Organizing and Building Momentum

Since late October, when news broke of the government corruption scandal involving South Korean president Park Geun-hye, South Korean citizens have demanded the removal of Park and her administration from office. Last week on November 5, close to 200,000 people took to the streets of Seoul to demand her resignation. A diverse range of people from different social enclaves of South Korean society joined together to send a common message to their government – “Park Geun-hye, step down.”

Throughout the streets of Seoul, one could see recently politicized high school students marching side by side with elderly folks who had experienced past revolutionary moments in South Korean history.

(Rooftop view of 100,000 people gathered in Gwanghwamun Plaza; Video – Voice of People)

 

As citizens marched through the streets of Seoul, they chanted, “Park Geun-hye, resign! Arrest Park Geun-hye!” They also rejected Park Geun-hye’s insincere apologies and made it clear that Park’s resignation would be the only form of apology that the South Korean people would accept.

(200,000 people marching in streets of Seoul; Video – Voice of People)

 

Middle and high school students have stepped up to the forefront of the movement to remove Park Geun-hye from the presidential office. On November 5, thousands of them joined the demonstration for democracy and an end to the Park Geun-hye administration.

(Young people – high school and middle school students demanding resignation of president Park; Video – Voice of People)

0:00 – 0:06

Students chanting: “Middle and high school students are outraged! Let us kick out Park Geun-hye!”

0:06 – 1:21

“A president that disregards the strength of the people is a president not needed by the people. President Park Geun-hye, it is your time to resign.”

“We have to reclaim our rights to this country. We can realize the formation of a democratic country with our own hands. The Republic of Korea can be revived as a genuine democratic country when each citizen is able to recognize their agency in effecting political change.”

“This is the time to come together to raise our voices. We have to rise up and fight to the end to recover our lost national sovereignty and re-establish our democratic consciousness.”

“Park Geun-hye, if you understand the sense of betrayal and grief filled with shaking anger felt by those who trusted and followed your lead, then I respectfully request that you resign in a prompt manner. The attorney of Choi Soon-sil said recently that the protest sentiment of the public will soon wither away like autumn leaves. Let us show them whether our voices, the candles we hold up, and the people’s tears of blood will soon fade away like autumn leaves.”

1:21 – 1:40

Students holding a banner that reads, “Let’s Raise a Revolutionary Administration,” lead the march. They chant, “Park Geun-hye, resign!”

 

South Korean citizens across the country rose up in protest of the Park administration. Even in historically- conservative cities like Daegu and Busan, a great number of people took to the streets to demand the resignation of Park Geun-hye.

(Demonstration in Busan; Video – Voice of People)

 

In Daegu, a high school student gave an impassioned speech urging South Korean people to look deeper into problems within the government beyond the president’s relationship with Choi Soon-sil. The student highlighted the fact that the administration and the mainstream media have been putting the focus on Choi far more than necessary, rather than being critical of Park Geun-hye and the ruling party for causing the problems that have negatively affected the lives of South Korean people.

The student talked about all of the indirect and direct ways by which president Park had created problems for the people of South Korea, such as deciding to deploy the U.S. THAAD missile system; forcing schools to use government-issued textbooks that distort history for the benefit of the conservative ruling party and the legacy of her dictator father Park Chung-hee; making a backdoor deal with the Japanese government to settle and erase the history of “comfort women” victims of sexual slavery by the Japanese military; and ignoring her responsibility to respond to the emergency situation of the Sewol Ferry disaster and its aftermath. The student declared the president responsible for all these problems and demanded Park be held accountable.

On Park Geun-hye’s claim that her resignation will only lead to chaos in the government, the student asked, “When she was president, was the government ever operating properly?”

 

Expansion of the “People Power Mobilization”

On November 12, over one million people are expected to march in the streets of Seoul to demand the removal of Park Geun-hye from office. Earlier in the year, long before the eruption of the government corruption scandal, a coalition of civil society groups called the “People Power Mobilization Coordinating Committee” had begun preparing for a mass demonstration. Originally, the People Power Mobilization was envisioned to be a mass demonstration to raise the demands of those most affected by the neo-authoritarian policies and practices of the Park administration, including – workers fighting to oppose labor market reforms that would benefit the corporate elite; families of victims of the Sewol Ferry disaster struggling to uncover the truth and find justice for their loved ones; the family and supporters of farmer Baek Nam-gi demanding punishment for  the police that used excessive force (sanctioned by the Park administration) which eventually led to  Baek’s death; Seongju and Gimcheon residents and peace groups opposing the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile system in Korea.

Since the public became aware of the presidential corruption scandal, the People Power Mobilization Coordinating Committee has partnered with more social justice and civil society organizations to unite the progressive forces and expand the movement to demand the removal of the ruling administration and transform the current state of the government.

On November 9, over 1,500 organizations gathered in an emergency assembly to form the “Emergency People’s Task Force to Force Out Park Geun-hye Administration” and released a statement aimed at the Park administration and the South Korean government. The coalition of civil society groups declared that time has run out for Park Geun-hye to resign of her own volition. According to the statement, the people will wait no longer and remove Park from office themselves.

The statement also included a list of demands related to government decisions and failures in the past four years:

– Let’s kick out Park Geun-hye and uncover the truth behind the Sewol tragedy!

– Let’s kick out Park Geun-hye and punish those responsible for state violence against farmer Baek Nam-gi!

– Let’s kick out Park Geun-hye and stop labor market reforms that benefit the

corporate elite and hurt the people; stop the performance-related pay and termination system in the public sector!

– Let’s kick out Park Geun-hye and stop the U.S. THAAD deployment, nullify the Japan-South Korea “Comfort Women” agreement, and stop the Japan-South Korea General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).”

Workers Call for March to Blue House; Police Threaten Excessive Force

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), one of the main organized forces mobilizing on November 12, announced that it will lead its march to the Blue House. Protesters are legally permitted to gather and demonstrate outside a 100-meter radius of the Blue House. The police, responded with threats of violent tactics to block protesters from reaching the Blue House.

The organizers have taken necessary measures to ensure a peaceful demonstration, but the police announced they will use police vehicles and high-pressure water cannons to block protesters if they march north from Gwanghwamun Plaza to the Blue House.

Last November, during the 2015 People Power Mobilization, the riot police blasted water cannons at protesters. One of the water cannons caused a severe injury to farmer and activist Baek Nam-gi and landed him in a state of comatose for nearly a year. Baek never awoke from his coma and died from his injury in September of this year. Despite what happened, the police insist on using water cannons again to suppress the peaceful People Power Mobilization from reaching the Blue House.

The court advised the police to allow the people to exercise their right to peacefully protest. On November 11, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled that the police does not have the right to prohibit people from marching towards the front of the Blue House. The justice department emphasized that it is the duty of the police to guarantee citizens’ freedom to assemble and rally in the streets.

 

Protests in South Korea Gain International Support

Overseas Koreans are organizing actions in cities around the world in a show of solidarity for the ouster movement  in South Korea. Since the beginning of November, Koreans in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia and other countries have organized to join the call for the resignation of Park Geun-hye and the restoration of democracy in South Korea.

Students, young adults, families with young children, elderly, working class people, college professors, church pastors, local grassroots activists, and LGBTQ organizers have joined forces to call for the restoration of democracy in South Korea.    

On November 4, over 200 people in New York gathered at a solidarity protest. Some were seasoned activists who have been fighting to defend democracy in Korea since the day Park was elected into office. But for many, this was their first demonstration.

 

By ZoominKorea staff

 

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