[www-features] PROPOSAL Struggle Against Evictions in Korea
jefejose at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 1 18:13:10 PST 2009
(I don't have the password to post this story~ thanks, eemoogee
-this article was written by members from the imc-korea preparation working group)
Header: KOREA: EVICTION STRUGGLE
Title: The Deadly Face of Development: Struggle Against Evictions in Korea
An illegally and incompetently conducted raid on activists and tenants
protesting their forced eviction left 6 dead and has sparked continuing
demonstrations against police violence, massive redevelopment, and the
administration that has exacerbated both of these issues.
Monday, January 19th, evictee-protesters members from Jun Chul Yun, or
the Federation Against House Demolition, including tenants from the
neighborhood as well as other areas, occupied a five story building in
Yongsan4ga neighborhood and assembled a defensive shelter on the roof.
Roof-top access was blocked to prevent the police from removing them.
The evictee-protesters prepared themselves for an occupation and
struggle, supplied with, among other items, paint thinner and molotov
A 1500 strong police force was dispatched to disperse about 50 protesters.
10pm, the night before the police raid, "contract workers" hired by the
landowners, referred to by many as "construction thugs" for their <a
threatening and attacking evictees , gathered on the second floor of
the building. The police threatened to use force against the protestors
unless they ended their sit-in. In an apparent attempt to intimidate
the protesters, the construction thugs set fire to used tires on the
third floor of the building.
6am, Tuesday the 20th, the police sent a SWAT team into the building,
and mobilized three water trucks to spray the roof with water. In an
unprecedentedly short period of time for dealing with protests and
sit-ins, a SWAT team was deployed in an "anti-terror" operation.
According to Yongsan District police chief Baek Dong-san, they took
such swift action because the protesters continued hurling cocktails,
bricks and golf balls and spraying acid at officers and passers-by.
There were 42 activists on the roof. Access to the roof being blocked
off from inside the building, the police used a crane to lift the SWAT
team above the roof in a metal storage container unit. The police
sprayed the roof from the container box with a water hose, while the
protesters resisted, throwing molotov cocktails. At 7:30, a fire, of
unknown origins broke out within the makeshift fort. The police
continued to spray water cannons and hoses at the roof, the water
mixing with paint thinner and spreading the fire throughout the
building. The smoke grew thicker and flames bigger, and protesters
struggled to evacuate the shed. As the shed filled with water, the
paint-thinner, being lighter than water, floated on the surface and
prevented the fire from being extinguished. Cans of paint thinner were
seen being frantically thrown out of small windows in the shed, in an
attempt to prevent the growth of the fire. One protester, seeking to
flee the flames, hung from a window, eventually falling four floors to
the ground. He suffered severe injuries from the fall, as the police
had not prepared any mattresses around the building. The fire was
ultimately extinguished by 8am. Five protesters and a police officer
died. The cause of death of all six individuals is under investiga!
Lies and Crimes
the incident, numerous accusations have been made against Kim Seok-ki,
the Seoul police commissioner, including allegations of excessive
police force, tactical errors and lying to the public about the
initial statements following the attack, the Seoul police station
denied the involvement of private security personnel, "construction
thugs", in the operation. According to recordings of police radio
transmissions, officers communicated directly with the construction
thugs, providing them with shields, permitting them to light fires, and
directing them to remove obstacles from the building's floors to
facilitate access to the roof.
police claimed to have taken all safety precautions during the deadly
raid, but numerous facts suggest to the contrary. According to some
observers, the police used the container to ram the shelter, shaking
the structure and spreading the fire throughout. Police radio
transmissions also revealed that when some officers warned that the
water cannons were exacerbating the fire, they were ordered to continue
spraying. The nonstop blasting of water hoses both intensified the fire
as well as making it difficult for the protesters to escape.
a report to the national assembly the police department claimed that
they had nine fire trucks, two chemical fire trucks, and five
ambulances prepared at the scene. But the fire department reported that
there were only two fire engines at the scene in advance, and that they
sent chemical fire trucks without police request after the fire had
members also condemn the police for conducting autopsies without their
consent, contending that they cannot trust a biased police autopsy
conducted in secret.
The <a href="http://www.newscham.net/news/view.php?board=coolmedia&id=1834">evening
of the 20th</a> saw intense confrontations between the police and
protesters demanding that justice be done. Members from anti-eviction
groups struggled along-side students and activists who had been active
during 2008's candlelight protest movement. Violence broke out as
protesters threw rocks and bricks at the police.
then, there have been vigils and marches on a daily basis, including
the lunar new year holidays. The 23rd of January saw around 3,000
people gather at Seoul Station, who, breaking through the police line,
marched through central Seoul.
