In this essay, I will attempt to demonstrate justice as a matter of subjects; this is because the concern must be about who creates justice at a historical juncture. It is also a matter of relationship among the various types of subjects. Authentic subjects are the agents maximizing the possibility of justice in historical circumstances. They are those whom the prophet Amos envisioned appearing in history; the ones who, in history, let “justice roll down like water” (Amos 5:24). They are bearers of history, who break up the situation where oppression and injustice prevail, and create a situation of new possibilities. They take part in a historical event, and are faithful to its truths. They participate in immortality by being faithful to the truths in history that bring about justice and peace.
Justice involves such a variety of issues that it looks like there are as many kinds of justice as there are issues: e.g., distributive justice, retributive justice, racial justice, eco-justice, gender justice, animal justice, social justice, economic justice, political justice, etc., etc. Justice is very often misused and abused as seen in the case of “just war.” The spectrum of the issues related to justice is so wide that we must say that each situation at a specific historical time creates its own specific issues of justice. Such a wide spectrum of the issues of justice increases our confusion about justice. In order to attain more comprehensive understanding of justice, and also to consider the situational and historical character of justice, I will see the problematic of justice from the perspective of the subjects. Simply speaking, I will see justice as a matter of discerning and supporting the subjects who contribute to the building of justice in history and society. I believe that such an approach will contribute to clarifying the practical meaning of justice in the specific situation of the Divided Korea.
The subjects who commit themselves to the truths of historical events will return alive in history, because they are faithful to the truths which are immortal. For Alain Badiou, a rupture that starts a new beginning in the world and history is an event2) which carries truths in it.3) The event of Spartacus’ rebellion of slaves had historical truths, whose faithful subjects participated in it and six thousand revolutionary slaves were crucified after their defeat by Roman imperial armies. But the movement of Spartacus and his slave armies has been resurrected in different times of history, e.g. the Spartacus League in 1918 Germany.4) The
How and when are faithful subjects created? Faithful subjects are created when they are encountered with, and committed to, historical events which open a new beginning. The subjectivation of the people takes place only when they internalize the truths of the historical events. Subjectivation is integratively connected with a truthful event that takes place at an opportune time (Kairos) in history.
2)Alain Badiou, Logics of Worlds: Being and Event, 2, trans. Alberto Toscano (London, New York: Continuum, 2009), 50. Originally published in French as Logiques des mondes (Editions du Seuil, 2006). 3)Alain Badiou, Being and Event (London, UK: Continuum, 2007), 99, 407, 507. 4)The Spartacus League was a Marxist organization established by Rosa Luxemburg and other Marxists in Germany during the First World War.
A landscape is so wide that we cannot grasp the whole at one glance and from one point of perspective. What we can do is to see and grasp it from a certain point of view. Likewise, if we are not able to see the whole of justice, then we have to see it from the perspective of the faithful subjects. That is, issues related to justice must be viewed and understood from the vantage point of the faithful subjects. But in real life, visions, understandings, and activities in relation to the issues of justice are different among different subjects, or different types of subjects, and without exception, are conflictual with one another. Justice in the subjective perspective is a matter of supporting the faithful subjects in history. Then, justice for the elite classes and leading intellectuals who are in a position of representing the less privileged people is a matter of protecting and representing the faithful subjects in history, who struggle for peace and justice. Justice is also a matter of participating in the sufferings of the faithful subjects in their struggles for justice and peace in historical context.
History is a stage where the conflicts and forms of cooperation among different subjects take place. It has been particularly so in the Korean peninsula. It is a general principle that particular ideas and consciousnesses are selected and organized into the construction of a particular subjectivation and subjectivity. Also it should be noted that subjectivation process takes place in a concrete historical situation, i.e., in the situation of the division of the nation into North and South Korea. Discourses, theories, and valuations are not determined objectively but subjectively, not in a vacuum but in a particular historical situation. Different subjects hold different discourses, theories, and valuations with regard to the situation, because they see the situation in their subjective perspectives. The faithful subjects construct their discourses, theories and valuations in a way that they contribute practically to enhancing peace, life, and justice.
I would like to suggest five different types of subjects that appear in Korea. They are (1) the faithful subjects, (2) the reactionary subjects, (3) the opponent subjects, (4) the subaltern, and (5) the
1. The Faithful Subjects: They are, in the story of Jesus, his faithful disciples and followers (
Another example: More than two thousands of laid-off Ssangyong Motor workers were forced to become faithful subjects as they started labor strikes in 2009. They were forced to become scapegoats by the harsh reality of the “cut-throat” neoliberal capitalism. But these laid-off workers struggled to change it and have become the core of the faithful subjects of our time in the midst of enormous unbearable sufferings. As of this day, 23 Ssangyong workers and their family members have died of suicide and diseases, which should be seen as social murders committed by the whole society.5)
Those historical events carry truths which attract their adherent, the faithful subjects. The struggle of the faithful subjects may not be successful during their time, but because they are faithful to the truths in the event, they and their dream will not die.
