Heung | 흥 Coalition
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ask what kind of transformative politics is enacted when we name the deaths

of those considered unworthy of mourning and remembering.

Jinah Kim, Postcolonial Grief, (1).


We Are

a group of writers, students, translators, and more, seeking to highlight nuanced stories on Korea from a leftist, transnational perspective.

“For the Damaged Souls”

Under the sky even the damaged reeds
Get shaken long enough to fill out an entire season
And if their roots are deep
New shoots will grow where they were cut down
So shake with me, damaged souls, as much as needed—
Let us shake and go out and face pain

Even the rootless duckweeds shake
And flower when waters are stagnant
Somewhere in the world streams must flow
Somewhere in the world lanterns must be lit
So touch me, pain, and come with me—
We can go anywhere when we are ready to be lonely
The setting sun is not a problem when we wager our lives

After passing through the lands of pain and sorrow
We will stand together on the field with deep roots
The wind will still blow when you raise your arms to stop it
And there are no eternal tears
And there is no eternal anguish
Even in the darkest night under the sky
A hand is coming that will want to be held

- Ko Chŏng-hŭi (1948-1991)
Trans. by Jack Jung
“상한 영혼을 위하여”

상한 갈대라도 하늘 아래선
한 계절 넉넉히 흔더리니
뿌리 깊으면야
밑둥 잘리어도 새순은 돋거니
충분히 흔들리자 상한 영혼이여
충분히 흔들리며 고통에게로 가자

뿌리 없이 흔들리는 부평초 잎이라도
물 고이면 꽃은 피거니
이 세상 어디서나 개울은 흐르고
이 세상 어디서나 등불은 켜지 듯
가자 고통이여 살 맞대고 가자
외롭기로 작정하면 어디를 못 가랴
가기로 목숨 걸면 지는 해가 문제랴

고통과 설움의 땅 훨훨 지나서
뿌리 깊은 벌판에 서자
두 팔로 막아도 바람은 불듯
영원한 눈물이란 없느니라
영원한 비탄이란 없느니라
캄캄한 밤이라도 하늘 아래서
마주잡을 손 하나 오고 있으니

- 고정희 (1948-1991)

Heung | 흥 Coalition is committed to the ongoing struggle of (re)defining Korea(nness) with the goal of generating and sharing multiple narratives and perspectives on Korea. We do so in solidarity with the struggle for self-determination in implicated communities. 

The complicated history of the Korean peninsula in the 20th century is a testament to the necessity of rejecting allegiance to any particular nation-state in order to avoid falling into the easy trap of cultural essentialism. Colonized by the Japanese empire and divided by the Cold War and American imperialism, the continued division of the peninsula into the DPRK and ROK has created the conditions for ongoing violence, oppression, and trauma on both sides and within a larger global context. And yet, the history of Korea is also one of people-led movements and protests fighting to materialize a better world through self-determination—from the Donghak Rebellion, the March 1st Movement, the Jeju Uprising, the creation of self-governing People’s Committees (inmin wiwŏnhoe) and land reforms after liberation, to the Yeosu-Suncheon Rebellion, the April 19th Revolution, Gwangju Uprising, and June Democratization Movement.

It is precisely this history that presses us to reckon with the complexity and contradictions of the postcolonial model of state-building within a larger transnational network of solidarity-building. The ROK’s emergence as a global economic powerhouse was made possible by the mass exploitation of workers and the environment, not only on the Korean peninsula but in migrant-sending communities, manufacturing facilities and resource extraction sites all over the world, especially in South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa. We also recognize that the ROK’s position as a sub-empire, complicit in war and US militarism in exchange for foreign aid, has played a crucial role in its rise. Yet, we also realize the role that US imperialism has played in creating and maintaining the current conditions on the Korean peninsula—from the continued presence of the US military in the ROK to the debilitating impacts of US sanctions on the DPRK—and are committed to fighting against the continued hegemony of the US. We reject both the demonization and the romanticization of the DPRK in its current form, recognizing the violence it has inflicted on its own people and the violence it has been subjected to. We believe it is necessary to contend with these issues in order to remain in dialogue with the international left and demonstrate solidarity with all the marginalized and precarious people of the world.

One of our guiding principles is jihaeng ilchi / 지행일치, the correspondence between knowledge and action. Believing that knowledge should not be restricted based on one’s class, race, age, (dis)ability, or gender/sexuality, we seek to de-imperialize the knowledge ecosystem with regards to Korea through collaboration, organizing, translation, and public outreach. Part of this project also involves interrogating any fixed or essentialized notions of “Korean-ness,” recognizing that ethnic nationalism has both been used to justify and excuse state violence and reduce complicated histories into simple narratives. In questioning the myopia that comes from having a rigid notion of Korean identity, we seek to highlight the complexity, history, and multiple potentials of Korean identities to create a more inclusive space for dialogue and exchange.

We are committed to creating and fostering a community space where we can come together to acknowledge both our common struggles and our own complex subjectivities within and beyond the Korean peninsula and its diaspora. We aim to foster an environment of solidarity, commitment, understanding, and shared knowledge to heal and grow collectively.

