of Park Chung Hee in 1961. They crushed the proletariat and students who had risen in revolt. At the same time they imprisoned several leading capitalists accusing them of corruption. But then, after imposing these initial harsh measures on the bourgeoisie, in a Bonapartist manner, Park released them and proposed (or rather imposed) an ambitious industrial project. The weak bourgeoisie grasped this opportunity to preserve its system with both hands. Marx said of a similar situation in 19th century France: "The bourgeoisie confesses that its own interests dictate that it should be delivered from the danger of its own rule and that in order to save its purse, it must forfeit the crown, and the sword that is to safeguard it must at the same time be hung over its own head as a sword of Damocles." (The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.)

From then on the state would guide the market. Park created the Economic Planning Board, which would follow the success story of the North by planning the economy, complete with Five-Year Plans. So much for the liberal argument of a 'free market success story'! The banking system was nationalised and by 1970 the government had come to control an astounding 96.4% of the country's financial assets. Even after selling its shares in the commercial banks in 1983, the state continued to maintain strong administrative controls. Capitalists who pursued the government's economic course could count on cheap loans and export subsidies. These made up for the thin profit margins or even losses due to the export oriented strategy of gaining and expanding market shares in selected sectors like textiles and consumer electronics. The US provided its Cold War ally with this market by way of special business contracts in the Vietnam War (for instance, the export of South Korean cement to Vietnam amounted to $6.1 million out of a total cement export of $8.7 million in 1970) and preferred access to its domestic market (in 1968 51.7% of the ROKs exports went to the US). At the same time the US pushed the ROK to sign a Normalisation Treaty with its enemy Japan, so as to integrate the regional capitalist economies to form a block against the red menace.

From the mid 1960s onwards the South's economy started booming. Of course American money kept on flowing into the country. The 1979 Yearbook of the CIA states that the ROK received $13 billion in American economic and military aid in the period from 1945 to 1978. For comparison: the US donated for the same period to the whole of Africa less than $7 billion! But the real cause of the sustained growth was the combination of a defeated proletariat and the planned economy, albeit a capitalist one, with preferred access to the biggest market in the world. On the basis of these high growth rates, the Korean economy became less dependent on US aid, because now they became 'bankable' (profitable) for finance capital, which got huge profits out of lending to 'Newly Industrialising Countries' like the ROK. The Blue House (Korea's White House) used this access to large sums of money to restrict the direct involvement of multinationals in the domestic economy. Instead of industrialising mainly by multinational foreign investment and their spill-overs, South Korea was able to build a large national industry by borrowing from Western and Japanese banks. Foreign debt rose from $2.2 billion in 1970 to $27.1 billion in 1980. Again, this protectionist way of building a national industry while exporting a large part of production to the US was only possible because of the South's status as a bulwark against 'communism'.

During the 1970s the state passed over to a new phase of carving out export markets, the so-called heavy and chemical industries drive (HCI). The idea was to move from low-value-added, labour-intensive exports to higher-value-added, technology-intensive exports. By pushing through the HCI the dictator Park not only ignored the IMF (who argued that Korea had no 'comparative advantage' in producing steel, petrochemicals, transport equipment and the like), he also temporarily set aside his own Economic Planning Board. In fact, the main reasons behind the HCI were conditioned by political factors. President Nixon's withdrawal of a whole division of US troops from Korea in the early 1970s greatly alarmed the Park regime. With the HCI they wanted to set up their own war industry. On top of America's changed foreign policy came domestic tension. The beginning of the 1970s saw again an upsurge in labour strife with a union leader setting himself on fire as a statement against the brutal exploitation of women workers in the textile sweatshops. This was followed by a mass movement of demonstrations, sit-ins and hunger strikes. Park could only hold on to power by a gigantic fraud in the 1971 elections, otherwise the political leader of the resistance, current president Kim Dae Jung, would have gained power with his liberal New Democratic Party. In reaction to this threat, the ruling elite not only intensified the repression, but also sought a base among the peasantry by providing them with cheap credit, linked to an ideological campaign under the name of Saemaul Undong, the Movement for a New Community. The HCI was launched in concordance with this political coup as a way of preserving legitimacy in the eyes of the working class through economic performance and jobs.

Because of the HCI, Korean companies could make inroads in monopolised sectors like the car and ship-building industry. By the end of the 1980s the ROK was the world's second largest ship builder! And in 1986 Hyundai set a record with sales of 168,000 Excel cars in the US market in just 10 months. Due to the government's HCI such industrial conglomerates, called chaebols (Hyundai, Samsung, Lucky Goldstar, Daewoo,) grew to dominate the whole of the Korean economy. The combined sales of the top ten chaebols, as a percentage of GNP, stood in 1974 at 15.1%, but had reached a staggering 67.4% in 1984! By the early 1980s, almost 70% of all bank loans went to the conglomerates, while the top 5 accounted for more than 20%.

Crisis and the Great Labour Offensive

Although Park's HCI resulted in double-digit growth rates in the 80s, the investments absorbed enormous amounts of capital during the ‘70s. Together with the high oil bill and the new protectionism of the West in sectors like textiles (the Multifiber Agreement of 1973), these heavy investments placed a burden on the Korean economy (overcapacity), which would explode with the world recession of 1979-81. Under pressure of the IMF, the Park regime undertook a stabilisation program, including a wage freeze. This contributed to a rising level of labour unrest and protests by the urban poor. In 1979, a labour strike at a wig factory triggered a major political crisis when the striking women workers moved to the opposition party headquarters. Faced with this crisis, the ruling group split internally, and Park was assassinated by the head of the Korean CIA on October 26, 1979.

