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January 21 2014

Korean Seniors Prompt Boycott of McDonald and Get McResolution

Korean elderly have made headlines in New York City as they loiter at McDonald's each day, starting early in the morning till well after dark, ordering only fries or coffee. After they were kicked out for hampering business, some in the Korean community called for a boycott of the restaurant.

The New York Times story on elderly squatters in McDonald's went abuzz over the weekend, and McDonald's reacted quickly, putting out the fire by Monday by reaching a “McResolution!“. They promised extended sitting hours for the elderly during less-busy times and even to collaborate with local seniors centers to provide transportation to and from the restaurant.

However, Koreans, who are familiar with senior citizens overstaying at fast food stores in one of the most overcrowded and busiest cities in the world, South Korean capital Seoul, seem to understand McDonald's tough choice. Here are some reactions from South Korean online venues.

Image by Flicker User Kansir (CC BY 2.0)

Image by Flicker User Kansir (CC BY 2.0)

The McDonald's fiasco. I really hope people don't bring ‘race’ in to the equation. It is not like they were kicked out because of their race/nationality. By emphasizing that it is ‘Koreans’ who were being kicked out, they are actually embarrassing themselves. This is so ugly, and just embarrassing. I can see why this happen.

The reason why I am not rooting for McDonald's boycott in New York is because how they approach this problem is just so typical. Jongmyo Area in Seoul is packed with elderly who loiter at fast food chains. It is not Korean “culture”, but a problem Korean society has. It is just deplorable they brought it over and repeat it in another country.

Net users cast doubt on the Korean Parents Association of New York – a group who initiated the boycott and question whether they are eligible to represent the whole Korean community in general. Some from the group, notably the chairwoman, are accused of being extreme right-wingers who infamously blocked a peaceful protest against the election manipulation scandal held in New York last autumn. User @hippietech wrote [ko]:

자극적인 제목으로 민족성 자극하는 저질 기사. 한인사회 발끈한 적 없습니다. 몇몇 노인들이 진상짓 했을뿐

I see so many sensational, trashy reports which provoke ethnicity issues. No. Korean communities have not been angered by [the McDonald's case] and it is just a handful of rouge seniors who made a scene.

January 20 2014

South Korea Accused of Rewriting History in High School Textbook

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) 

A conservative high school history textbook in South Korea that puts a positive spin on some of the country's most controversial periods of history, such as Japan's colonial rule, has been a source of heated debate for several weeks, with the government being accused of favoring textbooks that support their political beliefs and paint a rosier view of various periods of history.

The textbook by Kyohak Publishing Co has been lambasted not only for its inaccuracy, but for whitewashing the past flaws of certain interest groups. Critics say the sheer volume of errors – over 750 mistakes – in the textbook are serious enough to disqualify it as a legitimate learning tool.

Parents and students protested hard against several schools who have decided to adopt Kyohak's textbook and finally succeeded in revoking the decision. However, the Ministry of Education has offered excuses for the publishers, first by claiming that it was not the final version. Even after it was revealed that Kyohak still has not applied the required adjustments to the textbook and its revised version contained about 350 errors, the ministry again embraced them, saying that it was a trial version. According to local report, one historian said [ko] “in his 22 years as a history teacher, he has never heard of such thing as a ‘textbook trial version’, and the ministry’s outlandish claim renders him speechless.”

The scope [ko] of the errors are wide: misleading descriptions of Japanese imperial rule of Korea, incorrect names of locations on a map, and the false claim that the United States had a colony in the Indochina region. Another noteworthy mistake includes an inaccurate description of President Park Geun-hye’s father, the late military dictator Park Chung-hee: the textbook says Koreans’ average per capital income reached 10,000 US dollars under his rule, when it should be 1,000.

The textbook also claims that the so-called comfort women – young teenagers and women, many of whom were Korean, who were forced into prostitution by the Empire of Japan during World War II to “comfort” the troops – “followed the Japanese army around”, thereby implying that they have voluntarily choose to serve the army for the money. There is even an error suspected to have been lifted from an online blog post.

The New York Times recently added fuel to the fire with an editorial entitled “Politicians and Textbooks” in which the paper accused President Park of downplaying Korean collaboration with Japanese imperialists during Japan's colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The editorial concluded that Park, along with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, are “pushing to have high school history textbooks in their countries rewritten to reflect their political views.” The Korean Foreign Ministry fired right back, saying it will “take necessary steps against the New York Times with regard to the erroneous facts.”

