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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Defining terminology: "progress" and "ordinary people"

Progress
It's not today's news that the Korean term 'progress' (chinbo / jinbo) is being diluted into meaning nothing or being synonymous with sympathy for authoritarianism and dictatorship. The same happened in Finland in the 1970s when 'progress' (Fi. edistys) was in certain circles measured in one's attitude towards Soviet Union; for example trying to have textbooks critical (?) of the Soviet Union removed from university courses was progress.
This time Voice of People, a newssite which has been a frontrunner in these developments of the progress of the term 'progress', has an article in which, in the wake of the recent DPRK announcement of the possession of a nuclear weapon, a representative of a "unification organization" explains what progress means. It is obvious that such organizations are not pleased that some other groups which elsewhere claim to be progressive have put part of the responsibility of the nuclear development on the country that did the development. In their view, that cannot be progress, since progress is taking the side of DPRK in all issues.
First, representative Hwang Seon [of Unification Alliance] says of the statement by People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy that there are many with a "DPRK complex" among intellectuals who claim to be progressives. They are suspective of Chosun, Joongang, and Donga [newspapers], but in the case of the North, they trust the main newspapers as such and accept the stories coming from them as truth.
The representative Hwang Seon explains, that in the South the basis for progress is the view on North Korea (Ibuk). "The people who don't have a solified (hwakkohada) view on the North, are putting blame on both sides." He points out that if North Korea is not viewed with an open mind, it's difficult to achieve solid progressiveness.


Seomin / ordinary people
And now for a concept which is closer to my heart, and of which I've made numerous notes before. Hankyoreh writes that while banks are sitting on heaps of money after a very good year of 2004, the financial services available for the "ordinary people" (seomin / sômin) are getting thinner and thinner. (This time "ordinary people's financial services" [sômin kûmyung] doesn't refer to separate financing institutions but to services available in banks.) Very fittingly with the concept sômin, the two cases given in the article are woman selling eggs and vegetables in a marketplace and a keeper of a beer house. One of the often recurring characteristics of "ordinary people" is the disadvantage in getting financial services, which often makes them to turn to curb loans and usury.

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