Buraku Liberation News, March 1997 issue (N0.95)

1. BLRI launched a Japanese translation of a novel on Korean Paekjong.

The Buraku Liberation Research Institute held the 45th General Assembly on February 6 in Osaka, where the program of activities for 1997 was discussed by the 400 participants.

After the assembly, the BLRI sponsored a lecture by Mr. Chung Dongju from South Korea, in commemoration of launching his latest novel ' God's Cane ' in Japan. The main subject of the novel is Paekjong discrimination in Korea.

Although the novel was published in South Korea in 1995, the BLRI only recently published it's Japanese translation.

Concerned about the human rights situation in South Korea, Mr Dongju, a novelist and poet, has written several novels focusing on the Paekjong issue; such as 'Paekjong', a long novel in ten volumes. He lives in Kyung Namdo, near Chinju City, where the Hyongpyong Monument was established in December 1996 ( Please see a related story in the January '97 issue of Buraku Liberation News ). He actively joined the establishment of the monument.

In 1988 the BLRI published ' Discriminated-against People in Korea--- Paekjong and the Hyongpyong movement ' , a Japanese translation of the book written by Mr Yondae Kim, who is introducing hhimself as a descendant of Paekjong, and ' Liberation Movement from the Social Class in Korea ', a compilation of reports on an academic conference held in 1993 at a Chinju university in which members of the BLRI also participated. ' God's Cane ' is the third book on the Paekjong issue published by the BLRI.

For generations Paekjong people referred to a sword to slaughter cows for meat as 'God's Cane', by which they thought would lead cows to Heaven. Slaughtering was one of the major occupations of those people when the Paekjong class was institutionalized.

The following are excerpts from Mr. Dongju's lecture.

In ' God's Cane ', I gave a minute description of discrimination existing from the past up to the present, and how efforts to eliminate discrimination have been made in present Korean society. In short, I focus on the phenomena of discrimination and persecution based on sexuality, occupation , religion and ideas, particularly about the past and current Paekjong discrimination which was the most typical term for social class discrimination in Korean history.

In order to eliminate discrimination, I think that it is important to accurately understand the history of discrimination. I introduced three women from different generations in the past one hundred years, as major characters in the novel. I tried to describe through their eyes how discrimination was reflected under different system and customs in each generation.

All the three women belong to either the Paekjong class or are descendents of Paekjong. They are heroines with a tragic fate who at birth suffered double or triple discrimination. In other words, their sufferings were the hardships of many other people who died in pain caused by discrimination. The way of death of the discriminated-against heroines who were women, Paekjong, poor and without an opportunity to study, symbolized the death of all the people in a grave pain.

Each woman tried to adapt herself and resisted her pain of discrimination in different ways. You can understand it as the phenomena in the evolution of attitudes toward discrimination in South Korean society.

Iju Pak, one of the heroines, who lives in the present society, completely changed her family registration, including her native place, birthday and her own name as well as those of her parents, in order to conceal her origin. Then she escalated her aspiration to climb up the social ladder as high as possible. Her attitude was certainly prompted by a fear revived from history. An experience of hardship brought about by cruel discrimination beyond imagination would make people extremely unhappy in such a way.

In fact, many people contest that there are people like Iju Pak actually existing in modern South Korean society, where the Paekjong class had been abolished long before and it is said that even the word 'Paekjong' has almost disappeared. However, more people like her exist contrary to the imagination of these people.

Our society can be viewed as if discrimination has been extinguished, in spite of the fact that discrimination and contempt by reason of one's origin still exist. In addition, we have a society where some people keep their fear of being discriminated-against in their mind, even if explicit discrimination does not appear. Such a psychology originated from reality and from a society that did not liberate itself from discrimination. I described such a situation in this story.

I can say that the present 'equality' seemingly enjoyed by supposedly discriminated-against people is very superficial. The 'equality' was not a fruit of an anti-discrimination movement but is merely the result of a drastic social mobility through the periods of Japanese colonial rule, the independence movement, and the Korean War. Because of that, people are constantly in fear of being discriminated-against. As a result, discrimination-consciousness against others remains latent in the minds of people. The situation suggests the need for movement against discrimination in a real sense.

While I appreciate that the movement against discrimination has been deployed at the international level, I wish that the phenomena of discrimination in South Korea will vanish as early as possible. It is not an easy task to eliminate discrimination in a society like South Korea, which has deep-rooted traditional and feudalistic customs. On the other hand, I am optimistic all the more about the future of the movement here.

I believe that positive achievement brought by the struggle will yield hope for people. In addition, the very strength to love each other will save the ailing world from destruction.

I wish that this novel will provide the discriminated-against people with the psychological comfort and strong will needed to stand against discrimination, while at the same time encouraging the people who are in a position to discriminate against others to regret their actions and to actively join the movement against discrimination.