Enraged Koreans commented as below:

Kyohak Publishing’s textbook is only worth as much as the ruling Saenuri party’s campaign flyers. 

After watching Chairman of Kyohak Publishing Yang Cheol-woo’s interview on the JTBC Sohn Suk-hee’s news program, I can totally see how that garbage, pro-Japanese imperialist book was born. He kept claiming their textbook has no flaws and it is the most accurate book available. He even accused other textbooks of being “left-leaning”.

More concerns arose as reports came out [ko] that immediately after Kyohak Publishing’s history textbook had been rejected by parents and students, the government and ruling Saenuri party began pushing to publish it and impose the textbook on a national level. Currently, students, parents and teachers have a say in the textbook selection process, and have a choice among several different books. The political opposition denounced the move [ko] as an attempt to stifle points of view that differ from their own, and commented that a one-size-fits-all textbook system is a favorite of authoritarian regimes who can easily manipulate its content. The most notable cases of the one national textbook system would be North Korea and Russia. 

When they found out that Kyohak’s history textbook had been completely rejected by students, parents and teachers, the proper way to respond is by looking back at their flaws and feeling shameful and apologetic. But how did they react? It is as if they are seeking revenge, they are pushing to switch to a universal textbook system. This is an utter disregard for history and disrespect for the people.

Twitter influencer and historian Jeon Woo-yong (@histopian) tweeted a series of messages regarding this issue:

Even the monarchy of the Joseon Dynasty did not interfere with chroniclers’ works. It is those in power who should be afraid of history, not history that clings on to power. The reason why those in power want to exert control over history is either because they are ashamed to face history, or they dont even bother to make themselves feel unashamed'. 

January 16 2014

BBC's North Korean Broadcast Plan Hit a Snag

It is not the first time BBC's ambitious plan to reach out to one of the world's most reclusive countries has been thwarted. Back in June 2013, BBC World Service’ plan to air programmes in North Korea was curbed by government cuts to its budget. This time, BBC has concluded ‘it is not currently possible’ for them ‘to offer a meaningful, effective and cost-effective service.’ North Korea Tech blog went over each possible hurdle North Korean broadcast service would face, including the jamming issue, regulations and more.

January 09 2014

South Korea: Political Revenge against Whistleblower?

Kwon Eun-hee, a policewoman and ex-chief investigator at Seoul Suseo Police station, revealed last summer that her team had received pressures and ‘unreasonable orders’ from superiors to reduce the scope of an investigation into the spy agency election manipulation scandal. Although net users lauded Kwon, her bold act seems to have taken its toll; local media reports [ko] that Kwon has failed to get a promotion which was considered ‘a sure thing for someone with Kwon’s resume and qualifications’, adding that if that happens one more time, by law she would be forced to leave her position in four years. Many suspect it is a politically-motivated decision, including prominent citizen journalist Media Mongu who commented it is ‘a scary revenge’ [ko] and embedded a highlight video of Kwon's revelations.

January 07 2014

Users Jeer at North Korean Death-by-Dog Story

A major US media outlet, NBC made one of the most sensational international reports which claimed the North Korean young dictator might have had his uncle devoured by 120 ravenous dogs. Unsurprisingly, the report went viral online, but was later found out to be a confusion caused by social media satire. Numerous jeers and jokes have been made about Western media's speculative reports on the world’s most reclusive nations. Ask A Korean blog founder via Twitter (@AskAKoreanreminded people of the fake voiceover fiasco back in the spring of 2013 when the inter-Korean tension was dangerously heightened.

January 03 2014

South Korean Lawmaker Proposes Bill Denying Right to Counsel for Anti-State Criminals

A ruling party lawmaker, Kim Jin-tae proposed a bill [ko] that either denies or greatly limits the right to counsel for criminals who are accused of committing ‘anti-state activities'. It has already drawn harsh criticism from civil rights lawyers who call it ‘utterly unconstitutional idea’ [ko] and sparked heated debates in major South Korean online venues. Vice chairman of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society's Judicial Committee, Lee Jae-hwa (@jhohmylawtweeted [ko] as below. 

[After linking to news article [ko] about the bill] Kim Jin-tae is totally delusional. What would be his next step? He may even propose a bill legalizing torture.

