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From Korea: “Women’s Rights Are A Precondition To Food Sovereignty”

Yoon, Geum-Soon

Warning: this is not a post about spirituality, per se.  But I invite all dharma junkies to stick around. And I’ll tell you why.

In my opinion, in order to be strong, the education of a political Buddhist should involve learning about the political and social situations in parts of the world where the teachings of Buddha have deep roots and living traditions.  This interview with Yoon, Geum-Soon illuminates the food justice situation in just such a place: Korea.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, Yoon, Geum-Soon has brilliant things to say about neoliberalism, colonial history, and women’s self-organization in Korea, as it relates to women farmers and peasants in particular.

Historically, she explains, women have played a respected agricultural role in the meticulous process of seed collection and preservation.

In La Via Campesina, farmers and other people are talking about food sovereignty and I believe the precondition to realize food sovereignty is women’s rights. Women have an important role in realizing food sovereignty. Women are those who actually find seeds, collect seeds, develop seeds, and preserve them. I believe that when it comes to connecting consumers with producers, women have an important role. To preserve seeds, to preserve natural resources, women have a traditional role in protecting them.

Granted, divisions of labor based on assigned gender have their own tricky issues: expecting that just because someone is called a woman or a man, they should or must perform a certain kind of labor.  But more pressing, when it comes to the lives of Korean women and women outside Korea affected by regional economics, are the neoliberal policies (many of them US-backed, and backed with arms) that impose unsustainable agricultural industrialization and free trade agreements that harm, rather than helping, rural Koreans.  Yoon, Guem-Soon explains:

During the Korean War, we got many bombs from their planes and, also, in this process, three million Koreans died. After the war, we wanted to revive our agricultural industry in rural areas. The U.S. government gave cheap agricultural products in the name of aid, but they didn’t have any interest in reviving Korean traditional agricultural systems. They distributed cheap abundant agricultural products from the U.S. into the Korean market. The Korean farmers could not compete with the cheap products from the U.S. They could not survive and so they moved to the city and became urban laborers.

In the face of these repressive economic policies, the disastrous interference of GMOs in the Korea, and the related economically forced migration that is exacerbating domestic violence in Korea, women are organizing themselves to win more economic power and directly confront sexual violence in their own communities.

Read up and feel inspired!

Comments (5)

  • Mushim Ikeda

    Katie, have you seen the Korean movie, “The Host”? I think it would be a blast if we could organize a group viewing and discuss it through the lenses of colonization, “Westernization,” food justice, white supremacy, and environmental justice. Check out the trailer here: http://www.hostmovie.com/

  • Katie Loncke

    Sounds amazing! I’m hella down for a group viewing and discussion. Sometime when Dawn and I get a breather and I come back from grad school residency in mid-February. :) Thanks, Mushim!

  • Mushim Ikeda

    We can also examine it through the lens of women/girls empowerment — it’s a sort of goofy, whacky slapstick / tadpole on steroids horror flick / eff the white American faux authorities / ordinary people show their courage / desecration and contamination of the iconic Han River movie. An unusual vision on the part of the filmmakers, I thought.

  • David Berrian

    Mushim,
    I watched “The Host” after I saw your suggestion – I am a great admirer of your insight and writing. As monster flicks go it is very well done with more attention to the people than the monster. All the “lenses” you mention for reflecting on the film are appropriate (and fairly obvious), but I’m unsure how you might connect the film to a more Buddhist insight on those issues. It would be wonderful if you (or We) could develop a guide for BPF groups and other viewers of this film.

  • Mushim

    David, thanks for getting the ball rolling on Buddhist buzz for “The Host”! And thank you for such kind and generous words. Regarding connecting “The Host” to Buddhist insights, I was following Katie Loncke’s lead-in to the article above when she says: “Warning: this is not a post about spirituality, per se. But I invite all dharma junkies to stick around. And I’ll tell you why. In my opinion, in order to be strong, the education of a political Buddhist should involve learning about the political and social situations in parts of the world where the teachings of Buddha have deep roots and living traditions. This interview with Yoon, Geum-Soon illuminates the food justice situation in just such a place: Korea.”

    David, although Korean Buddhism is slightly better known among Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s people these days than, say, 25 years ago, it is still often overlooked and hence neglected. “The Host” highlights issues in modern-day Korea and I am particularly interested in its “message” about the environment, and the link between Westernization and U.S. presence in S. Korea and environmental destruction. If I had to, I’d propose that socially-engaged Buddhists in the U.S., seeking “Buddhist or Dharma insights” in watching this film, do some study of how the many beautiful Buddhist temples and monastic complexes in the mountains and in rural areas have traditionally operated before Westernization and high tech hit them. I think we’d see a fascinating and very detailed way of life that was close to the earth and environmentally sustainable, and in which the Dharma life and practice included a deep reverence for rocks, trees, mountains, and streams as living, sacred presence. “The Host” shows aspects of environmental degradation and desecration, linked to U.S. domination and heedlessness, that are impacting the Buddhist temple and monastic systems and an ancient, spiritual way of life for everyone in S. Korea, regardless of their religious affiliation. It could be said to reflect on the impact of environmental contamination on the soul of the Korean people, their very connection to their indigenous roots.

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