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Jo Seung-soo; A Man of The People

The 17th General Election has ended. This time the election included more issues than in any other General Elections. The Grand National Party lost its majority in the National Assembly and the Uri Party became the new leading group in the Assembly. The very first appearance  at the Assembly of Democratic Labor Party (DLP) representatives was uproarious news, too. As matters stand now, the new DLP stars such as Noh Hoi-chan and Dan Byung-ho were the focus of media attention. All of the DLP representatives are worth focusing on. Here stands, Jo Seung-soo a DLP representative from Ulsan,  who is silent but adamant. He did not have an easy life. The Post was anxious to hear about his life and his plans for the Assembly................................................Ed.

Bearing Hardships
He entered Dongguk University (DU) in 1981 as an Economics of Agricultural Resource major. As we know, Korean universities in that era were stages for the anti-dictatorship movement. Rep. Jo had already been part of the student movement in high school. In 1982, he was arrested at DU for distributing materials against the military authorities. After a year , he was released and returned to Ulsan, his hometown in Gyeong-Sang province. He also lost the right to attend DU. He was considered nothing more than a criminal. At Ulsan he became a common laborer and was paid a low wage. After becoming laborer, his support of righteous movements increased. Seeing the poor conditions of laborers at job-sites, he and three co-laborers went on strike against his company. This action put him in jail again.
He changed his thoughts after the second imprisonment. Now he was firm in his beliefs and against injustice whenever he or his peers faced it.   He was willingly to challenge injustice without hesitation. 

Change the Roles
He returned to DU in 1993 and was graduated in 1995. Then he returned to Ulsan again. And what did he do? He became a city representative! It was surprising news because he was just a well-known laborer in Ulsan. He selected a new way! He started to run on a new road!
After that he became the new ward head of the northern region of Ulsan. His situation had changed. Mr. Jo was not just a laborer anymore. Now he had to talk with labor representatives and persuade them from a ward-management position. Over 60 percent of the Ulsan residents were laborers and they required much welfare of him. It was a big burden to him.
He confessed, "Sticking to my own opinion was my method before, but I learned it was not a good method through the time I spent in the ward. I become a more well-balanced person than before."

Simple but Strenuous Man     
At the end of the interview I asked him, "Please define yourself in one word."
He smiled and replied, "I'm a just black-skinned man."
He is simple man. There is nothing pretentious about him. Frankly, he looks like a farmer in a field. You wouldn't think that he is a congressman for four years.  
But I could see veracity in his straight posture. His favorite words are from the Buddhist priest SeoSan's poem:

When you walk through a snowy field, go straight  don't change course.
Your footprints will be your successors' milepost......     
It is a beautiful poem and gave me a reverential mind. Rep. Jo actually walked through a strenuous field. Behind his good-natured face I saw a strong will.

STRONG WILL to be executed at the Assembly   
"What do you want to change about the 17th National Assembly?"
"I dream of a country providing fundamental goods and services to the weak. At the very moment, there are too many weak people. I want to radically reform, the university-ranking problem. I think it is the rotten root of all of Korean society's problems: dishonesty, absurdity, discrimination."
Also, he is interested in historical issues. He will work for re-legislating the Pro-Japan Personnel Examining Law when the Assembly Session starts.

Reporter's Epilogue
When the 17th General Election ended, I worked to interview Rep. Jo with great difficulty. And it was quite a nice face-to-face meeting. Returning to the office, I realized the weak have a friend in Rep. Jo.

Shin Dong-kyu  korea232@dongguk.edu

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