Light ’em Up

What really happened at Gwang Hwa Moon Square last week? Hear from the field reporter who was actually there.

On the 5th of November, the day of revolution in the movie V for Vendetta, the citizens of Seoul lit up the city with candles as a non-violent protest against President’ Park Geun Hye’s continuation of presidency. As the scandal regarding Park’s intimate affiliation with Choi Sunsil emerged on the surface through investigative journalism, the public’s disapproval of her qualification as a president reached its peak. According to a poll from November 4th, right after Park’s second official response to the allegation on the day before, only 5% (Hangeorae News) responded that she should remain in the office. Among the surveyed subjects, the approval rating amongst the age group 20s and 30s converged nearly to zero. As the voice of the public demanded her resignation conflicted with Park’s decision to stay, mass rallies were held by political activist groups, the most notable one on 5th with two hundred thousand people. This is a first-person account of the scene of the protest.

I got to the square at 4 p.m. Countless people had already filled the arena. Everyone had one goal and one goal only: to get Lady Park to step down from the Blue House (Korea’s presidential office). The rally had already started out at 2 p.m. with the funeral of Baek Nam Gi, a farmer who died due to a severe head injury he got during the violent police suppression of another non-violent protest. Leaving the protesters’ demands for labor law reform unsolved, the government showed meagre sign of taking responsibility.

Never have I ever seen such a massive crowd, probably numbering up to one hundred thousand before the sun came down. The stone ground was cold, but the spirit of the people kept the venue warm. The leaders of various groups spoke shouting out chants with the crowd, speaking up for their reasons to fight with us. To be honest, they seemed more or less intimidated by the number of people gathered, which far exceeded the ideal prediction of fifty thousand.

College students led the rally, each university representative proclaiming its ‘manifestos of current affairs’ (or 시국선언). Personally, the president of Seoul National University’s student body Bomi Kim’s speech was memorable. Her charismatic tone and well-organised thought regarding the issue made the crowd ignite once more, even with the incident they are well-informed about. Her ability to grasp the audience made her presence more distinct amongst many other brilliant student leaders. She had already made her name through the social network media by being elected as the first homosexual female student body president in a Korean university.

Perhaps because most young Koreans have not yet participated in protests of = similar scale before, the crowd was not used to the ambience of the protest initially. However, they unleashed the outburst from years of deception and unfairness, in the most citizenly manner imaginable. We all marched down to Jongro, against the unconstitutional restriction by the police. The local station, however,  ended up securing the streets and emptied the traffic for safe progression of the march. Snowballing even more people, we came back by 7:30 p.m. with almost two hundred thousand people lighting the candles in Gwang Hwa Moon Square.

At the second assembly, notable political figures stopped by the stage. There was a speaker from Korea’s Secondary School Activist Group, independently gathering a fairly impressive number of younger participants. When one of the organizers emphasized our presence at the scene and the crowd cheered for us, I imagined, it might have been the first time our generation marked the footstep in the history of Korea.

Under the statue of General Lee, we were an army with spears of candles, igniting our yearn for democracy. Although our struggle is only at its initial phase, the November 5th rally was a leap to take us forward.

#하야해 #hayahae

– Paul Jeon (‘17)

Sources  – Hangyeorae News

(Featured Image from myself)

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