January 02 2014

South Korean Authorities Discredit Dissenting Voices as ‘Not-Real’ News

Who gets to decide what is real news or not? It seems the South Korean government thinks they have enough authority to do so. 

The country's media regulation authorities have discredited several news programs, calling them “not real news”. Among many programs that found themselves a target were Newstapa, an investigative news site which made groundbreaking revelations in 2013; Gobal News, a young news site runs by an independent citizen-funded station, just like Newstapa; and several news shows aired by the Christian Broadcasting System (CBS) radio.  

The Korean Communications Commission (KCC) released its report on the media landscape on December 30 and disqualified some as “non-real news” (or “not legit” news) and vowed [ko] to send warnings to those broadcasters in order to push them to make major adjustments in their formats. The government's explanation was that it is illegal for special-purpose stations (i.e. traffic or religion channels) to adopt the form of “news, news anchors, and journalists” and for local channels (which air in a specific province or city) to report on general, state-level social issues – in other words, they can't use the format of news when covering any subjects that are deemed outside of their area of coverage.

Journalists and media workers lambasted the decision, commenting [ko] that the current journalism environment has turned as hostile as that of the 1980s when notorious military dictator Chun Doo-hwan brutally cracked down on any forms of dissent and stifled journalism.

A media industry veteran and currently investigative reporter at Newstapa, Choi Kyung-young (@kyung0), wrote [ko] as below. Newstapa (English name: Korea Center for Investigative Journalism) made stunning feats of journalism last year by disclosing critical facts about the election manipulation scandal and elite tax haven scheme, but was discredited by authorities as “not real news”. 

[...] 어디서 유사언론학을 들었는지 모르겠으나 “정부가 무엇이 보도인지를 규정하면 그 나라에는 보도는 사라지고 선전만 남게된다” http://t.co/Ww3nIpXUUT

[...] I dont know where they learnt about the definition on “non-legit news”, but bear in mind that once the government gets to decide what is news or not, news reports in that nation disappears and only propaganda is left. 

CBS (Christian Broadcasting System, not related to the US media company of the same name) is a non-profit organization that has a history of being the first independent radio station in the country. Although it has a Christian background, some of CBS's news programs have been praised for unbiased reports.

One of the hosts for CBS's news program, Kim Eung-gyo, wrote that the only comparable crackdown on media to this current one is the 1980′s shutdown when the military regime forced CBS to shutter by merging them and other independent broadcasters with state-run TV. The station reopened seven years later:

As suspected, they provoked CBS. They branded these programs – CBS News, Jeong Kwan-yong's Current Issues, Kim Hyun-jeong's News Show – “not real news” done without proper permission. It seems like the ghost of [military dictator] Chun Doo-hwan – who halted CBS which has aired news since 1954 - has returned to this era.

Media critic Yoo Chang-seon (‏@changseon) criticized [ko] authorities’ guidelines as outdated:

방송통신위원회의 이러한 발상, 참 낡고 낡았다 하는 생각이 듭니다. 종교채널이든 경제채널이든 교통채널이든, 그 방송을 듣고 보는 사람들 모두 세상 돌아가는 일을 알아야 합니다. 어느 분야 하나 서로 연결되지 않는 것이 없는 세상입니다[...]

Korea Communications Commission's decision reveals that their thinking cannot be more outdated. Whether it is a religious channel, an economic channel or a traffic channel, the audience should be able get information on what is happening now in the world by watching those channels. Moreover, everything, every industry are closely connected with each other[...]

Image by Free Press Pics (CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Image by Free Press Pics (CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Gobal news and Newstapa both belong to RTV, [ko] an independent TV station that heavily depends on citizen contributions and donations. RTV tweeted as below right after the news about “not-real news” broke. Gobal news revealed [ko] that while the move was made against them, the government provides generous benefits to TV stations run by major newspapers who strongly support the government and its policies:

This signals the start of muzzling media critical of the government. It means that they will allow people to watch only the network TVs and those TV stations run by conservative newspaper companies [referring to Chosun, Joonang and Donga Newspaper]

RTV's journalists said that they will resist against [ko] authorities’ guidelines, and many citizens expressed the same. Pyo Chang-won, a former professor at the National Police University and now influential talk show host, tweeted as below. 