31st</a> saw over 8 thousand people gather in a plaza, surrounded
by 10 thousand riot police. Five people were arrested during clashes
with the police, when the crowd attempted to march to another part of
is a neighborhood located in central Seoul, nestled between the Han
river to the south and a US army base to the north. Real estate
anywhere around central Seoul is very high, and the land speculation
caused by the anticipated US base relocation has made the area
especially attractive to investors.
Posco, and Daelim, three of Korea's powerful "chaebols", or
international conglomerates, received the development rights to
"Yongsan Newtown". They will make an expected 4 billion US dollars in
profits from the redevelopment and sale of the land, while the
compensation given to most shop owners wasn't enough to relocate their
business an start anew.
who come to the District Office demanding the ridiculous won't be
treated as democratic citizens, please have some restraint."
(banner hung by the Yongsan District Chairman criticizing the residents protesting their eviction)
over a year, tenants living in the re-development area requested the
Yongsan District Office to provide the temporary housing and
appropriate protection, but were denied opportunities for discussion or
negotiation. During this process, private security personnel hired by
the redevelopment cooperative threatened residents, vandalizing stores and homes, even sexually harassing them.
business owner lost his customers after rotten fish was repeatedly
placed near his restaurant. However, the police took no action against
the construction thugs. Out
of the original 890 tenants, 763 abandoned their homes or businesses
due to the thugs' violence and pressure from the Redevelopment
<a href="http://www.idrc.ca/en/ev-32047-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html">Redevelopment History</a>
process of redevelopment in present day South Korea involves a complex
web of relationships, some open and some obscure, between giant
business conglomerates and government, wealthy landowners and hired
thugs, low-income tenants and the police.
the 1950's to the 70's the Seoul Metropolitan Government utilized
eviction-centered-redevelopment policies, where the government removed
residents directly by force. The strong reaction against redevelopment
and the growing anti-eviction movement pressed the government to resort
to more sophisticated methods. The joint-redevelopment policy appeared
in the 1980's as a strategy to disengage the government, superficially,
from the eviction and redevelopment process. Likewise, the new system
pit poor tenants and owners against each other, thereby diminishing the
potential for an urban social movement that threatened the government's
Land owners within the redevelopment zone are persuaded to form a Redevelopment Cooperative. This
cooperative run by land owners chooses a construction company to carry
out the compensation of households and take responsibility of vacating
the land of all residents. This "privatized redevelopment" decreases
government involvement and encourages profit-making by the construction
President Lee Myung-bak, whose nickname is "The Bulldozer", is a former
CEO of Hyudae and was the political architect of the <a href="http://populargusts.blogspot.com/2007/12/bulldozer-triumphant.html">"revitalization"
of the Cheongyae river</a>, which included the violent removal of
poor residents and vendors. Lee changed the city's redevelopment policy
while mayor of Seoul, easing regulation so that now in Seoul alone,
there are around 200 redevelopment projects underway in areas that
house around 400,000 people.
New Policy of Swift Retaliation against Dissent
Seok-ki, the Seoul Metropolitan police commissioner responsible for the
operation, was recently appointed by president Lee Myung-bak as the
next commissioner general of the National Police Agency. Like
Myung-bak, who is known for manufacturing politically strategic
spectacles of power, many see this unprecedentedly harsh and swift
crackdown as an attempt to bolster his status as he ascends to the
nation's highest police rank. That the raid happened within 25 hours
after the sit-in began reflects the Lee Administration's policy towards
dissent. Lee Myung-bak's Grand National Party, or "Han Nara Dang", has
been described as pushing the clock back in its approach to handling
civil unrest. The major themes of this policy: no negotiation and
swift, oppressive action. Other examples of this impatience and
immediate retaliation against dissenting voices include <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minerva_(Daum_Agora_user)">Minerva</a>,
an online economic analyst who grew famous due to his accurate economic
predictions and criticism of government's economic policy. He was
arrested on Jan. 7th, accused of spreading false rumors of government
intervention in the exchange market.
During the summer of 2008, frustration with the Lee administration was unleashed during the so-called <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA25/008/2008/en">candle light protests</a>, where massive grassroots mobilization met with equally great repression.
South Korea was requested twice by the <a href="http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2001/hr4527.html">Committee on the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights</a> to provide protection to victims of forced evictions.
pics: <a href="http://www.daehanmindecline.com/digital/20081116b.html">images of demolition and thug graffiti</a>
<a href="http://tvpot.daum.net/clip/ClipView.do?clipid=12824669">Police Crackdown and Fire 1</a> | <a href="http://tvpot.daum.net/my/PlayListClipView.do?playlistid=324049&clipid=12847319&ownerid=fv-Q86GrHJ90&lu=v_my_img">Video of Crackdown and Fire 2</a> | <a href="http://kr.youtube.com/watch?v=73r_Mnq04A4">video critical of protesters</a> | <a href="http://www.tagstory.com/video/video_post.aspx?media_id=V000275787">January 20 Night Protest</a>
<a href="http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/01/27/18565904.php">Call for Urgent Action</a>
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