Are you all fine?

The following is totally personal translation of the so-called “Are you all fine?” wall poster a college student Mr. Hyun-woo Joo publicly put on his college wall in Dec. 10, 2013. In this wall poster, Mr. Joo asked if it was really fine for rising generation to stay sterile or dormant to social issues that has broke out since the presidential election last year (or even countless issues since last government) in a plain but persuasive voice. Resonating with his blunt knock on their conscience, wall posters responding to it saying ‘No, I am not fine with that!’ appeared everywhere; in fact, they are literally spreading like a wildfire in Korea. His fellow students respond they are not OK with them, then students of other colleges, older generations who have been hit hard by years of abnormal social developments and even high school students followed suit. It is now a phenomenon that sweeps all across Korea! The following is the original wall poster in Korean and my translation of it.

안녕들 하십니까?

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!

Are you all fine?

1. Yesterday, thousands of workers lost their jobs because they participated in an ongoing strike. 4,213 workers were pulled out of their post not for demanding something but for objecting to the privatization of railway system. A punitive action for objecting to an agenda Mdm President Geun-hye Park herself had pledged not to push forward without national consent. Is the “right to strike” in the Labor Law that young Tae-Il Chun tried hard to put up aloft while setting himself up on fire doomed?

(It makes me think so) because they stigmatize any labor strike against government or the capital ILLEGAL. Watching developments in National Assembly where a representative who has the right to legally proceed impeachment of president herself is under inquiry for expulsion simply for mentioning her resignation amid ever-reverberating unprecedented suspicions like election fraud and governmental interference of the last presidential election, I wonder if this is really the 21st century.

I really wonder how you all can be so fine at this STRANGE season when high voltage power transmission towers are being built in otherwise quiet rural villages and a native resident poisoned himself to commit suicide to stop it; when workers are sentenced for billions of wons in fine or put in prison for the crime of resisting villainies of the capital and company executives; when they respond to our demand for reliable jobs by issuing endless rows of irregular jobs that cannot be more unreliable!

2. They call us so-called “880K generation” an affluent generation that grew without experiencing any poverty and knows nothing of politics, economics and real life hardships. But was it our generation who had to stay at home without mom and dad since the 97~98 IMF incident not knowing why and was forced to remain silent and indifferent to stories of our countless peers who committed suicide near or just after the nationwide qualifying exam for college admission? It is not true that we do not know anything about politics or economics; we’ve simply believed we would be fine to live like that since we’ve never been urged or allowed to think about or speak about them before.

But, not any more, ’cause the world I talked about up there is actually where I live in. So, I just want to ask you if you you all fine; if you are all OK with no problem; if you are all OK to ignore those things because they are not yours; if you simply step aside a little away from them rationalizing yourself under the charade of ‘political indifference.’ IF you are not fine, then I am sure you cannot help but to cry out loud something, whatever it may be. So, I want to ask you one more time at last. Are you all really fine?



  1. English Teacher · · Reply

    It is great that you all are doing these translations. I went to Saturdays mass rally at Seoul Station Plaza and had first heard about that letter. We saw many of the students that had come inspired by that writing. Thank you.

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