CBS radio and its program “Kim Hyun-jeong's News Show” have played the role of real journalism program by delivering facts and sharp analyses to audiences. I fully support and want to encourage them, and every fiber of my body will be resisting against the KCC's anachronistic oppression of the media – which would be more befitting of a dictatorial era. Cheer up. 

December 31 2013

South Korean Pres. Vows Pre-emptive Strikes on Social Media Rumors

Is South Korea government gearing up toward social media censorship? The latest official remark by President Park (full transcript [ko]) had Korean net users worried. Park, addressing “those rumors spreading via social media”, said “if the government let these things happen, it will bring chaos nationwide” and added “bear in mind that the authorities need to react fast and aggressively, and preemptively against those groups trying to distort the situations”. Many twitter users voiced concerns and pointed out the fact (such as @ppsskr's tweet [ko] which has been retweeted over 500 times) that the government bodies sent out over 24 million tweets to tip the scale in favor of Park in the latest presidential election.

December 28 2013

South Korea: Reason Behind Movie ‘The Attorney's Box Office Smash

South Korean movie ‘The Attorney’ which depicts the early life of ex-President Roh who started as a civil rights lawyer resisting against dictatorial regimes, has drawn over 4 million admissions in just ten days of screening. Movie critics even comment [ko] that its popularity in Korea is more explosive than that of Hollywood blockbuster ‘Avatar’ which made a huge hit in the country. Prominent culture critic Chin Jung-kwon (@unheim) explains via Twitter that the current administration and its multiple political scandals have ironically helped the movie by inspiring people to take interest in democratic values.

It is hard for this sort of film to make a big-time (commercial) success, but the government has paved the way for public’s explosive responses to it. While movie ‘May 18’ (which is about the 80s democratic movement) have failed to re-summon the old slogan of ‘Democracy’, this movie was able to gain success as the government taught people that you should not be treating that old value as outdated.

PHOTOS: 100,000 South Koreans Protest Election Scandal, Labor Clampdown

A series of different protests as well as a mass strike organized by labor groups rocked South Korea on December 28, 2013. 

From noon till late at night, about 100,000 citizens and labor workers angrily demonstrated against the current government's election manipulation scandal and clampdowns on labor groups as well as moves toward privatization of the nation's railway system, though the administration denies such claims. Some observers are calling the outbreak of demonstrations proof that public anger has nearly “reached its boiling point” [ko].

Although it failed to reach its goal of one million participants, more than 100,000 [ko] were reported to be present till late afternoon. Although police estimate the total number barely reached 20,000, some disputed the number by pointing out that 13,000 riot police were mobilized for the event. 

One image making the rounds online purportedly of the strike turned out to actually be from 2010. Nevertheless, plenty of dramatic photos showing the scale of the main protest in Seoul Plaza circulated the web:

These citizens were not able to enter the plaza as a wall of police bus blocked their way. So instead, the plaza's surrounding roads were fully packed with these people. 

It is hard to guess the real scale of the protest against railway privatization by merely looking at photos. But I will post these three photos, which show protesters who are “in” the Plaza. Please take into account that these are only 70 percent of the total participants. 

Seoul Plaza is already fully packed. 

This is a photo of the No. 6 exit of the City Hall subway station [which leads to the Seoul Plaza]

Though labor unions overwhelmingly counted the largest participation, various non-labor groups also hosted minor protests today, including students, lawyers, media workers [ko] and a particularly unique group, the newly launched KOCA (Korean Online Communities Alliance) [ko], an association of the nation's major online community sites.

We are Not Fine” movement-themed protest (from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.) 

In Seoul, Daejeon, Changwon and Pusan, young protesters, especially students, took turns standing on stage and spelling out “the reasons why they can't be okay” [ko] from 12 p.m. to roughly around 3 p.m. 

A high school girl said some students of Gaepo High School may get reprimanded for posting hand-written posters. She said “we will be feeling ‘fine’ only after expressing our thoughts”. 

Flash mobs (at 3 p.m.)

Flash mobs of citizens singing the revolutionary anthem “Do you hear the people sing?” from the musical “Les Misérables” were held in Seoul, Pusan, Gwangju, Daejeon and Daegu. Here is a video of a flash mob which took place near the Yonsei University in Seoul:

Civil rights lawyers’ protest (from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.)

