Save the Marxian Tradition at Seoul National University, South Korea

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Dear colleagues,

This is an urgent appeal for solidarity in the struggle against neoliberalism-dominated economics in universities.  Marxian economics at Seoul National University (SNU) is hovering on the brink of elimination.  We are aware that these processes are also happening at University of Marburg now and a lot of universities in the world have already begun eliminating the critical or non-mainstream traditions in social sciences under claims of efficiency, market principle, restructuring of university, etc.

The only Marxian economist in the faculty of SNU, Prof. Soohaeng Kim is going to retire in Feb.2008.  He is famous in Korea for having translated Marx’s Capital into Korean and his translations have sold about 350 thousand copies since 1988.  Marxism has been one of the serious weapons against long-standing military dictatorship and domination of capital in industrial relations here in South Korea, and therefore Prof. Kim’s lecture of Marxian economics has been overcrowded with many students enthusiastic about radical change and true democracy of Korea.  He has taught ‘Introduction to Political Economy’ and ‘Marxian economics’ at the undergraduate level, and ‘Studies in Marxian Economics’ at the graduate level and supervised 15 Ph.D. dissertations about Marxian and non-mainstream themes in economics.

However, it is highly likely that his position will be replaced by a neoliberal economist when he retires in February.  Unsurprisingly, 32 of 33 faculty members are pro-market conservative economists and 30 of the 33 have gotten their Ph.D degrees from universities in the United States.  In fact, Prof. Kim was able to join the faculty of SNU in 1989 as a result of graduate students’ demonstrations with a boycott of classes back then.  Most of the faculty in the department of economics in SNU have assumed a displeased stance against the Marxian tradition in SNU, often called ‘the highest ranking university of Korea’, and Prof. Kim’s retirement is a good chance for them to wipe out this tradition at SNU.

We graduate students are preparing to fight to preserve the Marxian tradition at SNU.  While we are preparing concrete actions here, including a graduate students sit-in and protest assemblies, it is crucial that our struggle not be isolated and thus we are appealing for international support through a signature campaign.  Marxian economics is still an important branch for critical social science and its role as a lens for understanding class dynamics between capital and labour has grown even more crucial as the neoliberal attack is winding around every corner of Korean society, let alone the universities.

We are urgently appealing for your support.  Please take a minute to act in solidarity by sending an e-mail with your name, school or organization, and country to to indicate your support for our cause.  If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.  We would be tremendously grateful if you could also further distribute this to sympathetic colleagues, comrades, etc.  We will be taking signatures until Tuesday, February 5 , 2008 and urge you to please take the small but very important solidarity action by sending the e-mail today.

Thank you very much for your consideration and support.

May our struggle meet with solidarity and may the Marxian tradition in economics survive the neoliberal attack at SNU!

This appeal was posted to the Debate and Green Left Discussion lists.

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