Strike Song

by Hochul Kim

Scattered, we will die. Wavering, we will also die.

United as one, we set out towards victory.

We shall keep our promises to our comrades

Even if our skulls are split.

We stood together in our strike,

Through it we defeated the violent kusadae*,

We, united in our strike,

Set out towards emancipation.

Scattered, we will die. Wavering, we’ll also die.

United as one, we set out towards victory.

*Kusadae – A band of anti-strike workers supported by management. Kusadae, which means “Division saving the company”, have been organized at many workplaces where labor disputes are occurring and have committed naked violence against striking workers.

In June 1987, a great wave of civil protest against military dictatorship swept across South Korea. A general strike and workers’ struggles for building democratic trade unions followed. This period was known as the “Great Workers’ Struggle of 1987″ or the “7·8·9 Great Workers’ Struggle”). This massive wave of organizing symbolized the overcoming of defeatism that had plagued Korea’s social movement after the terrible massacre in Gwangju committed by the military in 1980. For workers, it was the first awakening, during which they gained dignity and class-consciousness. The need for cultural forms to express workers’ own stories was clear.

‘Strike Song’, composed in 1988, spread quickly to every workplace where a labor dispute was occurring and became one of workers’ favorite songs. At workplaces where trade union did not exist and management’s violence was severe, the song was sung to build solidarity among the workers. As the song, which has a powerful and solemn tone, depicts the moment workers go on strike, it has also become the opening song for workers’ collective actions. The composer, Hochul Kim, was a worker himself. He was one of the first to recognize that workers need songs for themselves during the Great Workers’ struggle of 1987 and became a father of workers’ music. He has composed over 100 songs for workers and the labor movement. (Sound Only)

University students singing ‘Strike Song’

DAS Union on the 4th day of a strike in 2010 warming up with ‘Strike Song’

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