[FOUNTAIN]Nation built on sweat of hard workers

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[FOUNTAIN]Nation built on sweat of hard workers

Democratic Labor Party lawmaker Choi Soon-young is a former labor activist who was head of the YH Trading labor union. The labor union staged a protest in August 1979. She ended up in prison but was released after President Park Chung Hee was assasinated. During the April 15 National Assembly election last spring, she sent a letter to Grand National Party head Park Geun-hye on the Democratic Labor Party’s Web site.
“In my late teens, I came to Seoul in hopes of making money. I was working at a wig maker named YH trading and was gradually learning the skills of a laborer through the company’s union. That was the first time I saw your face, full of composure and intelligence on television. I thought your name was ‘Yeongae’ and your brother’s name was ‘Yeongsik.’ After contemplating the difference between ‘yeongae’ Park Geun-hye and ‘gongsuni’ Soon-young, I came to realize that my belief that anyone with ability could live comfortably and be treated equally was wrong.”
The dictionary defines “yeongae” as an honorific way to address someone’s daughter. However, it had referred to the president’s daughter for a long time. Korean dictionaries do not have an entry for “gongsuni.” However, the precise definition can be found in “The Dawn of Labor,” poet Park No-hae’s classic, whose new edition has been released celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication. Editor Kang Mu-seong added a small vocabulary section titled “Words: Memories of the Period.” He said that he felt a need to provide explanation of some terms that are now obsolete.
According to the glossary that test Koreans’ sociopolitical memory, “gongsuni” and “gongdoli” are disrespectful names for young female and male factory workers. In the 70s, many teenagers left school for financial reasons to work in factories. The nation’s economic development was possible because they worked hard days and nights.
“As I witness the arrival of the era of ‘gongsuni’ and ‘gongdoli’ in politics, I feel that the sweat and tears of my youth three decades ago were worthwhile,” lawmaker Choi concluded the letter. The rage of Pak No-hae, who had “poured a cold shot of alcohol on the aching heart at dawn for our hope and unity,” was not in vain, as his spirit is back with a tribute album and concert titled “The Song of 20-year-old Gongsuni.”


by Chung Jae-suk

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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