Is a Progressive Leftist Party Possible in a Divided Nation? The Case of the Labor Party in South Korea

April 19, 2017 @ 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Room 802, Eighth Floor, South Ross Building
4700 Keele St
North York, ON M3J 1P3
Laam Hae

With Saihwa Hong (Sehwa Hong), one of the most prominent figures in the progressive movement in South Korea.

The division of Korea (between capitalist and communist Koreas) has contributed to the spread of a so-called red-complex and made difficult the development of progressive politics in South Korea. A progressive politics was further inhibited due to its internal division, in which the National Liberation faction (i.e. the nationalist leftist faction) held sway over other factions. The problem of the hegemony of the nationalist left was most acutely felt within the Democratic Labor Party in the 2000s. This undermined the progressive bloc’ power to fight the neoliberal system in the country and consolidate itself in the form of a progressive leftist party. Reflecting on the Labor Party (former New Progressive Party)’s work in the last few years, Hong’s talk discusses the dilemmas of progressive politics in South Korea.

An educator, author and journalist, Hong received a Baccalaureate in Political Science and International Relations from Seoul National University (1977). His membership of the Preparation Committee for Nam-Chosun People’s Liberation Front forced him and his family to seek political asylum in France in 1979.

He returned to Seoul after two decades, where he worked as planning fellow at Hankyoreh Sinmun and editor at Le Monde Diplomatique Korea in the first decade of the twenty-first century. His autobiographical book I am a Taxi Driver in Paris (1995) resonated with a wide readership as a sincere account of the diasporic experience and progressive intellectualism.

He was the leader of New Progressive Party in South Korea (2011-2012) before the party was dissolved to form the Labor Party, where he currently serves as advisor. He is also actively involved in wide-ranging projects such as Chair of May, which commemorates the Kwangju democratic movement in 1980, and Jean Valjean Bank, a grassroots safety-net program that provides loans without interest or a guarantor to prisoners who cannot afford bail.

His talk is part of YCAR’s Research’s Korea in Asia series and is co-sponsored by Hope 21.

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