Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.

Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Korean Labor Demonstrations

Yesterday, I wrote about Korean labor demonstrations, which are world-famous for their violence (see S Korea braces for massive strike).

Why are Korean labor protests so violent? I've heard the Korean workforce described as one of the most "coddled" on Earth. I personally know a factory worker whose union routinely goes on strike until management agrees to give all workers a "bonus" of about $1000 to lure them back to the job.

It is well-known that these protests are fueled by soju and makkoli, two Korean liquors supplied to demonstrating workers in the front lines by their union leaders. Also, this is a time for workers to vent their frustration, which might be aimed at their job or society at large. Korean society, based on Confucianism, is a highly regimented one in which an age difference of only one year necessitates that the "junior" use honorific language and assume a servile position to the "senior." A common mental illness among middle-age Korean men is hwatbyeong, anger-disease, whose victims can be seen standing on street corners screaming at passersby. It is thought that this disease is caused by the lack of an outlet for legitimate anger.

There is much good to be retained from Confucianism. This was confirmed by Mateo Ricci and the other Catholic missionaries to China in the 16th and 17th Centuries who did honor to the philosophy by giving us the latinized names of Confucius and Mencius and early translations of their works. It provides for a stable social structure we in the West sorely lack. However, Confucianism, like all pagan philosophy, while holding kernals of truth that come from God's gift of Natural Law, is ultimately insufficient.

Korea's and Asia's (and the World's) best hope for a future of peace and harmony is in the healthy egalitarianism that respects leadership and hierarchy found in Christianity, specifically Catholic Christianity, and which is bulit upon the foundation of what is good and honorable in the traditional cultures and philosophies of the past.