In line with Lenin's argument, the split in the ruling clique gave way to a wave of labour unrest and pre-revolutionary conditions. An alliance of the working and middle classes against the military-industrial complex (state, chaebols, and American troops) was formed under the banner of the Minjung movement (Minjung means 'the people' or 'the masses'). Again the capitalist order could only be preserved by a military coup, led by General Chun Doo Hwan. The military junta immediately declared martial law and arrested the leaders of labour and the opposition, while massacring some 200 people in Kwangju because they revolted against the arrest of Kim Dae Jung. The repression of the working class was a necessary precondition for a new upward cycle in capitalist growth because it restored the profit margins. From the mid 1980s onwards, the Korean economy boomed on the basis of the so-called 'Three Low period': lowered interest rates of major foreign banks, the lower price of crude oil, and the lowered exchange rate of the dollar against the Japanese yen due to the Plaza Accord, which made Korean exports more competitive against those from Japan.

One explanation of the Korean 'Miracle', advanced by bourgeois economists and sociologists, is a working ethic typical of Confucianism. Confucianism is presumed to make workers long for harmony on the shop floor, while the ruling class is like a caring father. "This idealist argument founders against the central fact that people in the region have been Confucians for millennia, but capitalist growth only took off after 1960. Likewise the use of chopsticks in eating may or may not produce 'nimble fingers', but folk in the area have been eating that way for a hell of a long time." (Mick Brooks, Socialist Appeal 42, June 1996.) The material developments at the height of the boom proved the idealist theory completely false. Strengthened by a tight labour market, the Korean proletariat flexed its muscles and burst into what can be called one of the most heroic class struggles in history. Starting from the summer of 1987 until late 1989 more than 7,100 labour conflicts erupted. The number of unions doubled from 2,725 to 7,358. The dictatorial regime of Chun was smashed.

The left activist and academic Walden Bello wrote in 1990: "The past three years, 1987-1990, have seen the shattering of a number of myths about the process of industrialisation in Korea, popular with Western commentators. Among them is the image of a docile working class labouring twelve hours a day out of Confucian respect for their employers. Yes, Korean workers were worked to the bone. Yes, they were highly motivated. But the eruption of labour since 1987 has underlined the point that Confucian piety was not the mainspring of the energies of Korea's workers." (Dragons in Distress: Asia's Miracle Economies in Crisis, co-author Stephanie Rosenfeld)

What then was the mainspring of the energies of Korea's workers? It was brutal repression, unequalled in the history of capitalism! Bourgeois economists are right when they say that the wages of the average Korean worker rose at an unprecedented rate since the 1960s, they are right when they say that Korea invested a lot in what they call 'human capital', i.e. basic education, to drive up labour productivity. But they are far more silent about the other side of the Korean 'Miracle'. "Not only has Korea set world records with its growth rate in wages, it has also outcompeted other countries in its discrimination against women workers, although in some years this dubious distinction fell to Japan." (Alice Amsden, Asia's Next Giant: South Korea and Late Industrialization.) Research by the International Labour Office concludes that, for instance, in 1980 the average wage of a female worker was only 44.5% of a male worker. That's how the ROK stayed competitive in labour-intensive industries, while introducing more skill-intensive industries by paying better wages to a section of the male labour force. As we have always said, capitalism uses sexual discrimination, pitting men against women, and stimulating the patriarchal ideology!

Another survey by the International Labour Office (1986) concludes that Korean workers also worked the longest hours in the world, more than 54 hours on average per week, compared to the second in row, Singapore (another Tiger), with 48.5 hours per week! Actually, instead of declining over time, hours worked per week rose from 50.5 to 54.3 between 1975 and 1983. And that's where Marx comes in. Telling the workers that, in order to drive up profit margins, capitalists have to increase the degree of exploitation. One way of doing this, is prolonging the working day, what Marx calls 'raising the absolute surplus value'. So, should we then be surprised that the ROK has also one of the highest rates of accidents at work? It is normal that accidents happen when workers are too tired to pay attention. And to keep the workers going at this infernal pace, the bourgeoisie could always rely on its ally, the state. At the beginning of his regnum, Park set up the Korea CIA (after his assassination this became the National Security Commission), which stretched its tentacles deep into the labour movement, "not only infiltrating factories with hundreds of agents to monitor dissenters but also making the government-recognised union leadership an adjutant of the state. This meant, above all, having a pliable set of officers for the nation-wide Federation of Korean Trade Unions and key national unions like the Chemical Workers Union." (Bello, op. cit.) These are the real 'wonders' behind the Korean 'Miracle' that go to explain why such a 'well paid' Third World proletariat in 1987 erupted into a magnificent example of labour revolt.

After the overthrow of Chun in the summer of 1987, his fellow party member Roh Tae Woo occupied the presidency and declared a democratic reform program, partly because they could not afford violence at the moment of the Olympic Games in Seoul. This democratisation set the stage for further labour struggles. Because of the pure strength of this struggle, the government kept aside from the battlefield as an 'impartial' arbitrator. But when the wind of labour strife after a few years gradually started dropping, this arbitrator again showed its real face, that of a traitor, stabbing the working class in the back. For instance, the epic 109-day battle between workers and bosses for the strategic Hyundai shipyard was only settled by bringing into action 14,000 policemen, who stormed the shipyard from land, sea, and air, using tear-gas firing helicopters against the workers. On January 20, 1990 the Roh government declared the new, militant Korean Congress of Trade Unions (KCTU) illegal because of its ideology of direct class struggle.