I would roughly define the historical tasks that the faithful subjects must carry out today in Korea. They are the building of peace and reunification of Korea, the constructing of equality and justice in society, and the protection of ecological health and integrity. Such major tasks of the faithful subjects in turn entrust them to transform the political and economic structures into more just ones.
2. The Reactionary Subjects: They do not participate in the new beginning that the historical event brings about. They do not think the historical event brings about a new beginning. They disagree with the faithful subjects and remain in the past state. Among these reactionary subjects, there can be some who collaborate with and join the opponent subjects in the latter’s campaign against the faithful subjects. During the
3. The Opponent Subjects: They seek to abolish the new present of a new beginning. Alain Badiou names this type of subject the obscure subjects, because the abolition of the new present is made possible by enclosing it into obscurity.6) Obscure subjects obscure the truth faithful subjects adhere to by translating it for their own use. For example, during the reign of the 5th Republic of Korea the former general and president Chun Doohwan used the terminology of justice to justify his rule. After brutal suppression of the Kwangju citizens’ uprising, he campaigned for the construction of a just society. The incumbent president Lee Myungbak “stole” the term “Green” which contains the meaning of ecological integrity to justify the government’s development project of the Four Great Rivers, and to obscure the reality of ecological destruction it brings about. But I do not here adopt his naming because it is too obscure and unclear. So I rather use the term opponent for this type of subjects.
The opponent subjects go further than reactionary subjects. The opponents do not remain inactive, but actively engage in annihilating the faithful subjects, as the Romans and other collaborators did against Jesus and his faithful disciples. They mobilize the reactionary elements in breaking up the faithful subjects. Today the opponent subjects are composed of neo-cons, new rights, and conservative political leaders and religious leaders. Some opponent subjects disguise themselves as faithful subjects using the latter’s terminologies and ideas. But in actuality the former oppose and attack the latter.
The prime aim of the opponent subjects is to prevent the coming of a new possibility/revolution by any means. In order to obscure the new present, they create a panacea as its replacement that would confuse other subjects and divert them from the new present opened up by a truthful event. Neoliberal capitalists envision an illusionary and utopian future that they claim would bring us prosperity and development. At the time of the
4. The Subaltern: The category of subaltern was popularized by the scholars of neocolonialism such as Gayatri C. Spivak, an Indian-American professor of philosophy. This term can be used to explain the situation of the
5)A detailed reportage on Ssangyong labor strikes is published by a best-selling novelist, Kong Ji-young, Uijanoli [Chair Game], (Seoul: Humanist, 2012). 6)Logics of Worlds, 59. 7)Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Rosalind C. Morris, ed. Can the Subaltern Speak?: Reflections on the History of an Idea, (New York, N.Y.:Columbia University Press, 2010): 43.
During the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), the faithful subjects struggled for the independence of Korea in armed struggles, labor strikes, peasant movements, and other movements by religious people, intellectuals, and students. Because the Korean nation-state no longer existed after its forced annexation to Japan, all Koreans fell to the status of the subaltern
The independence from the colonial occupation ended in 1945 leaving the nation divided along the line drawn by the super powers, the U.S and the U.S.S.R. The faithful subjects’ struggle for peace, reunification and a genuine independence from the legacy of colonialism, which is the national division, continues but encounters oppression from political elites. The progressive and reformist political forces were systematically crushed by the pro-American, anti-communist authoritarian State. Massive massacres of the left-leaning people around the time of Korean War, 1950-53, and the imprisonments, tortures and executions of progressive sectors of the society have characterized the postcolonial history of Korea. A historian affirmed that the construction process of the ultra-rightist and anti-communist system in South Korea could not be explained without taking into account the massacres of innocent people.8) The first president Rhee Syngman (1948-1960) systematically eradicated faithful subjects and consolidated the anticommunist system. The military leader and president Park Chunghee succeeded the anti-communist system of his predecessor and intensified it.
