North and South Korea

Testing: learn from Korea and Taiwan

Some trade-unionists have suggested swab-testing of all workers in each workplace before a return to work. The Tory government’s focus on the crude total of test numbers as the big thing has boosted this idea. Full isolation pay for those with symptoms, or identified as contacts of virus-sufferers, and social distancing plus PPE where necessary in the workplace, will help much more. So will regular (instant-result) temperature checks, widely used and effective (so far as we can tell) in South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. More testing is surely needed for a “tracking and tracing” policy. When...

Face masks a factor?

Martin Thomas’s article “Can we get R<1?” ( Solidarity 544, 21 April) was useful and insightful. However, he is too quick at one point to evaluate and attribute causality in successful strategies for limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus which causes Covid-19): “China seems to have exited lockdown, and South Korea to have avoided it. That is hopeful. But that has been done by measures of state control and surveillance which European states could not equal. Even France, which many more police per head of population than the UK, and has imposed 100 times more fines for breaches of...

Requisition and workers' control to get tests and PPE

In the Thursday 8pm “clapping for the NHS” on 2 April 2020, many people chanted “Test! Test! Test! PPE!” Health workers are pressing the government on its failure to meet its promises to expand testing hugely, to make PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] available to all, and to agree adequate PPE guidelines for health workers. So, even, are NHS bosses. NHS Providers, a confederation of NHS hospital, mental health, community, and ambulance trusts, said on 3 April: “There are still trusts that are unable to begin testing, and lack of swabs, reagents and test kits is a continuing concern”. They...

Barbarism or barbarism?

The South Korean film Parasite, a satire of social and economic inequality, has made quite an impression on two major institutions of world cinema. At the Cannes film festival it won the Palme d’Or, and then it won Best Film at the Oscars. It is not difficult to satirise such things, especially when there is an appetite for such in the institutions and audiences of the bourgeoisie. These are feel-good films because they help maintain the myth that world cinema is in fine aesthetic and moral health. In his previous works (The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer, and Okja) director Bong Joan-ho follows...

Korea: fragile peace moves

The Panmunjom declaration was signed by North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in on 27 April. It commits North Korea to complete denuclearisation and an end to war on the Korean peninsula, creating a “new era of peace.” Similar words were said at summits in both 2000 and 2007. Symbolically, both countries agreed to stop propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarised zone and to end leaflet drops. This all comes just a few months from North Korean missile tests and Donald Trump saying he would use “fire and fury” in response. No previous North Korean leader...

Korean tensions fuel reaction

Renewed UN sanctions have not been able to break the deadlock on North Korea. As Kim and Trump flirt with war, the tensions on the Korean peninsula are fuelling reactionary politics across the region, and live-fire American-South Korean military exercises and repeated North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests. On 11 September, the UN rejected a harsher set of sanctions proposals from the US, instead adopting a ban on North Korean textile exports and capping oil sales to the country. While Trump has claimed that the oil cap is producing “long gas lines in North Korea”, commentators point...

North Korea plays a deadly game

The criminal game of brinkmanship being played between the rulers of the big capitalist powers and the Stalinist monarchy of North Korea continues to menace millions of innocent people with the threat of nuclear war. On 28 August, North Korea’s rulers fired a missile over Japan; a week later, they tested what they said was a hydrogen bomb, proving that they are now well on the way to developing a nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the mainland United States. The increased tensions are a result of two destabilising factors: a string of technical successes for North Korea’s engineers (or...

Against Trump, against Kim — solidarity with North Korean workers!

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are increasing, confronting millions of innocent people with the threat of nuclear war. The tensions spring from a combination of the ramping up of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, and US President Donald Trump’s “Wall Street” approach to international diplomacy. Andrew Gamble sums up Trump’s diplomatic style: “Trump’s experience was as a reality TV host… He approaches relations with other leaders with an eye on how it’s going to play with his base and how he can make himself look good. He uses bluff and does outrageous things partly in the belief that...

Trump targets North Korea

On 4 April, the Syrian government used chemical weapons on civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in northern Syria. On the morning of 7 April, Donald Trump’s government responded with a cruise missile attack on the Syrian airbase which the US military believes was used to launch the chemical attack. Trump has also sent a navy battle group to the waters off the Korean coast. Trump’s actions carry a number of advantages for the US government beyond destroying the targets and intimidating Assad. By showing a willingness to use military force Trump ramps up pressure on North Korea and...

Changing through struggle

Sun-Hee works as a cashier in a large supermarket in a South Korean town. She is just about managing, working unpaid overtime she hopes will earn her the permanent position she has been promised which would enable her to satisfy some of her children’s wants. Shy and passive, she watches as a colleague, Hye-mi, is humiliated by being forced to apologise on her knees to a customer. Then all the non-permanent staff are sacked by text message as the company wants to outsource their jobs because, as one manager says, everybody’s doing it. The women meet secretly and set up a union. Sun-Hee...

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