Return to the normal state of imperialism

The heyday of the Korean 'Miracle', the three consecutive years of double-digit growth from 1986 onwards, was also a turning point. On the one hand the working class launched its Great Labour Offensive. On the other, the US changed its foreign policy in relation to the Far East. With the relaxing of relations with Stalinist China during the 1970s and still more the 1980s, plus the decline of the great post-war colonial revolution, the status of the ROK as a bulwark against 'communism' was disappearing. Moreover, since the 1970s the long post-war boom had been over and capitalism had entered into a period of decline. Competition became more ferocious, so imperialism could no longer tolerate new competitors. From the mid 1980s onwards, South Korea had a constant trade surplus with the US ($9.6 billion in 1987). Fearing a second Japan, Washington subjected Seoul to a broad-front trade offensive. Among other things, Uncle Sam forced an appreciation of the Korean currency, the won, by 40% relative to the dollar. They initiated several anti-dumping suits. They forced Korea to open its markets for several products like beef and tobacco. They stepped up pressure for liberalisation in banking, telecommunications, and so on.

On top of this aggressive foreign policy of the US, the competition from a second generation of Tigers became fiercer. The appreciation of the yen against the dollar had made Japanese products less competitive, so Japanese capital began to swarm out all over Southeast Asia in search of cheap production sites. That way, countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand became new competitors in the capitalist arena. Furthermore, China had turned to the world market during the 1980s, and devalued the yuan in 1990 and 1994 in order to increase its competitiveness. In 1993, the average wage in the Chinese apparel industry was $0.25 per hour, compared to $2.71 in South Korea. After 4 years of recession, Japan also devalued the yen in 1995. The East Asian Dragon economies began to pay for their export first strategy by building up large overcapacity. Because of the growing competition, Japanese capitalists were more reluctant to sell key technologies to Korean chaebols. Since the ROK had boomed on borrowed technology, prolonging the high growth rates became more difficult. The profit margins of the top 30 chaebols dropped by 90% during 1996!

The government of President Kim Young Sam tried to pass the cost on to the working class with a new labour law. The workers responded with a general strike around New Year 1996-97 (www.marxist.com/Asia/Korea.html). The resulting deadlock was followed by a wave of bankruptcies. Conglomerates like Hanbo, Jinro, Daenong, Kia and New Core, collapsed, bringing doubt about the stability of the Korean banking system. Indeed, by October 1997, it was estimated that non-performing loans by Korean enterprises had escalated to over $50 billion. Seeing the faltering success of the chaebols amidst a region in crisis, foreign lenders started worrying. When they discovered the high debt ratio of Korean firms, they stumbled over each other to withdraw their loans. The classic Tiger economy slipped into crisis.

To fight this crisis, Korea knocked on the doors of the IMF to ask for a loan. As usual, such an IMF loan was accompanied by a 'stabilisation program', including fiscal austerity (e.g., raising taxes), trade liberalisation, deregulation of the labour market (e.g., making layoffs easier), liberalisation of the financial markets (e.g., reduce restrictions on foreign ownership), and the like. Actually, the IMF used the same recipes as in the infamous debt crisis of Latin America and Africa of the 1980s. Just as imperialism at that time used the debt crisis to crush the aspirations of the so-called Third World (cf. the 1974 proclamation of a New International Economic Order by the UN under pressure of the reformist elites of the Third World), now the Asian crisis was used to make the Tigers bow down to the dictates of 'IMFerialism'. For instance, before the crisis the Korean government limited the foreign ownership of corporate stocks to only 7%. This was an achievement of the protectionism allowed by the imperialists because of the Asian Cold War. Although the US changed its stance during the 1980s into a more aggressive foreign policy, and achieved in that way some concessions from Korea, it could not force the Tiger to its knees when it was at the peak of its economic performance. This ended with the Asian crisis. In order to get the IMF rescue package, the ROK had to raise the limit on foreign ownership of corporate stocks from 7% to 50%! That's the real story behind the IMF's so-called development policies: imperialism in its most brutal form!

Should that surprise us? Of course not. Just look at who's got the votes in the IMF. Imperialist No. 1, the US, has more than 17% of the votes due to its financial contribution. Other rich countries also have a large part of the votes. Germany 6.08%, Japan 6.22%. So the IMF and the World Bank are no more than instruments of the imperialist superpowers. To be precise, the biggest imperialist of Asia, Japan, tried to tighten its grip on the region by proposing an Asian Monetary Fund to contain the crisis (AMF). Larry Summers of the American Treasury said the following on this subject: "Concerned that Japan was proposing the idea as a step toward hegemony in the region, but unwilling to bring such a sensitive issue into the open, US and European financial officials worked the phones with Southeast Asian officials, talking down the idea and hoping it would die quietly." (in Institutional Investor, December 1997) This again shows very well the increasing inter-imperialist rivalry for spheres of influence. And wasn't it the great Marxist V.I. Lenin who already depicted this in his work 'Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism'?

Likewise the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was an initiative of European imperialism to secure its influence in the fastest growing region of the world, East Asia. It is the counterpart of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), an 'informal dialogue forum' uniting several East Asian and Latin American states around the US economy. To secure capitalist Europe's interests in East Asia, ASEM was launched in 1996 as a dialogue between the EU and 10 East Asian states (South Korea, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and the Philippines). Every two years the leaders of the different countries hold a summit: March 1996 in Bangkok, April 1998 in London, and the latest on October 20 in Seoul. Officially ASEM was created to promote three main principles: economic co-operation, political and security dialogue, and the reinforcement of cultural links between the peoples of both regions. Seeing the issues talked about at the summits, one can safely leave out the last principle. During the ASEM summits there is no single word of a dialogue between the different peoples of both regions. Yes, there is a dialogue, but not between the peoples. The only ones talking here are the heads of state and business. But the people, no.

