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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

woes of Democratic Labor Party

Hankyoreh 21 weekly has a story about the not so small problems that the Democratic Labor Party is struggling with at the moment. Nothing is really new: support figures going down like cow's tail (this isn't an English idiom, is it?), power struggle between PD ("people's democracy") and NL ("national liberation") factions, an image too closely associated with the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), and North Korea as well.
The article remarks that DLP has two "sacred precints" (sôngyôk 聖域), topics on which the range of opinions is very restricted: KCTU and North Korea. The former is given treatment in the text, citing opinion surveys on DLP, but the latter, North Korea, is given just that one notice - in a magazine that claims to have no "sacred precints" (성역없는 비판 보도 <한겨레21>).

The article cites some interesting pieces of info from the survey by Hangil Research about the support figures of DLP at the time when the overall party support wass 7.8%:
middle school or less 1%
high school 4
techn. college 10
university 10

Agriculture etc 2.1%
Self-empl. 3.7
Blue collar 12.3
White collar 10.6
Housewife 4.5
Student 4.3

Family income
1 mil W or less 1.2%
1-2 mil W 6.0
2-3 mil W 5.5
3-4 mil W 11.2
4 mil W or more 8.6
DLP has been doing some good work on the behalf of the self-employed for example in gathering info and providing support on the issue of high-interest loans, but as much as it aims and claims to work for and represent the interests of these shopkeepers and other petty businesspeople (most often sômin/seomin in the political lingo), it hasn't really been able to reach out to those people, and I guess one reason must be the KTCU image. It is interesting that the support of DLP is the highest among the "blue collars" (manufacturing industry workers, working class), and the income stratum with the highest support figure for DLP is 3-4 million won (2500-3300€).

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Comments to note "woes of Democratic Labor Party" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger Dram Man> said on 16.8.06 : 

Antti> Perhaps the diffrence between "blue collar" support and income levels is simply, thats how much a militant DLP "blue collar" worker makes. This is not a flippant comment. Just consider all the union corruption allegaions that went on a year ago, you expect me to believe that such is isolated?

<Anonymous Antti Leppänen> said on 16.8.06 : 

Actually, I was thinking that as well, but then I also thought that most of the 11.2% in the 3.4 mil W stratum may as well be those white collars. But there's a high likelihood that the "blue collars" permanently employed in export industries make a major part of those quite well-off supporters. I'd be interesting to see info on DLP support within "blue collars" to see how income is reflected in that.

And, I have changed "but" in that sentence to "and", which reflects more what I intended to hint at.

<Anonymous kotaji/owen> said on 16.8.06 : 

I think *quite* or *relatively* well off has to be emphasised here. 3.4 million/month is not that much - we are talking about household income right? Personally I've got nothing against sections of the working class using their industrial muscle to raise their living standards. The problem comes (as we have seen in Korea) when unions begin to act to protect the interests of a 'labour aristocracy' or even just the union bureaucracy that live off them rather than workers as a whole. To be fair to the KCTU though, it seems that both tendencies exist within it to some extent.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this article to my attention Antti. I must read it carefully before I comment any more, but one thing that struck me scanning through it was the lower rate of support for the DLP among students than among housewives!

<Anonymous kotaji/owen> said on 17.8.06 : 

I said I wouldn't comment any more, but...

A couple of things. On linguistic points, I don't believe that 'going down like a cow's tail' is an English expression, but it sounds good anyway. And this word sôngyôk 聖域 - I wonder whether it could be translated into English more naturally as 'taboo subject' or something like that?

It's interesting that this supposed crisis for the DLP is happening at the same time as another recently successful 'new left' electoral party - the Scottish Socialist Party - is having its own meltdown. Although of course there are great differences between Scotland and South Korea, it is the case that one of the main fracture lines in the SSP is between those who lean more toward nationalism and those who lean more toward working class politics.

For a response to the Hankyoreh 21 article check out the piece in this week's Counterfire by Han Kyuhan - he usually writes good stuff.

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