30,000 Join Memorial for Baek Nam-gi
On October 1, over 30,000 people gathered to commemorate Baek Nam-gi, who passed away on September 25 after spending over 300 days in a coma. The 69-year-old farmer was induced into a coma after the police struck him with high-power water cannons during last year’s People Power Mobilization in November. A memorial in honor of Baek was followed by a march through Seoul. People remembered Baek for his leadership in the struggles for better conditions for farmers and South Korean citizens.
During the memorial, Baek’s youngest daughter spoke on behalf of her family. She thanked all who have supported Baek and his family throughout the past year and gave a statement on why the family opposes the Park Geun-hye administration’s attempt to conduct an autopsy.
Following the memorial and throughout the march, supporters demanded, “Out with the murderous administration, the violent Park Geun-hye administration!” They also chanted, “Investigate the killing of Baek Nam-gi! Abolish water cannons and end state violence!”
Below are highlights from the October 1 memorial and march for Baek Nam-gi (video by Voice of People):
(Video by Voice of People)
Following is a transcript of the above video in English:
0:00 – 0:08
October 1 – Baek Nam-gi memorial rally at Daehangno, Seoul
0:08 – 1:43
Baek’s daughter, Baek Minjuhwa, speaking:
“Although it may take some time, it is my role as my father’s child to take on this burden [to struggle]. It is also our responsibility during this bleak era. [Our family] has been able to take on this burden without losing strength thanks to all the citizens who have supported us and cheered us on from the beginning.
There are people who ask, ‘if you are certain that he died from the water cannon blasts, why don’t you agree to an autopsy?’
The very attending physician who told us that [my father’s] brain condition did not change even after surgery, indicated on the death certificate that he died of an illness. Despite recognizing the mistake, we were told that the certificate could not be revised.
What child would agree to have her father’s body be placed on the surgical table again to be violated for political reasons, especially when there is already enough evidence on the cause of his death?
We will not let [the state] kill our father again and again. The former police chief, Kang Shin-myung [who endorsed the use of excessive force against Baek], always went on about showing respect for the law.
But there is definitely something higher than the law. That is life. We lost our father to clueless and merciless police officers (armed with water cannons) who did not have the basic decency to value a person’s life.
To the conscientious police officers, who agree that a terrible sacrifice like this should never be made again, please do your best to protect all of the rally participants out here today.
We are all the same people living on this land. Thank you.”
1:44 – 1:55
Rally leaders speaking on megaphone:
“Farmer [Baek Nam-gi] came up to Seoul to ask for better conditions for farmers. He was blocked and shot with blasts from water cannons. Eventually he succumbed to death [from the brain trauma].”
1:55 – 2:26
Rally leaders speaking on megaphone:
“[Baek] lived his life by always standing on the front lines to struggle to improve the livelihood [of the people].
The police took aim at [Baek’s] head and fired a high-pressure water cannon at him, and they killed him in the middle of the street of Seoul.
The Park Geun-hye administration killed Baek Nam-gi. Let us end [the term] of the murderous and violent regime of Park Geun-hye.”
2:27 – 3:05
“Conduct a special prosecution [against those responsible]!”
“End state violence!”
“Let us end the dictatorship of Park Geun-hye!”
“Please chant together with us! Abolish water cannons and stop state-sanctioned violence!”
Despite Pleas to Stop Police Violence, Riot Cops Block Peaceful Demonstration
Towards the end of the march for Baek Nam-gi on October 1, walls of riot police blocked demonstrators from getting close to the site where Baek was struck by the water cannon last year. The video below shows police armed with riot gear using physical force to push back unarmed citizens (starting at 0:15):
(Video by Voice of People)
Koreans in U.S. Honor Baek Nam-gi and Call for End to State Violence
On September 30, Koreans in New York and Los Angeles held rallies to commemorate Baek Nam-gi in front of the Korean consulate offices of their respective cities. In each city, participants held a moment of silence to give respects to Baek who fell and passed at the hands of state violence. They echoed the demands made by Baek’s supporters in South Korea:
- Punish those responsible for the state violence that killed Baek Nam-gi.
- Investigate the truth and and prosecute the responsible parties through a special independent prosecutor.
- Immediately stop the coercive attempts to conduct an autopsy on Baek.
- Out with the murderous Park Geun-hye government that killed Baek Nam-gi.
Below is a video from the New York Memorial and Rally for Baek Nam-gi:
In the Spirit of Baek Nam-gi, “Let Us Meet Again at People Power Mobilization”
Although the main purpose of the memorial on October 1 was to commemorate Baek’s life and denounce the state violence that led to his death, the 30,000 people gathered raised other pressing social issues. Many saw this day of action as a prelude to the mass People Power Mobilization set to take place in November.
At 3pm on October 1, workers of the public and financial sectors, as well as government workers, hospital workers, and teachers rallied to demand an end to the performance-based wage and termination system being pushed by the Park administration. They announced more strikes in November leading up to the People Power Mobilization on November 12.
Peace activists protesting the deployment of the U.S.Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system also joined the day of action in Seoul. In Gimcheon and Seongju, residents held their 41st and 80th consecutive days of candlelight vigils in their respective cities. On the day prior, the Defense Ministry had announced that the Lotte Skyhill golf course near Gimcheon City will be the “final site” for the deployment of the U.S. THAAD system. A group of members of the Gimcheon and Seongju Anti-THAAD task forces joined the day of action and stated, “Whether the U.S. and the South Korean Defense Ministry announce the deployment site to be Seongju or Gimcheon, we will not change our position that ‘there will be no final deployment site [for the THAAD] anywhere in the Republic of Korea.’”
Demonstrators also raised the issue of the Sewol Ferry tragedy. October 1 marked the 900th day since the tragedy on April 16, 2014. Civic groups and bereaved families calling for a proper investigation of the Sewol Ferry disaster face more challenges after the Park administration ended the official government mandate for the truth commission on September 30. Prior to the end of the mandate, the Park administration used various tactics to disrupt the investigation by the Special Investigation Commission on the 4/16 Sewol Ferry Disaster. The commission and civic groups vowed to continue to fight for the truth behind the tragedy despite the obstacles imposed by the government.
The October 1 day of action was coordinated by a coalition of workers, family members of the Sewol Ferry disaster victims, supporters of Baek Nam-gi, and the task force organizing the 2016 November People Power Mobilization. The organizers of the October 1 day of action expressed hope that over 200,000 people will join the November 12 mass People Power Mobilization in the spirit of Baek Nam-gi to end the tyranny of the Park Geun-hye regime.
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