During ASEM 1 and ASEM 2 there wasn't much talk about security items either. During the meeting in Seoul, ASEM 3, the stance as regards North Korea was discussed. Some countries, like the UK, Germany and Spain, want to strengthen ties with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Others, like France, first want the North to stop its human rights violations and nuclear weapons development program. As if there are no human rights violations in other participating countries! And wasn't it France that was criticised all over the world for testing new nuclear weapons in 1995-96? Which is not to say that we have the slightest illusion in Britain's advances to North Korea. It is very clear that several imperialist powers are trying to get their influence in this Stalinist country, while it is opening up to the 'free market'. The same reasons that drove them to 'communist' China are now driving them to its neighbour, namely very cheap labour near to the big Asian and American markets. On top of that, North Korea has still a relatively developed industrial infrastructure, which after a decade of disintegration can be bought at knockdown prices.

But although in ASEM 3 there was some talk about security issues, the economic pillar is still the most developed. Capitalists have their own forum in ASEM, which goes under the name of Asia-Europe Business Forum. In the corridors of ASEM, big business gets the opportunity not only of reaching agreements between individual firms, but also of drawing out a joint strategy together with the heads of state. ASEM 2 in London, for instance, launched the Trade Facilitation Action Plan and the Investment Promotion Action Plan, both reflecting the bourgeois interest in the liberalisation of trade and investment. Actually these Plans are no more than the regional translation of the WTO regime and the regional successor of the failed 1998 Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). There is a very simple logic behind them: institutionalising the scramble for markets at a time of heightening imperialist competition.

The same organisation that lobbied for the foundation of the WTO, stood at the cradle of ASEM: the World Economic Forum (WEF), the most powerful organisation of planet Earth, Capital's International, gathering the 1,000 major corporations, including Shell, General Motors, Deutsche Bank, Time Warner, Monsanto, Coca Cola and Nike. Initially, the WEF was a European based organisation, convened in 1971 for the first time in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos under the name of European Management Forum. During the 1970s, and more so the 1980s, it expanded throughout the globe, for which purpose in 1987 it took on the name of World Economic Forum. It is the principal driving force behind the rapid expansion of 'free' trade and neoliberalism. Recently, the WEF, just like other capitalist institutions (among which some of its children such as the WTO and ASEM), came under fire of public criticism and worker's protest. During the winter meeting of the WEF at Davos several thousand social activists gathered to protest against corporate globalisation. Again during the Melbourne meeting on Asia and globalisation, September 11, several thousand activists took to the streets together with some 3,000 trade unionists to block the conference. The police injured some 50 among them. In such situations of mass 'civil disobedience' the state apparatus shows its real face: ultimate defender of the corporate/capitalist law.

This was also made very clear during the ASEM protests. The Korean state mobilised some 30,000 riot police to crack down on protesters, while president Kim Dae Jung received that same month the Nobel Peace Prize because of his policy of reconciliation with the North (the so-called Sunshine Policy). More than 20,000 demonstrators came to Seoul to indict imperialism. In a formal statement they said that "ASEM, which was established to overcome American supremacy, has been following in the US' footsteps only for the sake of capitalist gains, destroying the lives of labourers and people in third world countries." (Korea Times, 21/10/00.)

In the same manner Dan Byung-ho, head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), addressed the crowd: "All of us who are gathered here today cannot but show deep concerns towards the ASEM conference. According to recent documents the European Commission is mentioning abolition of foreign currency control and liberation of the transfer of surplus profit. Also it is suggesting that all governments need to abolish regulations against privatisation and foreign ownership of real estates in order to attract foreign capital. What's more surprising is that it is asking for lesser taxation on companies and block strikes in order to provide better investment conditions. Such measures do not differ at all from the structural reforms forced through by the WTO and the IMF or the Korean-US., Korean Japanese Investment Treaties. Also in this year's Seoul summit, the governments of the two regions have chosen as their official agenda, the discussion for the early launch of the WTO Millennium Round. This shows that ASEM works for the strengthening of the free trade system called the WTO. In such conditions we witness the ASEM turning into an organisation pushing for another neoliberal globalisation. We cannot but be seriously concerned about the fact that ASEM is trying to accelerate neoliberal globalisation and structural reform. Comrades who are gathered here: the struggle of the people against neoliberal globalisation is continuing without respite. Far away, from Mexico to Brazil, Thailand, Indonesia, Europe and all over the world the flame of resistance is burning hot. In Korea also, the struggle against neoliberal globalisation is unfolding restlessly."

Geopolitical tug-of-war and the revival of Korean nationalism

One instance that depicts very well the competing interests of the superpowers in the 'multipolar world' of the post-Cold War era, is the tug-of-war evolving around North Korea. After the collapse of Stalinism in Russia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) became completely isolated. In sharp contrast to its rapid economic development during the first decades after the Korean War, the country slipped into a deep recession in the 1990s. Years of bureaucratic rule of the planned economy have left their mark on the system. Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union meant that Pyongyang was cut off from favourable exchange relations with its biggest trading partner. In exchange for agrarian exports the North received cheap petroleum, cooking coal, and other essential imports. The rapid decline in such imports hurt the transport infrastructure and the chemical industry, which provided fertiliser to the farms. On top of that came the death of the 'Great Leader' Kim Il Sung in 1994, who had ruled the country since the revolution. This coincided with a renewed aggression of the US because of a supposed nuclear threat, leading to a situation of near-war in June 1994. To make the chaos complete, the country was visited with two years of floods (1995 and 1996) and a summer of drought (1997), resulting in a famine that may have claimed the lives of two million people.

