Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1
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Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1

South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century

George Katsiaficas

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Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1

South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century

George Katsiaficas

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About This Book

Using social movements as a prism to illuminate the oft-hidden history of 20th-century Korea, this book provides detailed analysis of major uprisings that have patterned that country's politics and society. From the 1894 Tonghak Uprising through the March 1, 1919, independence movement and anti-Japanese resistance, a direct line is traced to the popular opposition to U.S. division of Korea after World War Two. The overthrow of Syngman Rhee in 1960, resistance to Park Chung-hee, the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, as well as student, labor, and feminist movements are all recounted with attention to their economic and political contexts. South Korean opposition to neoliberalism is portrayed in detail, as is an analysis of neoliberalism's rise and effects. With a central focus on the Gwangju Uprising (that ultimately proved decisive in South Korea's democratization), the author uses Korean experiences as a baseboard to extrapolate into the possibilities of global social movements in the 21st century.

Previous English-language sources have emphasized leaders—whether Korean, Japanese, or American. This book emphasizes grassroots crystallization of counter-elite dynamics and notes how the intelligence of ordinary people surpasses that of political and economic leaders holding the reins of power. It is the first volume in a two-part study that concludes by analyzing in rich detail uprisings in nine other places: the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia. Richly illustrated, with tables, charts, graphs, index, and endnotes.

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PM Press

Endorsements for Vol. 1 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings

“This book makes a unique contribution to Korean Studies because of its social movements’ prism. It will resonate well in Korea and will also serve as a good introduction to Korea for outsiders. By providing details on twentieth-century uprisings, Katsiaficas provides insights into the trajectory of social movements in the future. His worldwide field-work experiences and surprising insights into Korea are described well in this book.”
—Na Kahn-chae, director, May 18 Institute, Gwangju, South Korea
“In Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, Katsiaficas continues to develop his unique perspective on social movements that he first enunciated in books on the global insurgency of 1968 and autonomous movements in Europe in the 1970s and ’80s. Finally, for the first time in English, we now have a comprehensive overview of the remarkable waves of popular uprisings that have taken place in South Korea in the twentieth century. With this volume, Katsiaficas challenges the Eurocentrism of social movement scholarship and provides a radical reappraisal of the role of mass popular uprisings in contemporary history.”
—Eddie Yuen, coauthor of Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement and Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth
Endorsements for Vols. 1 and 2 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings
“In Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, George Katsiaficas inspires readers with an exciting yet scholarly examination of the rise and interlinking of mass revolutionary waves of struggle. In no way Pollyannaish, Katsiaficas presents readers with an analysis of the successes and failures of these late twentieth-century movements. In view of the phenomenal Arab democratic uprisings begun in late 2010 and early 2011, Katsiaficas’s analysis is profoundly relevant in helping us understand how the metaphorical flight of a butterfly in one part of the planet can contribute to a metaphoric hurricane thousands of miles away.”
—Bill Fletcher, Jr., coauthor of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, and editorial board member
“George Katsiaficas is America’s leading practitioner of the method of ‘participant-observation,’ acting with and observing the movements that he is studying. This study of People Power is a brilliant narrative of the present as history from below. It is a detailed account of the struggle for freedom and social justice, encompassing the different currents, both reformist and revolutionary, in a balanced study that combines objectivity and commitment. Above all, he presents the beauty of popular movements in the process of self-emancipation.”
—James Petras, author of The Arab Revolt and the Imperialist Counterattack
“George Katsiaficas has written a majestic account of political uprisings and social movements in Asia—an important contribution to the literature on both Asian studies and social change that is highly-recommended reading for anyone concerned with these fields of interest. The work is well-researched, clearly argued, and beautifully written, accessible to both academic and general readers.”
—Carl Boggs, author of The Crimes of Empire: Rogue Superpower and World Domination, and professor of social sciences, National University, Los Angeles
“With a characteristic discipline, which typifies the intellectual fabric of great minds, George Katsiaficas shares a family resemblance with Herbert Marcuse, the greatest revolutionary thinker of the twentieth century. Like Marcuse before him, Katsiaficas imbues us with eros for revolutions and respect for meaningful facts . . . This is a great read by a major thinker, destined to be a classic about the revolutions and passions of the Asian world.”
—Teodros Kiros, professor of philosophy and English at Berklee College of Music and a non-resident Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University
“Through Katsiaficas’s study of Asia’s uprisings and rebellions, readers get a glimpse of the challenge to revolutionaries to move beyond representative democracy and to reimagine and reinvent democracy. This book shows the power of rebellions to change the conversation.”
—Grace Lee Boggs, activist and coauthor of Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century
“The work of George Katsiaficas reveals the sinews of social revolution—not the posturing of political parties, but the impulse that rises from the grassroots which tap into an ever present tendency in history, that of the self-organization of citizens.”
—Dimitrios Roussopoulos, author of Participatory Democracy: Prospects for Democratizing Democracy
“The heartbeat of the eros effect only grows stronger in this expansive work, as George Katsiaficas lovingly details the élan vital of do-it-ourselves rebellions, and in places too long ignored. His sweeping account not only helps us take better pulse of and better engage in today’s directly democratic uprisings but also charts their direct lineage in revolts waged outside nationalist, hierarchical structures. In fully embracing the complexity, surprise, messiness, cross-pollination, and power of revolutions in which people experiment in forms of freedom together, Asia’s Unknown Uprisings grasps the promise of a shared future in such egalitarian yearnings.”
—Cindy Milstein, Occupy Philly and co-collaborator of Paths toward Utopia: Explorations in Everyday Anarchism
Asia’s Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century George Katsiaficas
© George Katsiaficas This edition © 2012 PM Press All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978–1–60486–457–1
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011906342
Cover: John Yates /
Cover Photo: May 18 Memorial Foundation
Interior design by briandesign
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
PM Press
PO Box 23912
Oakland, CA 94623
Printed in the USA on recycled paper, by the Employee Owners of Thomson-Shore in Dexter, Michigan.
to Korea, with love

Table of Contents

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Endorsements for Vol. 1 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings
Title Page
Copyright Page
I am the People, the Mob
List of Tables
Table of Figures
PREFACE - My First Encounter with Korea
CHAPTER 1 - Uprisings and History
CHAPTER 2 - Korea Enters the Modern World System
CHAPTER 3 - U.S. Imperialism and the October People’s Uprising
CHAPTER 4 - Against Korea’s Division: Jeju Uprising and Yeosun Insurrection
CHAPTER 5 - The Minjung Awaken: Students Overthrow Rhee and Park
CHAPTER 6 - Gwangju People’s Uprising
CHAPTER 7 - Neoliberalism and the Gwangju Uprising
CHAPTER 8 - The Gathering Storm
CHAPTER 9 - The June Uprising of 1987
CHAPTER 10 - The Great Workers’ Struggle
CHAPTER 11 - From Minjung to Citizens
CHAPTER 12 - The Struggle...

Table of contents