Civil rights lawyers held a protest at 2 p.m. at Bosingak Bell Pavilion, and around 3 p.m. they marched towards the Seoul Plaza.

Under the slogan of “From the courtroom to the streets” and “There is no injustice that wins the justice”, these lawyers are gathering at Bosingak to call for democracy. This shows how far our democracy and common sense have fallen. 

Mass strike by labor groups (from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.)

Before joined by other groups, labor unions held a fierce demonstration at Seoul Plaza against the government's decision to crack down on fired railway workers and labor leaders.

I give them a round of applause for their strong alliance – many groups, even KLUC [Korea Labor Union Congress] have joined, calling out “We will protect our railway system by having a general strike by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions.”

(as of 2:57 p.m.) The Construction Labor Union is marching to Seoul Plaza from Youngpung Bookstore. I can't see where their line ends.

Main rally

A main demonstration was scheduled to take place around 4 p.m., but Seoul Plaza was already packed with protesters from around 2 p.m.

The photo on the left shows Seoul City Hall Plaza at 1:30 p.m. and the right is taken at 2:55 p.m. Now there is no room for extra feet.

The protest continued into the night.

Photos of Colossal Protests in South Korea

Several ten thousands have gathered at Seoul Plaza (as of 3 pm) to protest against the South Korean government's election manipulation scandal and the latest clampdowns on labor groups. The numbers are rapidly growing and the protest will continue throughout the day. Aiming 1 million Koreans to participate in ‘the December 28th General Strike', a detailed schedule [ko] of a series of protests held by different groups in major cities across the country has been widely shared in South Korean online venues in last few days. There will soon be an extensive Global Voices coverage on this unprecedentedly large-scale event with multiple layers to it.

The December 28 General Strike (and protest) against the fraudulent election is being held at the City Hall Plaza, now as of 3:22 pm. 

Actually it can't be said people are ‘in’ the Seoul Plaza. Even the nearby road is packed with people.

December 27 2013

South Korean Election Scandal Ironically Brought Religions Together

Opposition against the current administration's election manipulation scandal grows stronger every day, even enough to inspire conservative Protestant Christian groups to join the protest movement [ko] following the trails of Catholic leaders and Buddhist monks. On Christmas, this rare scene took place; in front of a Christmas tree which stood in the Jogye Buddhist temple, leaders from different religious groups held a joint prayer meeting/service lamenting the current political situation and denouncing the government bodies' systemic interference on the latest presidential election. South Korean net users in major online venues shared this running joke; President Park has achieved something that no other previous heads of the state were able to pull off– the ‘grand slam of unifying the three major religions‘ [ko] (of South Korea) for a shared purpose.

In front of a Christmas tree, at the Jogye temple where the Buddha(‘s statues/relics) are kept, held a joint religious service demanding the government to halt clampdowns on railway workers and labor groups. This truly is a scene of ‘grand unification'.

December 24 2013

South Korean Military Bans ‘Arirang', Country's Iconic and Beloved Song

South Korean Military is infamous for banning books, films and songs which they find ‘controversial’ or ‘subversive’ and their recent decision to ban the nation's most beloved and historically important songs ‘Arirang’ (which even has the famed nickname of ‘unofficial national anthem of Korea‘) met with fierce backlash. The military explains it was because Arirang's sad tune is ‘too depressing‘ [ko] to be played in the army. However, one journalist lashed out [ko] that such decision demeans ‘the song's rich history of empowering and consoling the oppressed and mobilizing the grassroots'. As a sign of protest, South Koreans living abroad sung Arirang together [ko] during their latest demonstrations held across five different countries against the presidential election manipulation scandal

Reposted byirukandjisyndrome irukandjisyndrome

South Korea: Brutal Crackdown by 4000 Police is Epic Failure

On 22 December 2013, over 4,000 South Korean riot police stormed the headquarter of the nation's 2nd largest trade union center– an unprecedented event in the country's post-dictatorship history which shows how determined the current regime is in clamping down on labor and democratic organizations.

It was not only the sheer scale of the crackdown which surprised the people, but also these three facts that further enraged the already furious South Korean net users: the police break-in was done without search warrant [ko]; a progressive newspaper building's facilities have been damaged along the way; and police obstructed a peaceful protest that citizens held in support of these labor workers.