As in the earlier feudal kingdoms, the 'Great Leader' Kim Il Sung passed his crown onto his son Kim Jong Il. After the traditional mourning period for the first son of the king before assuming his father's leadership of the ruling party, Kim Jong Il became officially head of state on the fiftieth anniversary of the DPRK in September 1998. In a move to strengthen its position both domestically and internationally, Pyonyang fired a Taepo Dong missile over Japan in August 1998, immediately followed by an offer to suspend long-range testing. This strategy of being a "pain-in-the-ass" "rogue state" seems to have yielded some results (thanks to the regional geopolitics). Not only has it led to a softening of some US trade barriers, but also, after years of international isolation, North Korea seems to have found a new patron in Russia. During the G8 summit last July, Russian President Vladimir Putin acted as an intermediary in speaking up for Pyongyang's proposal to abandon its missile program in return for 'civilian' space technology, foreign launches of North Korean satellites. Of course Putin doesn't care about defending the DPRK for its own sake. By playing the spokesman for Pyongyang's proposal, he is trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Japan. The US has used the (exaggerated) military capabilities of the North as an excuse for its anti-missile program. Part of this anti-missile program is its announcement to advance the Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) program, which is designed to protect US troops and their allies in the field against medium- and short-range missiles. The United States and Japanese governments signed a memorandum of understanding on 16 August 1999 for joint research on this TMD. Because an anti-missile system would significantly enlarge the US military lead on the other superpowers, major countries like Russia, China, France and Germany have opposed the deployment of the anti-missile system. So by offering a less expensive solution to Japan's troubles with North Korea, Putin tries to separate Tokyo from the interests of Washington and get them in his camp. Investing in civilian space technology would indeed be a cheaper and more secure solution for Japan than the TMD. "If Japan is worried about North Korean missiles, this is the most secure path to follow. Russia has therefore put Japan in a position where it can adopt a low cost, high security solution to its problems." (Stratfor)

Definitely time to make a move for the US! On October 24, US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, visited Pyongyang to talk about security and economic issues, followed by three days of talks between Washington and Pyongyang from the 1st to 3rd November. The issues at stake for Washington are North Korea's long-range missile program and its export of missile technology to 'states of concern' such as Pakistan and Iran. Pyongyang says it will shut down its long-range missile program in exchange for foreign launches of its satellites, as Putin said, just like it gave up (or not?) its nuclear program in exchange for oil and the foreign construction of reactors to fulfil its energy needs (although Washington is delaying the construction). In exchange for suspending their export of missile technology, they ask for $1 billion a year for at least three years to compensate for the loss of export revenues. But even if Clinton decides to make a visit to Pyonyang before the end of his presidency, it remains very doubtful whether either of them will make serious concessions, and thus lose their trump card. By playing the madman on the brink of collapse, the Kim Jong Il regime has made itself the centre of geopolitics, playing one superpower off against the other, and thus securing its survival in the post-Cold War era.

This strategy also enhances its bargaining power with Seoul. Several policy makers are concerned that the North's push for a deal with the United States on military issues may weaken the tight security co-operation between Seoul and Washington. Although President Kim Dae Jung claims that the South has no interest in joining the US-Japan TMD system, the ROK appears to be developing a missile force to deter the DPRK, believing a deterrent force might be more useful than TMD in preventing an attack from the North. On 10 April 1999, South Korea test-fired a surface-to-surface missile with a potential range of 300 kilometres. In November 1999, the Pentagon announced that South Korea had asked to buy 616 Patriot missiles and 14 Patriot firing units, 14 engagement radars and 76 launching stations for anti-missiles. The Korean border is the world's most heavily fortified, and there are almost 2 million troops deployed on both sides, including 37,000 US troops in the South. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Seoul is expanding its military focus beyond North Korea on the waters and airspace around South Korea. "In expanding its areas of concern, South Korea is joining Japan and China in redefining security interests and operational strategies in post-Cold War Northeast Asia. Already some of their operations overlap and will increasingly do so. Beyond the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, however, the three nations have competing strategic and economic interests in developing and maintaining security in the shipping lanes through the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean." (Stratfor)

Therefore, one should see the rapprochement between the two Koreas as part of redefining their respective security positions in a rapidly altering regional situation. In spite of continuing mutual distrust, both regimes understand they have to collaborate in a region where military build-up is part of solving the crisis. "Traditional animosities are stirring again among China, Japan and South Korea. The new potential for a reunified Korea raises concerns from Japan and China. Competition for resources and markets among the three is increasing, with the United States no longer serving as a moderating influence. Improvements in forces and increased operational areas of Chinese, Japanese and South Korean forces over the next 10 years will alter the dynamics of the security situation in East Asia, eventually raising the possibility of confrontation among the emerging powers." (Stratfor)

