Tactful Efforts in South Korea Initiated by a Suffolk Professor

Tucked into the corner of the 10th floor of the domineering 73 Tremont building, the government department resides as home to internationally acclaimed professors whose activism, scholarship, and progressive teaching create a thriving atmosphere for students’ desires. Neither boastful nor brazen, professors of the government department take on trials of the world with modest portrayals and inspiring intentions.

Alongside former ambassadors and scholars-at-risk in Suffolk’s government department, one professor has gone above and beyond the call of duty with sympathies directed toward the Republic of Korea. Professor Simone Chun, who teaches among other topics: global political economy, human rights, and the politics of China on campus, has exercised her abilities to network in professional capacities to reach out and make a difference. These efforts are characterized by activism for workers and international awareness to raise any issues pressing the country. Over the past few years, developments in her undertakings with workers’ rights activists have come to fruition.

Beginning in 2011 at the Hanjin Heavy Industries shipping company on the southern coast of Korea, a female employee set the tone of protest against an abuse and hindrance of rights on the job. According to the Los Angeles Times, “South Korean labor activist Kim Jin Suk” held a 309-day labor protest atop a construction crane. Her quandaries included “the excesses of the country’s corporate culture, in this instance the 400 job-cuts announced by the bosses last year.” This protest resulted in agreements with both the company and the Korean National Assembly on rights of workers unions. Professors Chun’s work, namely in assisting world-wide awareness, led to endorsements by renowned activists such as Noam Chomsky.

Employee Choi Gang-seo committed suicide on account of unlivable conditions surrounding his employment at company. His suicide letter read as follows: “I surrender to the abuse of the [company] owners… I cannot even conceive of such huge sum of money, let alone where it would come from. It’s hard to survive in this world where money means everything.”

The emotionally devastating manifestation has sparked even more interest in workers’ rights. Choi’s wife has pleaded, not in sympathy, but in the name of action and progress, for strides to be taken in talks with unions. Choi’s wife is also seeking funds to finally bury her husband whose body still “remains in a mortuary refrigerator.”

Throughout the previous protest, Professor Chun’s efforts of exposure and international attention assisted greatly in proliferating awareness which allowed for monumental change. Unfortunately for the most recent protest, the shipping company, Hanjin Heavy Industries, went back on their word which led to the demise of employee Byung-seo.

Professor Chun wishes to simply raise awareness, namely in support of Choi’s wife. With a specific target and potential concrete results, focusing on one individual is all that Chun desires. “To reduce the suffering of only one,” Chun stated, “is worth it.” In connecting an international audience via large, inclusive networks of scholars, Chun yearns to successfully mobilize activists around the world for small, tangible efforts which represent issues that may be too great and idealistic to be changed.

Professor Chun firmly believes in students, especially of institutions in the United States who are receptive to international causes and can develop the competencies to move forward in the future toward evident change.

Professor Chun’s latest endeavor involves recent threats by the North Korean government to go ahead with a third nuclear weapons test as a product of furthered sanctions. Chun is vying for international discourse that considers further the threat that more sanctions and less diplomacy will have on the humanitarian crisis in North Korea. With malnourished breast-feeding women, a third of five-year-olds with stunted growth, and many civilians starving to death; the people must not be subsidiary to international political woes.

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