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from the February 2005 issue


"I really didn't do anything,"
a woman sobbed.
"I didn't even go near a factory.
I've never once been to a strange rally,"
the woman shouted.
"I have no interest in who died from self-immolation
or in who jumped from the roof of a building or why,"
the woman wailed, pulling out her hair.
"I didn't do a thing except sit like an animal.
Who brought me here? Why am I being locked up?
My uterus is a piece of rotten iron.
I can't even give birth to a son who will
self-immolate or a daughter-bitch who will strike,"
the woman struggled, clawed the floor.
The doctor came and went without saying a word.
The nurse came and gave her a shot, then went out.
Bang! The door closed.
"I really didn't do anything."
The woman was pale, mumbling,
holding onto the steel door
of a psychiatric ward.

In 1970, Chŏn T'ae-il, a factory worker, immolated himself to protest the exploitation of factory workers. This was one of the incidents that triggered a nationwide labor movement in South Korea. The South Korean government often hired thugs and used riot police to break up workers' strikes. At times, out of desperation, striking workers jumped from the roofs of buildings. But despite this harsh repression, women factory workers struck and formed independent unions during the 1970s and 1980s.

Read more from the February 2005 issue
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