As this quote argues, military and security concerns are not a world on their own, they are linked to the heightened competition for resources and markets. The North is opening up bit by bit to the capitalist world economy. "From 1997-1999, North Korea sent 215 officials to Australia, Shanghai, Singapore, the United States and other countries for economic training with assistance from the United Nations Development Program, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry. Subjects studied included foreign investment, private property and other aspects of market economy." (Stratfor) For the southern bourgeoisie it is most important to be the major player in the capitalist counter-revolution of the North. Korea would significantly enhance its international competitiveness by linking the relatively developed technology and capital of the South to the cheap but educated workforce of the North. It is no coincidence that Chung Ju Yung, the patriarch of the ROK's leading chaebol Hyundai, is one of the pace-setters for reunification. Of course, Chung is partly driven by personal ambition in becoming immortal, knowing his name will be written in the history books because of his role in the reunification. But his class position in post-Cold War Asia is also pushing him northwards. By mid 1999 Hyundai had already invested $1 billion in the DPRK, on top of technical assistance and equipment. Several other chaebols are following this example and representatives of both states are trying to reach "accords protecting investment and eliminating double taxation, two legal frameworks put forth by the South to boost investment in the Communist North." (The Korea Herald, 7/11/00)

Furthermore, bourgeois nation-building has the purpose of detracting the attention of the working class from the antagonism between capital and labour. This is even more so in a time of crisis. The South Korean bourgeoisie tries not only to expand its national market by breaking down the restrictions of the Stalinist North. Equally important is their attempt to fend off the demands of the working class by stimulating nationalism, by creating the feeling of 'us, Koreans, against the rest of the world, together we will make it' to counter the anti-capitalist mood which again is spreading rapidly throughout the working class following the crisis. Also, their nationalist project gives them an argument to crack down on dissidents 'for the sake of the country'. Does that mean Korean workers should argue against reunification? No. Our solidarity dictates we should ignore borders. The 38th parallel was established in the first place to divide the Korean workers. But we have to take an independent class position on the reunification, arguing for reunification on a socialist basis, as the first step to a socialist federation of East Asia. The proletariat should not let itself be dragged into bourgeois nationalism. As we have already explained in our document on the national question "bourgeois nationalism and proletarian internationalism are two utterly incompatible policies, reflecting the incompatible world outlook of two hostile classes."

In the words of Lenin: "In any case the hired worker will be an object of exploitation. Any successful struggle against exploitation requires that the proletariat be free of nationalism, and be absolutely neutral, so to speak, in the fight for supremacy that is going on among the bourgeoisie of the various nations. If the proletariat of any one nation gives the slightest support to the privileges of 'its' national bourgeoisie, this will inevitably rouse distrust among the proletariat of the other nations; it will weaken the international class solidarity of the workers and divide them, to the delight of the bourgeoisie." (The Right of Nations to Self-determination.)

Likewise, it seems that the Stalinist bureaucracy of the North is trying to dampen domestic tensions by offering a project of national reunification. The working class is tired of this so-called workers' state, pretending to defend their rights while they experience the exact opposite. And Kim Jong Il has not the revolutionary prestige of his late father, but is on the contrary perceived by many as no more than the man of the bureaucracy. He is the personification of all the ills of the deformed workers' state. The situation is comparable to the one in Romania in 1989 and it could lead to a similar outcome. A monstrously oppressive regime in very harsh economic conditions which pushes people to their limits and thus provokes a violent uprising of the population, which can physically eliminate the most hated elements of the bureaucracy. Therefore, one of the main reasons behind Pyongyang's rush towards the reunification of Korea is the threat of a revolutionary upheaval in the North.

Recovery, repression, REVOLT!

In spite of the compelling reasons for a national project, reunification and reviving the North's infrastructure will be a very heavy burden for the South Korean economy. And the question is, could this new national project and its costs be the straw that breaks the camel's back? On the surface it seems that the Korean economy has fully recovered from the Asian crisis. After the deep fall of GDP in 1998 (-6.7%), it recovered during 1999 with a staggering growth of 10.7%. The top 4 chaebols (Samsung, Hyundai, Lucky Goldstar and SK) realised an average growth of 20.8% in the first semester of 2000. International reserves are at $84.6 billion. In 1999 the ROK attracted more than $15 billion in foreign direct investment. Such figures were a reason for bourgeois economists to trumpet 'Asia's astonishing bounce back'.

If one looks beneath these figures, the story isn't that cheerful. Yes, international reserves are at more than $80 billion. But foreign investors also hold more than $60 billion on the Korean stock market. If this money rushes out due to whatever 'lack of confidence', history will repeat itself. Also, the celebrated trade surplus evaporated to a meagre $770 million in the first quarter of 2000, only a tenth of the 1999 $7.79 billion. Moreover, since the beginning of 2000 foreign investors have doubted the thoroughness of the chaebol reforms. The collapse in summer 1999 of one of the biggest chaebols, Daewoo, at first seemed to hasten the reforms in other chaebols. But after a while it made it clear that the process of reform wasn't going as far as investors thought. Indeed, it looked as if the banks were more prudent in their loans to the highly indebted chaebols, and the chaebols on their part were writing off their debts. The collapse of Daewoo and its consequences made clear that Korean capital had shifted its liquidity problems to other companies: the investment trusts. "When the banks ran into trouble in 1997, depositors fled for the investment-trust companies which, within a year, more than doubled the assets they controlled. The banks were calling in their loans, but the investment-trust companies were flush with cash - so the chaebol tapped them instead." (The Economist, 3/6/00) Due to the collapse of Daewoo, the Hyundai Investment Trust has now a big hole in its finances ($1.1 billion), just like other investment trusts that lent to Daewoo. Many of these endangered trusts are part of a chaebol. On top of that, the banks are also big shareholders in the trust companies. So if the trusts go down, everyone goes with them.

