Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Analysis of the "Are You All Right?" Movement - Part 1: The Translation

This is the first part of my analysis of Korea’s latest social movement, the “Are You All Right?” (AYAR) Movement.

The first installment of this analysis will simply be a translation of the letter that started it all  the hand-written letter that was posted by Ju Hyun-u, a 27-year old Korea University student a little less than two weeks ago.

I found the letter on the AYAR Movement’s Facebook page and have attempted to translate the letter to the best of my abilities. Any error in the translation is strictly mine and mine alone.


안녕들 하십니까?

Hello. How are you?

1. 어제 불과 하루만의 파업으로 수천 명의 노동자가 일자리를 잃었습니다. 다른 요구도 아닌 철도 민영화에 반대한 이유만으로 4,213명이 직위해제된 것입니다. 박근혜 대통령 본인이 사회적 합의 없이는 추진하지 않겠다던 그 민영화에 반대했다는 구실로 징계라니. 과거 전태일 청년이 스스로 몸에 불을 놓아 치켜들었던 ‘노동법’에도 “파업권”이 없어질지 모르겠습니다.

1. Yesterday, after striking for one day, thousands of workers lost their jobs. For no other reason than to oppose the privatization of the rail roads, 4,213 people were relieved from their positions. President Park Geun-hye punished the workers who protested against the privatization of the railroads, something which she herself promised that she would not engage in without first obtaining the people’s permission. It is possible that even the right to strike, which is part of the countrys “Labor Laws,” that were enacted after the self-immolation of Jeon Tae-il could also disappear.

정부와 자본에 저항한 파업은 모두 불법이라 규정되니까요. 수차례 불거진 부정선거의혹, 국가기관의 선거개입이란 초유의 사태에도, 대통령의 탄핵소추권을 가진 국회의 국회의원이 ‘사퇴하라’고 말 한 마디 한 죄로 제명이 운운되는 지금이 과연 21세기가 맞는지 의문입니다.

That is because any protest against the government or against capital is going to be designated as being illegal. Despite the numerous times we have been told about the fraud in last year’s presidential election and the fact that there had been illegal interference in the election by government officials, a member of the National Assembly who has the right to vote to impeach the president was expelled from the National Assembly for daring to suggest resignation. It is difficult to imagine that we are living in the 21st century.

시골 마을에는 고압 송전탑이 들어서 주민이 음독자살을 하고, 자본과 경영진의 ‘먹튀’에 저항한 죄로 해고노동자에게 수십억의 벌금과 징역이 떨어지고, 안정된 일자리를 달라하니 불확실하기 짝이 없는 비정규직을 내놓은 하수상한 시절에 어찌 모두들 안녕하신지 모르겠습니다!

In one rural town, a high voltage electrical tower was installed, which has resulted in the suicide of one of the town’s residents. Furthermore, for the crime of “dining and dashing,” workers who have lost their jobs are being fined millions of won and being sentenced to prison. In these dubious times, I do not know how anyone can be all right.

2. 88만원 세대라 일컬어지는 우리들을 두고 세상은 가난도 모르고 자란 풍족한 세대, 정치도 경제도 세상물정도 모르는 세대라고들 합니다. 하지만 1997~98년도 IMF 이후 영문도 모른 채 맞벌이로 빈 집을 지키고, 매 수능을 전후하여 자살하는 적잖은 학생들에 대해 침묵하길, 무관심하길 강요받은 것이 우리 세대 아니었나요? 우리는 정치와 경제에 무관심한 것도, 모르는 것도 아닙니다. 단지 단 한 번이라도 그것들에 대해 스스로 고민하고 목소리내길 종용받지도 허락받지도 않았기에, 그렇게 살아도 별 탈 없으리라 믿어온 것뿐입니다.

2. Known as “The ₩880,000 Generation,” the world thinks of us as a generation that has never known what it is to be poor; an affluent generation. A generation that knows nothing about politics or economics or what is going on in the rest of the world. However, wasn’t it our generation, the generation that grew up alone during the IMF Crisis of 1997~1998 as we had to guard the empty houses that we lived in, that was forced to stay quiet; to prepare for the University Entrance Exams despite the fact that many of our fellow students committed suicide, and to be indifferent? We are not indifferent to politics or to economics. Nor are we oblivious about them. It is just that we were never asked or were given permission to think about those issues for ourselves, or to give voice to our opinions. We were led to believe that we could live our lives being quiet and not have to worry.

그런데 이제는 그럴 수조차 없게 됐습니다. 앞서 말한 그 세상이 내가 사는 곳이기 때문입니다. 저는 다만 묻고 싶습니다. 안녕하시냐고요. 별 탈 없이 살고 계시냐고요. 남의 일이라 외면해도 문제없으신가, 혹시 ‘정치적 무관심’이란 자기합리화 뒤로 물러나 계신 건 아닌지 여쭐 뿐입니다. 만일 안녕하지 못하다면 소리쳐 외치지 않을 수 없을 겁니다. 그것이 무슨 내용이든지 말입니다. 그래서 마지막으로 묻고 싶습니다. 모두 안녕들 하십니까!

However, we cannot live like that anymore. That is because the world that I live in is the kind of world that I had described earlier. I just want to ask you if you are doing all right. Do you really not have any worries? Do you turn the other cheek because you think that it is someone else’s problem? Are you stepping back, rationalizing your indifference to politics? If you are not all right, then I don’t think you can stop yourself from declaring so, regardless of what is ailing you. So I’d like to ask just one last time – Are you all right?


  1. Thanks, this is helpful.
    I hope future parts of this analysis will keep this objective approach, are not turn into an argument about how the movement is wrong for not agreeing with your own pro-free trade, Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman world-view...

    1. Oh I think you'll be disappointed somewhat because there will be elements of that. But as I've said to someone else, I can understand the hound's point of view as much as the fox's.

    2. Besides, the only reason this post was "objective" was because this was only a translation. I have no intention of serving as a mere translator for either this social movement or the government or the business sector.