Have there been historical occasions when the political elites aligned themselves with the self-conscious
The international community also contributed to peace and reconciliation in the Korean peninsula. The September 19, 2005 Joint Declaration by the Six-Nation Forum on Denuclearization in North Korea prescribed that North Korea dismantle the nuclear weapons and that the relationship between North Korea and the U.S. be normalized. Such international efforts for peace in the Korean peninsula can also be considered as a representation for
The faithful subjects in the Korean Peninsula hold the idea that the most fundamental and urgent thing is the permanent ending of the state of war and constructing peace and preparing the path to mutual understanding and exchange of two different systems in the Korean peninsula. Mutual understanding of the differences each has and gradual consensus through dialogue and exchange between the two different systems should be pursued on the basis of mutual respect and love. The faithful subjects aim at justice in history based on love and respect. In other words, those who work and practice justice based on love and respect in history and society are the faithful subjects of history. Therefore, they are those who work to change the truce (temporary halting of war) between North Korea and South Korea (the U.S.) to a permanent peace treaty, to construct a peaceful system in both Koreas, reduction of the army, North Korea-U.S. agreement, North Korea-Japan agreement, and non-nuclearization, etc.
There are other subjects who deny such efforts of the faithful subjects. I call them in this essay opponent subjects. They are composed of various groups, home and abroad, such as neo-cons in the U.S., new rights in South Korea, and nationalist-rightists in Japan. They are hawkish and anticommunist. They threaten North Korea by superior weaponry and economic powers. Economic sanctions and embargo are imposed on North Korea to punish and curb its defiant and “undesirable” actions and policies. Of course, North Korea is a totalitarian society; the human rights of the populace are constrained and violated; its economic situation is so seriously bad that many of the people suffer hunger and poverty. But when it comes to national sovereignty, North Korea should be commended for its long struggle to preserve her independence and self-reliance in defiance of imperialist interventions. Such a merit, however, has been obtained at the expense of democracy, human rights and economic development, which are considered as crucial elements in the eyes of liberal democratic, capitalist world. The faithful subjects appreciate highly the struggle for self-reliance and independence by North Korea and hope that this contributes to mutuality, peace, reconciliation, and reunification with South Korea and to the construction of a very new nation of “social democracy,” which overcomes both the inhuman jungle-like liberal democracy (South Korea) and rigid and controlled socialist democracy (North Korea). The opponent subjects and reactionary subjects have been threatening and attacking both
The faithful subjects believe that international powers should not violate North Korea’s integrity, but should support it to develop in her own way and open it to, and be more related to, the outside with self-confidence and assured security. Any attempt to break the State of North Korea should be denied and opposed, because the national division must be overcome by justice based on love. Love plays together with justice. The opponent subjects also appeals to justice, but their justice is not based on love and life, but on force and death. They love to apply justice to war, as can be seen in their favorite idea, “just war.”
8)Suh, Joong-sok, “Research Trends on the Massacres of Innocent People before and after the Korean War,” Suh, Joong-sok , et. al, Jonjaeng-sok-ui Tto-darunjonjaeng, [Another War within War] (Seoul: Sonin, 2011): 29-30.
Peace and unification in the Korean peninsula must not be made possible only by negotiations on the level of the government and the state, or by superpowers like the U. S., but by dialogue and exchange based on mutual trust and respect. Reunification should be first of all the one between different subjects. It should be a cultural and intellectual reunification among different subjects, and afterwards a political reunification between two States/governments. The faithful subjects of South Korea and the
Conservative opponents and reactionaries may see such cultural reunification among different subjects as utopian and unrealistic, and even dangerous because communists can manipulate it for their own advantage. They argue that dialogue and exchange based on mutual respect is an illusionary attempt and is doomed to fail. Such a stubborn posture on the North and its
As I mentioned above, the faithful subjects carry out three major tasks today. They are agents acting to achieve peace and reconciliation with North Korea, workers struggling to establish justice and equality in employment and labor in the neoliberal capitalism, and bearers of life to save the environment and the life of the creation. They strive to establish a political democracy where all are fully and responsibly represented as well as allowed to participate in decision-making. In this sense, a political state is just when it attains both responsible representation for
I would like to argue that three major contradictions of national division, economic disparity and injustice, and ecological problems are not totally separate problems from one another, and also that national division is more fundamental than the others. Although we do not believe that peace and reconciliation in Korean reunification will be the panacea of all other social diseases, it will be a good starting point from which we can advance forward.
9)Ahn Byung-jik, “Political and Economic Trends in Korea - In search of a Model of Nation’s Advancement” Shidaejongshin [The Spirit of the Times] Issue of Autumn, 2006: 69.
