I met once a labour activist in a restaurant. During the conversation people sitting with us asked him how he got the strength to continue the struggle despite the risks involved in being a labour activist in Korea. He replied very briefly that if he hadn't seen a Labor News video two years earlier he couldn't have gone through the difficulties he faced at the time. "That gave me a broader sense of activism, not just as propaganda, but as an emotional visual impetus". This man made me think that sometimes we underestimate the importance of our activities, and that we must be very cautious about our work, because it really affects people.
On another occasion, after screening in Seoul the video Fired workers I saw an audience of four hundred totally shed tears while walking out of the theatre in complete silence. I then understood more than ever that video could really help people to comprehend the situation of other people. Without the video, they would have never thought about the lives of the workers fired during 1980s and 1990s, because the mainstream media totally ignored their struggle and their situation. There are also dreadful lessons. I never expected so many activists of the 1980s to be coopted so fast into the system, and some even became the vanguard of right wing politicians and practitioners for neo-liberalism.
On the other hand there are many newcomers in the progressive video movement who are former trainees of Labor News Production . I never expected our small training programmes could make people think more seriously about their lives.
The world must be analysed from the people's point of view, and though there are always things that can't be predicted it is important to think more systematically and act more rigorously without losing the belief in the progress of the world, without being trapped in the unreal imagination. Then we can change ourselves and can change the world.
That's one of the lessons from my twenty years of activism from student movement to labour movement and how I understand the term communication for social change. Related by Myoung Joon Kim, chief producer of LABOR NEWS PRODUCTION (LNP)
"Labor News Productions" main goal is to strengthen the democratic and progressive labour movement in Korea and worldwide and to play an important role in making the situation of media in the country more democratic.
To fulfill its goal, this rather small organisation, with seven fulltime staff, covers various areas, categorised as follows: Production: LNP has produced more than fifty video programmes including newsreels, educational video, historical documentaries, etc. The content and style varies depending on the partner organisation. LNP videos have not been broadcast on Korean television but have been distributed widely through trade unions, NGOs and student organisations, and often shown in international festivals.
Archive: LNP records footage for specific productions, but also documents every important issue related to the labour movement. As a result the organisation has more than 3, hours of archives.
Training: Since 1991, LNP has trained the workers and ordinary citizens both in video production and the critical reviewing and understanding of the mainstream media. Among the results of this activity are six videos made by collective videogroups composed of workers.
Organising and networking: Various video groups are active producers, and LNP's mission is to support them to build their own solidarity net-
Solidarity: LNP participates in different progressive communication networks: the Korean independent film and video makers, the Anticensorship forum, the Project for People's TV, the People's Coalition for Media Reform, the Human Rights Film Festival, the Korean Progressive network, Korean LaborNet, and Videazimut. The organisation has been instrumental in preparing international conferences such as LaborMedia 97 and LaborMedia 99, considered by international activists as the most important conference on labour movement and media.
Research: LNP has played a pioneering role introducing in Korea concepts such as public access, community radio, participatory communication, etc. Since 1997, it has established a research group as a separate branch, which publishes a bi-weekly Webzine on the progressive media movement called Prism
Distribution & Festival: The alternative distribution system in Korea being very weak, LNP uses different strategies to distribute its videos as widely as possible. The main distribution method is to use the network of affiliated trade unions of KCTU. Since 1997 another channel for video distribution has opened through the annual Seoul International Labor Video and Film Festival, which has become the best showcase for films and videos in the labour movement and a forum for video activists. The majority of the programmes screened during the festival are distributed nationwide through agreements with each producer.
Labor News Production managed to survive through the political turmoil of Korea during the 1990s. Its activity contributed to the process of democratisation that has recently reached mass media.
About 80 percent of the annual budget of Labor News Production comes from its own activities, such as revenues from tape sales, production fees from coproduction projects with trade unions and NGOs, and training fees from the training programme. Only 5 percent is from individual supporters, and 15 percent is from rare public or international sources such as Crocevia (Italy).