Despite making a scene such as the photos below show, police have failed to capture their targets who are accused of leading the latest rail workers’ protests and were thought to be hidden in the building. Now the Dec 22 police crackdown is already remembered as an ‘epic failure [ko]‘, generating considerable mockery [ko] online. Here are tweets shared widely by Korean net users.

The current regime dispatched several thousand police to capture a handful of labor workers. It shows how desperate and fearful they are about the current situation. It is just a year since they grabbed power, but what we see now are the typical symptoms of a lame-duck regime.

You journalists need to know this. This building happens to be also a place shared by the Kyunghyang Newspaper [*note: Nation's top progressive media outlet vocally criticizing the current administration]. Although we are thankful to you guys for covering this news, please document the fact that this building is where your fellow journalists stay. And protest with us!

[summary of what happened] 1. They broke into that place, claiming they were looking for their wanted men. But they were not there to begin with. 2. If they had warrants, they could be able to make excuses (about their forced entrance), but actually it turns out their warrant request was denied. 3. Then yet again, they obstructed ‘legal’ protests. 4. Later, it was caught on camera that these riot police used pepper spray on citizens. This is a proclamation of war against the people.

Once tweets of police's violent clampdown went viral online, many citizens in the city joined to fight with these struggling labor union workers. @sinbi2010 reported [ko] that over 20 thousand citizens gathered voluntarily within few hours and clashed with police. Below are photos of the citizens’ clash with the police later that day.

<Urgent! SOS (distress signal)> We need to besiege the Park Junior's army. [referring to President Park Geun-hye who is a daughter of ex-president Park Chung-hee] @kyhal55: Please everybody come out. Please, citizens come out. 

(on 5:03 pm) Police have blocked citizens who are moving in the direction of the Kyunghyang newspaper building. Now they are chanting ‘Go away you violent police’ and confronting them.

Police now face legal issues [ko] ahead as civic groups and human rights lawyers are preparing for a package of lawsuits.

Police had no search warrant for the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). An arrest warrant is not legally sufficient for them to break into a place after tearing down locked doors. Moreover, legally speaking, the fact that police broke into the building shared by KCTU and the Kyunghyang newspaper by destroying their facilities, constitutes a felony of home invasion.

December 21 2013

Photos of South Koreans’ Candlelight Rallies in New York, Paris, London

South Koreans living abroad have held candlelight vigils in New York, Paris, London and Berlin throughout this week, accusing the government bodies’ manipulation of the latest presidential election. More protests are planned in various major cities around the world next week. Follow @OverseasCandle for updates. 

South Koreans’ protest in New York City, on the night of December 20:  

After having held overseas candlelight rallies in Paris, Berlin (earlier this week), we went to Manhattan. About 100 people have participated. Please support us!

This is the scene of the overseas candlelight vigil in New York City. Such a touching moment! 

A candlelight rally in Paris, France, on December 20: 

This is a photo of overseas candlelight rally in Paris. 

I am uploading a picture of Paris candlelight rally here. Please specify it as ‘Paris candlelight rally by citizens’ when you share it. 

A protest in London on December 21: 

This is the photo of London's protest which was held under the slogan of ‘We Want Our Democracy Back'. Peoples’ raincoats and umbrellas show the weather here in London.

We, who ‘are not fine’ (about things happening in South Korea), have gathered in this rainy and windy day. What have made us ‘not okay'? The answer is in the photo. 

South Korea: Class-action Suit Against Key Players of Election Manipulation

Marking a year after the latest presidential election tainted with allegations of political tampering, attorney Han Woong, together with 610 plaintiffs, filed a civil lawsuit [ko] against those who are allegedly responsible for the election manipulation scandal. Han accused ex-President Lee Myung-bak, former head of the NIS (National Intelligence Service), ex-Commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police and spy agents of violating civil rights of South Koreans [ko] by orchestrating and executing the election manipulation and he vowed to continue a series of compensation suits with more plaintiffs. [*note: The number '610' -- a total number of plaintiffs and also suggested damage claims of 610 million Korean Won (about 574 thousand US dollars) -- has been employed to remind people of the nation's iconic June 10 democratic movement back in the 80s] Twitter user @soonhearim tweeted [ko] an image of Han holding court papers. 

Lawyer Han Woong is having an interview now, as of 11 am on December 19 (Thursday). This press conference held in front of Daehanmun (Gate), was about 610 plaintiffs who filed a compensation suit over emotional distress caused by the NIS scandal. 