Since the beginning of the year the Korean stock market has been in a steady decline. Of course this has to do with the world trend on stock markets. When Hewlett Packard announced fourth-quarter results that were almost 20 per cent below expectations on November 13, the Korean conglomerate Samsung lost 7.1% and Trigem Computer lost 13%. But there is more to it than the tumbling of world stock markets. Or better, one of the reasons why capitalist profits in the West come under increased pressure, is also very vivid in South Korea, namely the revival of workers struggle. According to the Korean Ministry of Labour, in 1996 there were 85 labour conflicts, 78 in 1997, and then due to the crisis their number increased to 129 in 1998. With the economic recovery in 1999, labour conflicts became even more numerous: 181 up to November 12 1999. And in the first 7 months of 2000, there had already 169 labour conflicts in the ROK. In fact, this is normal. Economic recovery cuts unemployment (from 8.6% February 1999 to 3.6% September 2000) and in that way makes the workers feel stronger. Now they are asking for compensation for the loss in wages during the crisis and for the reintroduction of the 52-hour working week (which increased absolute surplus value). Wages have not been raised, but the work pace has accelerated (increasing relative surplus value). Job security is minimal with 52.3% of workers in part-time and contract work. The differences in income levels have reached the highest point since statistics have been available. Several observers speak of the rise of a 20/80 society: 20% of the Koreans with a middle or upper class life style, 80% poor.

The year 2000 has already seen some heroic workers struggles. In June about 1,000 hotel employees occupied the Lotte Hotel to demand the 40-hour working week, a 17% wage increase, a permanent contract and better pension conditions. A police force three times as big as the gathered workers intervened brutally. 70 people were injured. A few days later the same happened at the National Health Insurance Corporation, where more than 1,600 workers held a sit-in. 12 union leaders were kept in custody. On the 4th of July, the new 'progressive' President Kim Dae Jung declared he would not tolerate 'illegal' strikes any longer. In that way, he practically abolishes the fundamental right of workers to organise strikes. Already in 1998, the year of the crisis and Kim's first year in the presidency, the regime arrested 209 labour leaders. That's the real face behind Korea's fresh bourgeois democracy: the defence of the same interests, if need be with the same brutal means as the dictator Kim Dae Jung. The labour movement responded with several demonstrations to Kim's declaration. When Dan Byung-ho, head of the KCTU, got injured himself during such a demonstration, the leaders of the KCTU shaved off their hair (a sign of extreme protest in Korea) and announced an all-out war on the Kim Dae Jung regime.

The unions have already organised meetings to protest against the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the union-basher Kim Dae Jung. The O20 (October 20) protests against ASEM were also part of the action plan. Since mid November the movement has taken a step further. The immediate cause was the announcement of Daewoo Motors' bankruptcy and the closure of other 'non-viable' firms. Daewoo Motors was the most viable part of Daewoo after the collapse of the conglomerate in 1999. When last September Ford pulled back its offer to take over Daewoo Motors, General Motors and Fiat stepped in, demanding further restructuring, including 3,500 job cuts. Since the unions rejected these harsh measures, Daewoo Motors was declared bankrupt. Also, creditor banks revealed a list of 52 weak firms that would be liquidated, court managed, merged or sold off. This will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. A private economic research institute predicted in a report that the latest corporate reform would result in the loss of 200,000 jobs, adding to the already 800,000 unemployed in South Korea. Even if there were only half this loss, as the Ministry of Finance and Economy argues, unemployment would go up from 3.6% to 4.1% in December. In fact, this figure underestimates what is to come in the near future. The biggest chaebols are threatened with bankruptcy, too. The commercial vehicle division of Samsung Motors has already been closed by the government, after failing to find an investor. Hyundai Engineering, a flagship of the giant Hyundai Group, is under pressure to present a drastic reform package or face bankruptcy. The construction company, which employs about 100,000 people through staff and sub-contractors, is struggling to find $5 billion of debt due by the end of the year. During the third quarter of 2000, LG Chemical, the flagship of the LG Group, saw its net profit drop by 41% from the previous quarter. Layoffs will be the typical answer of the bosses. And the job losses will not confine themselves to Korea. Even now, 300 jobs in Australia are threatened by the closure of Daewoo. The chaebol is also the biggest investor in Uzbekistan and one of the biggest in Poland. Of course, big business doesn't complain about their competitor's troubles. For instance, Volkswagen said they're interested in buying Daewoo Motors' commercial vehicle plant in Poland.

The accumulation of layoffs, repression and imperialist bullying sparked a wave of labour protests. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), the two major umbrella labour groups with a total of 1.6 million members, said they would stage anti-government protests and nation-wide strikes in November and December. Sunday November 12, about 100 people were injured when thousands of angry KCTU activists battled riot police in the most violent labour protest this year. Again 20.000 workers gathered in Seoul to protest, chanting slogans like "No layoffs!" and "Down with Kim Dae Jung!". They also called for the nationalisation of Daewoo Motors. "The workers used trucks, rocks, steel pipes and fireworks in attempts to break through a police blockade. Police wearing black helmets and bullet-proof vests fought back with truncheons. The fight was led by about 2.000 activists wearing red mufflers and white helmets. "Three protesters carrying a one-meter-high gas can rushed towards a police blockade, threatening to burst it, as dozens of fellow workers were severely beaten by riot police. Police said 50 officers were injured, while unions claimed the same number of injuries." (AFP at www.Labourstart.org) A week later, on Sunday November 19, Seoul was once again the scene of mass workers' demonstrations, when 20,000 FKTU members protested against the government-led (and imperialists-induced) restructuring plan in industry, banks, and state companies. "Sunday's protest was in support of the 23,000-member union of the state power utility, Korea Electric Power Corp., which the government plans to break into several units and sell. A 950-megawatt gas-fuelled electric power plant belonging to the firm has already been sold to a consortium of local and foreign firms, including Caltex and Texaco of the United States." (Associated Press at www.Labourstart.org)