Kairos, the opportune time, came with the coming of Jesus. The faithful subjects were created when they encountered the event of Jesus, were amazed by his truths, and committed themselves to his call. The Gospel of Luke, 4:18-21 records the event at a synagogue in Nazareth, where Jesus read a passage from Isaiah. Through the Isaiah passage Jesus announced that he had come to bring good news to the poor, release the captives, to give recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. To the amazed hearers, Jesus proclaimed that the new Present has come about with his saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
When Jesus announced his public mission, people were divided into pros and cons. Jesus gained his faithful followers, but on the other hand he encountered his opponents. The Jesus event created different subjects - one his faithful subjects, the other his enemies who opposed him and the faithful subjects of the Jesus’ event. The faithful subjects were those who gave faith in the truth of the Jesus event: the coming of a new reality where oppressed people such as the poor, the captives, and the blind are healed and liberated. His opponents were composed of different groups: the Pharisees, the High Priests, the Zealots, the Herodians, and the Romans. These groups of subjects opposed Jesus and his faithful followers because they denied the truth of his announcement and did not share with his values and visions. Each of these opponent subject groups had its own interests to be gratified. Their interests collided head on with the reality Jesus envisioned. The Romans, the Herodians, and the High Priests sought to annihilate the Jesus’ liberation movement. The Pharisees and the Zealots seemed to oppose Jesus with less intensity than other groups. The Romans specifically saw Jesus’ vision and his activities as unacceptable because they believed that the Roman Empire was already the new beginning on earth. Another beginning other than the one opened by Caesar could not be allowed in the territory of the Roman Empire.
Among the opponent subjects there were others who dropped the subjectivity of their groups and were converted to the group of faithful subjects. The Roman centurion who asked Jesus to cure his servant was praised by Jesus as faithful (Matt 8:10; Lk 7:9). Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and rich man, in Luke 19:1-10, was converted to the side of the faithful subjects. The faithful subject-hood is not decided by status, class, ethnicity, and nation, but by the fidelity to the truth of the event, regardless of them.
Jesus was both a faithful subject and a responsible representative of faithful subjects. He presented his voices as a subject of God’s salvific history and he also represented the voices of other oppressed people. He represented them by participating with them. He suffered for the sake of both himself and the
The late minjung theologian Suh Namdong commended theological students to become priests of
Disciples and followers of Jesus Christ must become responsible representatives and voices for suffering faithful subjects. In order to carry out the task of good and responsible representation, participation in the suffering of the faithful subjects is necessary and required. Jesus demonstrated a model of balance and dialectic between presentation/participation and representation. Accordingly, churches must follow him and imitate his participation in, and representation of, the suffering faithful subjects.
Justice without love can be deficient, dangerous, and harmful. If justice is considered only as punishment of wrongdoings, love cannot reside in it. Love has the characteristic of reuniting the separated parts.12) Justice is to separate victim from victimizer, drive a wedge between them, and examine how much the latter has harmed the former (victim). But that is not the end of justice. Reunification is the final end of justice. Justice is not opposed to love and reconciliation, but they are to be integrated into one. There is no duality between justice and love. They are one, as Paul Tillich asserts, “love is the ultimate principle of justice.” Tillich continues, justice is “the form in which and through which love performs its work.” 13) Love requires subjects to be reunited. Justice preserves faithful subjects. The subjects of South Korea and the
Justice and love is necessary as a cure for the divided Korea. Love brings about reconciliation among different subjects,
Justice is to see to it that each of the different subject types is preserved and waiting for reconciliation through respect for each other. Among different kinds of subjects, faithful subjects must carry out the role of the agents to fulfill reconciliation and reunification. Political elites and intellectuals must assist them by representing them and participating in them.
10)Han is a Korean term to denote aching feeling originated from long term suffering of injustice, a sentiment which is sedimented into the depth of heart and waiting to be resolved. 11)Suh, Nam-dong, Minjung Shinhak Tamgoo [Investigation of Minjung Theology] (Seoul: Hangilsa, 1983), 44. 12)Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice (London, Oxford, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1960), 68-69. 13)Ibid., 71. 14)Ibid.
Is reconciliation possible between the faithful subject and the opponent subject? Is it possible between the
I started this essay by saying that justice is a matter between subjects, especially between faithful subjects and opponent subjects. I would like to end this essay by saying that the ultimate principle and goal of justice is love and reconciliation. How can we put together these two seemingly contradictory remarks? I think that this contradiction should be resolved subjectively, that is, by the faithful subjects. Like Jesus, they must show love and will to reconciliation in their pursuit to realize justice.
Justice is a matter of discerning the faithful subjects, siding with them, participating with them and representing them. The final goal of justice, however, should be reconciliation. The domestic situation of South Korea is grim and dark. There are more and more temporarily employed workers, irregular workers, and laid-off workers on the street protesting the government and neoliberal capitalism. The neoliberal capitalist system backed by the state power continues to produce scapegoats and “kill” them. More people live in poverty, and constantly impoverished by huge personal and familial debts. Many people live on debts, once they are out of jobs and caught in the trap of an extractive banking system. How can we alleviate this situation? How can we prospect reconciliation in such a situation? I believe that a democracy where presentation of and representation for all subjects in society is guaranteed and secured, is able to provide the clue to avoid the increase of such inhumanities.