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`Hope Bus` campaign near Busan

Posted July. 21, 2011 03:09,   


Yeong Island is a small island covering 3,232 acre, but is used to be known as a major producer of horses since Goryeo Dynasty. Its former name "Jeolyeong Island" was derived from the horses raised in the area, which ran so fast that their shadows could not be seen. A chronicle from the ancient Korean kingdom of Goryeo describes Gyeonhwon, leader of Goryeo`s succeeding kingdom Baekje, giving an excellent horse to Korea’s first king Wanggeon. Shortly after the end of the Korean War, refugees from all over the nation settled on Yeong Island. The late singer Hyeon In, a Busan native, used to sing songs such as “Be Brave, Geumsun” and “The Lonely Crescent Moon Over Yeongdo Bridge” to describe lives of refugees.

Residents of the island are suffering from a “Hope Bus” campaign, a politically motivated tour to support laid-off workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries. Though the company and its union finally reached an agreement late last month, Kim Jin-sook, a senior member of the Busan branch of the hardline Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, continues to stage a strike on a crane, demanding an end to layoffs. Residents on Yeong Island are angry at labor rights activists and opposition party members who come to the region in buses to stage protests. One resident said, “What the second Hope Bus campaign on July 9 and 10 left is a bad smell and garbage. So much so that a ward council member affiliated with the Democratic Party opposed the campaign,” adding, “Residents here are determined to stop the protest if the third protest is held on July 30.”

The Hope Bus planning committee said Wednesday at a discussion, “The opposition to Hope Bus by Busan residents is a groundless rumor,” adding, “Busan residents also criticize Hanjin for closing five factories in Ulsan and Busan after reaping huge profits.” Some 200 progressive figures and certain opposition party members are planning to issue a statement Sunday, the 200th day of Kim’s protest. War clouds are hanging over Yeong Island in the run-up to the third Hope Bus campaign.

Police estimate that some 20,000 protesters will flock to the island when the third campaign opens. If the campaign is held as scheduled, clashes between protesters and police are inevitable. A civil action council comprising Busan residents and business people has been set up, saying in a statement, “The number of Hanjin`s partner companies has been cut in half from 2,500 of last year.” Politicians and laborers must reflect on if they are making the residents on the island feel hopeless before getting on “Hope” buses.

Editorial Writer Jeong Yeon-wook (jyw11@donga.com)