Monday, June 09, 2008

The Exciting World of Korean Protests

Things are getting a bit crazy of here in Korea, Republic of. I mean, more than that what seems usual from this weigook's perspective.

Living and commuting in downtown Seoul, its impossible to escape the fervour and its fallout surrounding the US beef import issue. The average Seoulite is horrified of american beef once again hitting the korean market/BBQ grill after an all out ban due to the mad cow scare. Tens of thousands of koreans have taken to the streets of Seoul over the past 3 weeks in increasingly tense gatherings. Video footage of this past weekend's insanity is simply shameful. Candlelight vigils less than a month ago are now taking the tune of senseless rioting.

"I am afraid of American beef," one 13-year-old protester told a US newspaper reporter. "I could study hard in school. I could get a good job and then I could eat beef and just die."

There's some homegrown insight to counter the hysteria, though not much.

"We are creating the fear of mad cow disease in our own minds. Candlelights should be used to brighten the darkness, not burn down our own homes." - BBC Asia Pacific News - an over-head pan of the issues threatening my peaceful 30-minute walk to school. - I am impressed with Kyoto Journal's intelligent asia-centric liberal-artsy literature. Korean protests are nothing new, nothing short of a two year protest finally brought down a 40 year old dictatorship government in 1987. - a photographic catalogue of a few different protest strategies seen over the past decade or so - though coming from an entertaining yet distastefully singular perspective. Certainly not the most flattering outlook.

From the BBC website, this intersection is where I turn up the hill and head to school.

This is Gwanghwamun, a 6 minute stroll from the Human Space Parkview Tower I call home. This gate was the former site of the Japanese colonial government headquarters. Ironic on a scale to which I can barely grasp.

Some say bliss is still to be found in the small green bottles. The production of these, actually, might as well be the thing worth protesting. I've never been so ill from beef as I have felt after a soju night.