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Issue No. 124 15 February 2002  

Chickens Come Home
For anyone who believes in karma, the events of the summer show how bad Australia's is right now.


Unions: Winning the Heartland
John Robertson unveils new research on attitudes to refugees and argues it's time for unions to mount their own propaganda war.

Interview: Swan's Song
Federal ALP front-bencher Wayne Swan expands on his ideas for rebuilding the Party in the wake of the Tampa election.

Corporate: Lessons from Enron
Jim Marr looks at the shock-waves the collapse of a US corporate heavy-weight are having around the globe.

Politics: What We Did Last Summer
We look back over a summer when it all went pear-shaped. Some events, at home and abroad, look set to have ongoing ramifications.

History: Solidarity in Song
Mark Gregory looks back on the annals of labour songs and offers some hints for those planning a tilt at the Labor Council's worker anthem comp.

International: A Tale of Two Cities
New York and Port Alegre are poles apart � but they both played host to important conferences on the future of globalisation over the summer.

Poetry: Nobody Told Me
Labour academic David Peetz commits the Prime Minister's current woes to verse.

Review: Labor and the Rings
Tolkien�s epic tale provides a timely reminder that that there are forces of good and evil in the world � and that they are not necessarily where we expect to find them, writes Michael Gadiel.

Satire: Rafter Named Bermudan Of The Year For Tax Purposes
Australian of the Year Pat Rafter was last night also named Bermudan of the Year, in a simple ceremony held in Bermuda's Parliament.


 Unions' Commit to Battle for Hearts

 Carr on Notice - Expectations Up

 Mad Monk Sides With Angels � Briefly

 Maritime Union Acts on Spy Scandal

 May Day Play-Off for Workers' Anthem

 Burmese Links Shroud Winter Olympics

 New Phone Venture One.Tel In Drag

 Two Million Face Rights Downgrade

 Enron Collapse Hits Share-Owner Agenda

 Corrrigan Snaps Up Rail Bargain

 Kinko Clowns With Workers' Rights

 MPs Face Security Checks

 Telstra's Tragic Delays Of Its Own Making

 Burrow Puts Case to World Economic Forum

 Shangri La Protests Hit Melbourne

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Chinks in the Armour
The ACTU's Michael Crosby argues that Mark Latham's attack on the Labor for Refugees movement is the betrayal of Party values.

The Locker Room
Off-side in Korea?
With the World Cup set to kick off in a matter of months, South Korea's treatment of unions is under the microscope.

Week in Review
Cloak and Dagger
In the first of what will be a regular column, we place the week's labour news into a nutshell.

 In Whose Interests?
 'International Labour's Year in Review' - A Re-View
 Belly's Broad-Side
 Collins Gets Cryptic
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The Locker Room

Off-side in Korea?

By Jasper Goss

With the World Cup set to kick off in a matter of months, South Korea's treatment of unions is under the microscope.

World Cup 2002


The great Caribbean Trotskyist writer CLR James in Beyond a Boundary (written in the early 1960s) established the inseparable nature of sport and politics. James demonstrated, by examining the social role of cricket in the West Indies, how the initial struggles to indigenise West Indian cricket fed into anti-colonial struggles and ultimately into successful independence from the British Empire.

Since Beyond a Boundary many sporting events have frequently, overly and covertly, highlighted political conflicts. To name a few: the Olympics throughout the Cold War as battles between the US and the USSR; any sporting event with South Africa during the racist era of apartheid; and, the struggle for African-American civil rights exemplified in the career of Muhammad Ali. We cannot think of such sporting moments without the association of politics.

In fact it is difficult not to see politics in any major sporting event, let alone the largest and most popular: the World Cup.

This year's World Cup is jointly hosted by Japan and Korea (South). Everyone understands that soccer is huge business - revenues from advertising, merchandising and broadcast rights will no doubt equal the annual income of some medium-sized countries.

Let us review what we know about one of the countries hosting the World Cup.

We know that South Korea, after having recovered from a devastating war 50 years ago, is now the 13th richest country in the world and has produced global manufacturing and industrial conglomerates. Yet, despite this wealth South Korea's citizens only gained the right to vote for their president in 1987.

In fact for much of the last half of the Twentieth Century Korea was ruled by a succession of brutal dictatorships. What was of profound importance in bringing down the dictatorships were the struggles of democratic labour movements whose activities were criminalised by the state.

Organising a union not controlled by the government led to gaol. Initiating industrial activity outside the confines of government-approved unions led to gaol.

Just last year, over 600 trade unionists were arrested for undertaking basic trade union work. The leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) Dan Byong Ho sits in a Seoul gaol under a two and a half year sentence for having organised protests against the IMF restructuring packages adopted by the Korean government.

What has any of this to do with the World Cup?

The South Korean government hopes people see no connection between the sporting conditions on the pitch and the social conditions in the country. The government wants Korea to be seen as a 'happy' place, which is efficient and good for business.

Which means there can be no strikes or industrial activity.

Which means trade union activists who highlight the denial of fundamental rights have to be silenced or marginalised.

Which means workers cannot draw attention to the exploitative conditions under which they labour.

Which means the focus of the World Cup must be football, not the casual worker in the hotel being paid a pittance as she makes the bed of a visiting tourist and denied the right of joining a union of her own choice.

Which means the focus of the World Cup must be the latest fashion accessory disguised as a football boot, not the unemployed trade unionist fired for trying to get better wages.

So when the football lands in the goal net and the camera pans across cheering (or disappointed) faces this June it is important to remember what the World Cup represents. For some it will be about national prowess and redemption.

But for the Korean government the World Cup will be used to demonstrate the country's modernity and embrace of the world. Yet, the government has been very selective in this embrace. Fundamental rights for workers remain missing in Korea's drive for modernity and attempting to ignore this absence in the commercial euphoria of the World Cup will only leave a bitter legacy.


Jasper Goss is information and research officer with the Asia and Pacific Regional Secretariat of the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations.


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