A new (and very old) agenda for Asia: Building Socialism in the 21st Century

The history of 20th century Korea all points to one solution: revolution as the means to arrive at a just society. The ancestors of the militant proletariat showed the way when they set up committees of workers and peasants immediately after the liberation from Japanese imperialism and World War 2. They defended these organisations of dual power from the capitalist state with their own blood, because during the process of revolution they grasped the simple fact that only by taking their lives into their own hands, only by developing a structure alternative to the structure which oppressed them, they would secure a free and humane life for themselves and their children. Only the socialist transformation of society could (and can) bring a better world. They were betrayed by the bourgeois-nationalist and Stalinist leaderships alike! If the Korean people had succeeded in the socialist transformation of society, they would have set an example for the rest of Asia and the world. If the Korean people had succeeded in the socialist transformation of society, half a century of suffering would have been avoided!

After the brutal repression under Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee, the collective memory of the South Korean working class was largely erased, and they had to start all over again. Meanwhile, the deformed workers' state of the North made big (mainly economic) progress due to the planned economy. That way, the Kim Il Sung regime could buy off the workers resentment at the lack of workers' democracy. Although Kim's Stalinism at first was a major step forward compared to the period of imperialism, it gradually turned into a major obstacle when the post-war wave of the colonial revolution and the Cold War came to an end in Asia. Today the Stalinism of the North Korean regime is arguably the biggest brake on a socialist revolution in Korea.

Nevertheless, the Korean working class is in a rapid process of learning, crushing one illusion after the other. During the 1970s and 1980s, class-consciousness developed step by step, resulting in the Great Labour Offensive of 1987-89. In these three glorious years union membership expanded and the unions got better organised. This was proved by the general strike of 1996-97. On top of the spontaneous strikes came a new weapon: a well thought-out plan, an orchestrated manner to paralyse the country. Again, the Asian crisis meant a new lesson, a very harsh one. During the crisis workers learned that all the gains they had made since 1987, could evaporate overnight under capitalism. Moreover, through their confrontation with the IMF they came to understand that exploitation is not a national phenomenon of the big chaebols, but it is internationally organised. Now they've smashed another illusion: that bourgeois democracy will defend their cause. When the former dissident Kim Dae Jung became president, most workers believed he would initiate a new era of prosperity for all. But on the basis of their experience, the labour movement has now come to the conclusion that dictatorship or bourgeois democracy is not the fundamental question.

It is time to move on. What then is the fundamental question? CAPITALISM or SOCIALISM is the fundamental question! The transformation of society onto a higher stage! Following the path of their grandparents in the years after the Second World War! In fact, the Korean working class is now far stronger and better organised than their grandparents. The capitalist development of the rural South has created a strong proletariat out of the former peasants. Because of the Cold War, the imperialists stimulated rapid capitalist development. But in the same process they stimulated the development of a strong working class! This is completely in accordance with the predictions of Marx and Engels in 1848 when they stated that "with the development of industry the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more." And further: "The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the bourgeois class, is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labour. Wage labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers." (Manifesto of the Communist Party.)

Last year, the Korean labour movement (more specifically the KCTU) again moved a step forward in its struggle, by founding its own workers' party: the Democratic Labour Party. And the Korean working class is already formulating transitional demands out of their own experience: wage increases, diminishing of labour time with preservation of wages, nationalisation of Daewoo! It is time to compile these transitional demands into a real transitional PROGRAM, a socialist program defended by a socialist party. Why should workers only demand the nationalisation of one company in trouble? Of course, nationalisation has to be accompanied by the cancellation of all debts, and that way the financial trouble would be over. But why leave the huge profits and the control over the chaebols in the hands of the Korean or foreign bourgeoisie? The demand for the nationalisation of Daewoo should be expanded to the nationalisation of the key sectors of the economy under workers' control, as a first step to the socialisation of the economy! The nationalised economy has already proven its superiority over private ownership in the past. The South could only catch up with the North by making a capitalist copy of the planned economy. When President Kim Young Sam abolished the Economic Planning Board in 1997 to join the OECD, he made a crucial mistake, which was proved by the chaos in economic policy during the crisis. Now it is time for a better version of the planned economy, not a planned economy ruled by a bureaucratic elite, bourgeois or Stalinist, protecting the interests of a minority. No! The interests of the workers demand a DEMOCRATICALLY PLANNED ECONOMY!

Before the Asian crisis there was a tale going around in the corridors of bourgeois institutions, a tale of an Asian 21st century, Asia taking over the capitalist West. With the crisis, this hope of the Asian bourgeoisie (and fear of the Western bourgeoisie) was shattered into pieces. But now, with the mass demonstrations in Seoul, the Korean proletariat has begun to write a new tale. Together with their comrades in the North, together with the young revolutionary proletariat of Indonesia and the other "Tigers", together with the betrayed, but militant proletariat of the Stalinist regimes, together with the experienced proletariat of Asia's imperialist giant, Japan, the Korean proletariat can set an example to the rest of the world, to the world proletariat! Spreading the revolution to the four winds, THEY CAN MAKE ASIA THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD, not the world as we know it, the capitalist world where one man is a wolf for the others, but the world of humanity in its broadest sense, the world of social man, THE WORLD OF SOCIALISM!!