On The Monitor this week:
- We follow up on last week’s show with more news from South Korea with Wol-san Liem
- Reconsidering the “radicalization” question with Graylan Hagler
More about this week’s guests:
Wol-san Liem is the Director of International Affairs,Korean Federation of Public Services and Transport Workers Union (KPTU), Korea, the KCTU affiliate organizing in public institutions and public and private transport.
Background: Thousands gathered in Seoul on December 5 to protest President Park Geun-hye’s proposed anti-worker labor market reforms, as well as her pursuit of new free trade agreements and plans for public schools to use a state-authored history book. Korean unions see the fight to stop the labor market reforms as critical to the future of the South Korean economy. The changes would make it easier for companies to fire workers and unilaterally restructure work conditions, as well as increase their use of temporary and sub-contracted labor, a situation faced by many workers around the world. For more see South Korea Targets Dissent, New York Times Editorial, November 19, 2015. Also South Korean Labor Strikes Back (Interview with KCTU President Han Sang-gyun) by Hyun Lee, Foreign Policy in Focus, November 12, 2015
Graylan Hagler is with the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies. He just wrote the piece “When Were They Radicalized? That’s Not the Right Question!” — which states: “The big question these days dominating the airwaves is when was Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik radicalized; or who radicalized them; and how were they radicalized? This question is a perplexing one because it assumes that without outside influence everything would be all right and that there are no valid grievances, or anger, and no desire for revenge or justice no matter how misguided those desires might be manifested.
“This is a strange line of query because it presupposes that without external forces radicalization would be impossible. This line of questioning illustrates a blind patriotism of empire proportion that believes that anyone upset and acting out is either demented or have fallen under the influences of a political/religious ideology that exploits the weak minded or the mentally deranged. To even ask the question is to make the assumption that everything is OK around us and in our world and would be regarded as such if it were not for outside influences. But this perspective has a tendency to ignore the realities of what so many people live under and have to endure daily. It is often from personal experiences, relationships with those impacted by what most of us don’t see or care about are the radicalizing factors. The present queries act as if there are no valid grievances, no real anger, and as if there is innocence on the part of the powerful, the U.S. and others. But this is not the way that peoples of the Middle East, North Africa and Asia see the U.S. or the West.
“The U.S. and its partners have been at war for more than 14 years in Afghanistan. The U.S. began an unprovoked and preemptive war in Iraq in 2003 and virtually destroyed the country where today ISIL is filling part of the vacuum created by that war, and the President of Afghanistan literally is presiding over nothing but the capital city of that country, Kabul. The U.S. under the cry of removing President Bashar Hafez al-Assad in Syria by helping to orchestrate and sustain a civil war has created a displacement crisis of epic proportion and caused the deaths of more than 250,000 people. Conditions in many countries have worsened under the wars and the remaking of the Middle East and North Africa in the West’s image.” Similarly, Hagler writes: “Our continual military support of Israel against Palestinians challenges the view that everything is OK without the influences of ‘outside agitators’ radicalizing people and calling them to arms.”