Korea protest 2.0

If you look at it bleakly, all the recent protests signal — at least in part — a new wave of anti-Americanism, and the Marmot’s Hole has been posting about this reality. At the same time, there’s a certain charm to the whole thing. This article made me laugh about a half dozen times. I could see a lot of the “good Korea” in it, because I see smaller versions of this in daily life all the time.

I particularly liked this middle section:

Besides the lack of violence, what is surprising – even to South Koreans – is that there is no organizer for the already weeks-long demonstration. People took to the streets and formed ad hoc protest groups, usually around 6pm or 7pm each day. This has been bewildering to South Korean civil society, labor unions and opposition politicians – the usual players in such public protests. Tuesday’s rally was the first officially organized protest and had the biggest turnout – police estimate 105,000 demonstrators, while the organizers said the number was closer to 500,000.

Still, one might think it was some kind of mass picnic, until you spot the riot police standing stiff, waiting for a crackdown order. Some people are holding impromptu concerts complete with guitars and violins, singing and dancing. In some cases, entire families have arrived to literally “camp out” in the middle of traffic. Of course they brought tents with them.

Other “protesters” have brought hot coffee to serve anyone who needs it. And high school students have given out roses to riot police, a move that definitely brings down the tension level. Some are distributing water bottles to the aggressive “frontliners” who usually shout more and work up a justified thirst. There are even volunteer medics walking around, shouting “Does anybody need help?”

Young couples use the protest for a romantic outing. They march with hands held tight, and the other hand holding a candle. Local TV footage has shown a man celebrating his girlfriend’s birthday with a protest-candle cake. Other “demonstrators” have brought an outdoor movie projector and are showing the US documentary Sicko.

With the party atmosphere in full swing, the street vendors are enjoying a heyday of extra money and unusual business hours. It’s 2am, and here they are selling kimbob (Korean sushi) or bundaegi (roasted silkworm larvae) right in the middle of roads that have been declared “no-traffic zones” by protesters who’re occupying them.

This is South Korea’s street protests 2.0. Or, perhaps, South Korea’s “postmodern” demonstrations. With some Koreans mistrustful of mainstream media reports on the demonstration, they’ve taken matters into their own hands by broadcasting and reporting themselves. Using high-speed wireless Internet, some “embedded” citizens are using their own laptops and camcorders to broadcast real-time events. There are “citizen reporters” conducting interviews and taking pictures and posting them on their personal blogs and Internet forums. In fact, these news hounds have been so effective that some established newspapers have begun quoting them.

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2 Responses to “Korea protest 2.0”

  1. I’m not sure about some of the other guys who post at my blog, but I don’t recall ever saying the recent protests signal a new wave of anti-Americanism. I think anti-Americanism is present at the protests — especially so for some of the organizers that that Sunny Lee says don’t exist — but this is neither new, nor is it, I believe, the primary motivating factor.

  2. Hi Robert…

    Yeah, perhaps an unfair choice of words on my part. I meant that you were reporting on some of the anti-US buzz happening on the internet, and the negative comments are related at least in part to the recent protests.

    And I agree, btw, that any anti-Americanism not the primary motivating factor, but rather seems to be a cathartic outpouring as a result of everything else recently (beef, LMB, unfortunate tank incidents). Situations like that have a tendency to fester and grow, and that’s the bleak aspect I was referring to.

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