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October 2017
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What is like to have a rally in Republic of Korea?

The day of protest, it was a total chaos. As the protestors moved forward, police launched water cannon and capsaicin. Protestors hit the police car and few policemen got injured. The streets turned white due to the fire extinguisher powder mixed with water. Even the police launched the water cannon aimed at fallen people, so people fiercely protested to the police. Due to this violation, a farmer protestor got severely injured and he is still unconscious.


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Last November 14, 2015 a public protest was held in the city throughout Seoul. This rally is to protest government’s unilateral policies such as a new government-approved textbook and labor reform. With this huge violation in mind, whether the protestors or the police were violent was controversial. This is not the first time for this kind of controversy to be mentioned. Therefore, it is the time to go through what is like to have a rally in Korea.

Here is a university student who was in that protest. She elaborated what happen in the rally and also her opinion at the interview with the writer.

Did KakaoTalk_20151209_153146497you participate in this protest?

Yes, I did.

Could you describe the situation at that time?

The purpose of this protest is to exclaim about negative parts of society especially government and President Park. The people were really militant and I cannot believe that this is actually happening in front of my eyes. In one side, a protestor explained about what is wrong about government’s policies clearly but the other side, people were pulling the police cars which blocked the people like a wall. Everyone was shouting that Korea is backing away from democracy.

Was it in violent atmosphere?

Yeah, it is true. It was violent. There were people who tried to climb up the police cars and police who tried to quell the disturbances. Due to the rally, all the vehicles were under the control and police kept launching the water cannon and capsaicin. However, the most important thing is the reason why the violent atmosphere was created.

What do you think of government’s way to deal with the protest?

I think it was a way of domination and brutality. In fact, the target for the people to fight against is government However, government makes rage towards the police that tried to quell the rally. Therefore, conflicts between people and police will deepen. Moreover, the major media which cannot correctly point out have great impact on public opinion. I am deeply worried that democracy might be disappeared in the future.

How the protests have the impact on development of democracy so far?

As the history proved it, May 18 democracy movement and June pro-democracy movement resulted from people’s power of unity. Rally forms hegemony of citizens to confront hegemony of establishment. So, it can check power and make a progress to democracy.

According to the interview, it seems that the way of dealing with the protest was inappropriate. First, it is necessary to look into what President Park said about this protest in cabinet meeting.

“It can’t be o%EC%82%AC%EB%B3%B8_-~1verlooked under the circumstance of confrontation between North and South. While the world has huge casualties due to the terrors, the terrorist group might break into this protest and threaten citizen’s lives. Especially the protests with masks on should be banned strictly. Other Islam countries also proceed this agenda.”

It was not only the citizens who were astonished by President Park’s manner which is comparing own citizens to extreme terrorists. Alastair Gale, a WSJ Korea bureau chief, linked President Park’s statement at his twitter and added, “Really”. After the Present’s statement, the ruling party pushed ahead an antimask law. In this law, there is a bill that can restrict the freedom of assembly.

If it is so, is protest a target of unconditional criticism? In the last half century, history of Korea was with a number of protests. First of all, March 1 movement was a huge protest against ruling of Japan. Secondly, April 19 Revolution, May 18 democracy movement and June pro-democracy movement happened in the period of frequent dictatorship. In this dark ages of democracy, students and citizens of various layers were participated in this demonstration. However, as oppressive government suppressed protests in harsh way, it led lots of sacrifices. All the protest settled in our history have their own significance for social development. March 1 movement contributed to independence of the nation. The democracy movements make a great contribution to democratization. In the end, citizens made authoritarian regime resign and established democratic government.

Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “War is the father of all and king of all.” These protests in our history take a great role of development of democratic society. Instead of suppressing the social conflicts, government should institutionalize conflicts effectively. Moreover, awareness of significance of protests is needed and changes in perception of rally for civil society and police are necessary.


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