We take our name from the Korean character  흥 | 興 | “Heung” to reference the animate quality of movements—not only the pain and suffering, but the joy, excitement, anger, and the possibilities engendered by collectivizing and fighting for change.

<흥> 연합의 사명

<흥> 연합은 ‘한국’적인 것을 (재)정의하고자 하는 현재진행형의 흐름에 적극적으로 동참하며 이를 통해 한국에 대한 복수의 서사와 관점을 생산 및 공유하고자 한다. 우리는 자기결정권을 위해 투쟁하는 여러 공동체와 연대하며 이를 지향한다.

20세기 한반도에서 펼쳐진 복잡한 역사는 문화본질주의라는 덫에 빠지지 않기 위해서 어떤 특정 민족국가에 대한 충성을 거부해야 할 필요가 있음을 보여주는 증거이다. 일제 식민지배와 냉전, 미국 제국주의로부터 기인한 한반도 남북 분단은 현재까지도 지속되고 있으며 이 분단 구조는 남북한과 더불어 보다 국제적인 맥락 안에서 폭력, 억압, 트라우마가 재생산되는 조건으로 작동해 왔다. 그러나 다른 한편으로 한반도의 역사는 동학농민운동으로부터 3.1운동, 제주4.3항쟁, 해방 직후 자치 기구인 인민위원회의 설치와 토지개혁, 여수-순천항쟁, 4.19혁명, 5.18광주 민주화 운동, 6월 민주항쟁으로 이어지는 계보 속에서 자기결정권을 발휘하여 더 나은 세상을 실현시키고자 싸워 나가는 민중 중심의 운동과 저항의 역사였다.

바로 이러한 역사가 우리로 하여금 국가 형성의 탈식민 모델이 갖는 복잡성과 모순을 초국가적 연대 형성의 네트워크 속에서 고찰하고 대면하게끔 한다. 남한이 현재의 경제 대국으로 성장할 수 있었던 이유는 대규모의 노동 착취와 환경 파괴 때문이었다. 이는 한반도 뿐만 아니라 이주민 공동체와 동남아, 남미, 아프리카를 비롯한 전세계에 걸친 자원 산지와 생산시설에서 이루어졌고 지금도 진행중이다. 또한 우리는 해외 원조를 대가로 전쟁과 미국 군국주의에 공모한 하위 제국 남한으로서의 입지가 경제 성장에 있어 중추적 역할을 했다는 점을 인지하고 있다. 그러나 우리는 또한 주한 미군의 존재부터 대북제재의 약화에 이르기까지, 미 제국주의가 한반도를 구성하는 조건들의 생성과 유지에 미친 영향을 알고 있으며, 이러한 지속된 미국 중심 헤게모니에 맞서 싸우고자 한다. 우리는 북한 정부가 인민에게 가한 폭력과 외부로부터 북한에게 가해진 폭력을 동시에 인식하며 지금의 북한을 악마화, 낭만화 하는 것에 반대한다. 우리는 국제적 진보 연대와 소통하고 세계의 모든 소외되고 열외된 인민들과 연대하기 위해서는 이와 같은 쟁점들과 싸워 나가야 한다고 믿는다.

우리 <흥> 연합의 주요 원칙 중 하나는 앎과 행동의 일치를 의미하는 ‘지행일치’이다. 앎이 계급, 인종, 나이, (비)장애, 성별/젠더에 구애받아서는 안 된다는 믿음을 바탕으로, 협업, 조직활동, 번역, 대중활동을 통해 한반도와 관계하는 지식 생태계를 탈제국화 하고자 한다. 또한 우리의 프로젝트는 종족민족주의가 국가 폭력을 정당화 및 합리화하는 이유로 작동하고 한반도의 복잡한 역사를 단순한 서술에 그치게 했다는 점을 인식하면서, 고정되거나 본질주의에 빠진 ‘한국성/한국적인 것’의 개념을 따져 묻는 작업을 포함한다. 우리는 ‘한국’이라는 정체성을 고정된 개념으로 정의하는 근시안적 관점에 문제를 제기하며, 대화와 교류를 위한 좀 더 포용적인 공간을 만들기 위해 한반도 내의 정체성들이 지닌 복잡성, 다양한 역사와 가능성에 주목하고자 한다.

우리는 한반도와 한국 디아스포라 안팎에서 우리가 직면한 공통의 사태들과 우리가 지닌 복합적인 주체성을 함께 자각할 수 있는 공동체 형성에 전념할 것이다. 우리는 함께 상처를 치유하고 성장하기 위하여 연대와 헌신, 이해와 집단지성의 환경을 조성해 나갈 것이다.

우리 연합의 이름은 여러 운동의 활기찬 성격을 표현하기 위해 <흥興>이라는 글자를 따서 만들어졌다. 우리가 정의하는 운동은 고통과 괴로움으로 점철된 것만이 아니라 변화를 위한 연대와 투쟁 속에서 느끼는 희로애락의 감정과 가능성으로 가득한 활동이다.

이성수 윤희상 번역
Translated by Sungsoo Lee and Heesang Yoon