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT
In Korea, as in most countries of the world, people are facing serious problems due to the globalisation strategies and to the current economic realities of inequality and profit-motivated exploitation of workers. The labour movement is called on to play an essential role for changing the situation, although many of the existing trade unions are not effectively playing this role. Labor News Production believes that strengthening the democratic labour movement is essential for the process of making the whole society more democratic and guaranteeing decent living conditions for the working people, who are not only a majority but also the people who really contribute to development and progress. Thus, Labor News Production wishes to be the driving force for using media in strengthening the progressive labour movement and also wants to make this movement internally participatory and democratic.
ASPECTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE
During the twelve years of activity of Labor News Production important changes have taken place in video production, training, solidarity, distribution and advocacy, according to Myoung Joon Kim.
Video became an essential part of labour education and has played an important role in sharing information on the labour movement among working people, recording visual history of working people's lives and struggles. It sometimes represents hundreds of union members with a voice of their own, or targets wider audiences to articulate the perspectives of working people. A new audience for alternative video has grown. Inside the labor movement, Labor News Production has successfully introduced the significance of democratic communication. Subsequent to ten years of conducting training, there are now several workers' video collectives active in various regions, and many independent documentary video makers. Labor News Production has trained more than one thousand people. The solidarity movement led by organisations such as JinboNet, LaborNet, Association for Korean independent film and video makers, and Labor News Production has resulted in the establishment of the Human Rights Film Festival, and the International Labor Media Conference. Labor News Production is a member of the board or steering committee in every organisation mentioned above. International video distribution of Labor News Production videos has expanded to Japan, USA, Australia, and other countries with alternative distribution circuits. Videos played an important role explaining to workers of other nations the situation of working people in Korea. "From the crisis of the capital..." was broadcast by satellite by Indymedia during the Seattle demonstrations against international trade policies. Labor News Production activities were partly liable for finally obtaining people's access to public broadcasting, cable and satellite TV. Alternative media became more attractive among activists in the social movement, as a result of LNP's struggles. Furthermore, government-funded institutions in the film and broadcasting sector have finally started research projects on the alternative media movement. Last but not least, based on the activity of the Anticensorship Forum headed by Myoung Joon Kim, Labor News coordinator, several articles about censorship in video and film legislation were ultimately deleted.
MEDIA & METHODS
Video is at the axis of media activities of Labor News Production though other communication tools are used as well. LNP publishes a quarterly newsletter about its activities, and its research branch puts together a biweekly Webzine and email newsletter. The LNP Web site has been accessible since 1998, and in May 2 LNP started monthly Internet Webcasting of its programmes. Given the recent changes in public access to national broadcast, LNP plans to produce videos targeting the access structure, mainly aimed at the Korean Public Broadcasting System (KBS). This should be done without sacrificing content, according to Myoung Joon Kim.
Labor News Production is a participatory communication project. Internally all activities are decided with participation of every member. The video production methods also pursue a participatory process, which is one reason why most of the programmes are coproductions. LNP and workers learn from each other, and much of the production process is devoted to discussion. Often, the footage comes from cameras operated by the workers, as happened with One Step at a Time a video portraying the struggle of hospital workers.
Labor News Production opted for a methodology of video production with the people not about the people. One of LNP's main activities is to help rank and file workers to make their own videos, which is an essential part of the participatory process encouraged within the labour movement.
The very nature of the activity of Labor News Production is meant to encounter difficulties and obstacles. Some of these constraints are internal, such as misconceptions, and sometimes, fear about democracy among trade union leadership and even NGOs.
Financial problems have often threatened Labor News Production activities, even though the organisation itself established the principle that most of the budget should come from its own revenues from the beginning. Very little funds turn up from other sources, as labour issues and grassroots training activities do not attract private or public funding. Recent changes in public institutions and policies will perhaps provide new sources of funding, though LNP foresees that it will not be among the real beneficiaries, in spite of the leading role that it has played in changing the policy. The political situation has generally improved since the early 1990s, when Labor News Production had to face repression too often. In spite of the changing political environment, the Labor Film Festival is nonetheless considered illegal in Korea because the Film Rating Commission does not rate the video productions that are screened. Though recently there has been no police prosecution, LNP still believes that government police continue investigating the organisation. If the political situation becomes more conservative, repression could happen again.
This chapter is mostly based on e-mail exchanges with Myoung Joon Kim and his answers to a questionnaire on Labor News Production May 2000.
The Labor News Production Web site http://www.lnp89.org/english.html