December 20 2013

South Korean Education Ministry Orders to Discourage Students’ Poster Movement

As South Korean universities students’ ‘We Are Not Fine!’ posters movement spreads like wildfire across the country, even to the point of influencing high, junior high and elementary students [ko], the Ministry of Education has given notice to schools to control students’ poster-making in order ‘not to ruin good studying atmosphere'. Notable citizen-participatory journalism site OhmyNews posted images [ko] of the authorities’ guidelines, which have been shared by Twitter users as below. 

The Mnistry of Education, claiming that the poster movement would ‘damage good studying atmosphere', has ordered each city and province's Office of Education to deliver notice to each school. They say ‘they cant tolerate controversial issues being introduced to and influence schools'.

‘We Are Not Fine!’ Posters Go Viral at South Korea's Universities

Are we seeing a Korean version of Occupy Wall Street?

A handwritten poster by a university student that spelled out the student's frustration with social injustice and current political developments went viral, both on- and offline in South Korea. Inspired by this so-called “We are not fine” poster, which lists various social issues as the reason why “we are not fine”, young Koreans have started writing their own posters and plastering campus bulletin boards with their messages.

Ju Hyun-woo, a student at Korea University, wrote the message below on two large pieces of paper and posted them on his school bulletin board last week. Ju's manifesto listed major social issues that ignited protests, including the presidential election manipulation scandal; mass layoffs of railroad workers; the struggle of small town Milryang's senior residents against the construction of a high voltage tower; the corrutpion of powerful corporations; and the ever-crunched and insecure job market.

He then called on fellow students: “I just want to ask you, ‘Are you okay?’ Are you fine with ignoring all these issues because they are not your problems? I just wanted to ask whether you feel okay about hiding behind political apathy to justify yourself. And if you are not ‘fine’ after seeing all these problems, then voice your opinions – whatever that may be”.

Ju's hand-written poster which sparked this movement

Ju's handwritten poster explaining his frustration with various social issues inspired many other South Koreans to do the same. Photo posted on the ‘Can't Be Okay’ Facebook page. Used with permission.

Following the explosive reaction on campus to the poster, it has spread like wildfire [ko] to universities across the country. More than 20 major universities within and outside of Seoul have joined so far, including Seoul National University, Yonsei, Hanyang, Ewha, KAIST, Pusan University, and many more. Even a student at University of California at Berkley in the United States and some high school students have followed suit (see photos below).

A Facebook page titled “Can't Be Okay” [ko] was set up to share the flood of photos. In a week, it has received 262,000 likes, and Ju's poster, which started the movement, has earned more than 2,000 likes and been shared more than 440 times. Below are six photos from the Can't Be Okay Facebook page, republished with permission: 

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A student holding a sign in front of the posters. The sign reads, “I am not fine with the nation's democracy, which keeps regressing toward the past.”

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Numerous “We are not fine” posters cover bulletin boards at Korea University. Facebook photo description reads, “Over 40 pages of posters were attached at the back entrance of the Korea University's Politics and Economics Dept. building”.

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Seoul National University's “We are not fine” poster. 

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Yonsei University's “We are not fine” poster

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Hangyang University's “We are not fine” poster

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Pusan University's “We are not fine” poster

Several journalists analyzed [ko] the reason why the poster has become so popular with students, concluding that it is because the poster isn't a political statement from certain interest groups, but is a “frank personal statement written in conversational language by a fellow student” who shares the pain and frustration of young, struggling Koreans.

Many Twitter users also shared photos of handwritten posters:

At Sookmyung Women's University. From one end to the other are “We are not fine” posters. Someone wrote over there, “I wasn't able to sleep till late at night, after reading these posters”. It seems like something about these posters has deeply resonated with students.

A handwritten “We are not fine” poster, written by Shin Eun-je and Park Moo-young. It was posted on [University of California at] Berkley's bulletin board. This has started to spread internationally. 

This is an image of a Hyosung High School senior's “We are not fine” poster. 

After the concept went viral, Korea University decided to preserve [ko] Ju's poster at the university museum and introduce it as “a document of a democratic movement”.

Under the banner of “We are not fine”, a group of students from Korea University went offline and protested on December 14.

At Seoul station, on December 14, 2013

Korea University back entrance, on December 14, 2013

The nation's beloved best-selling author, Gong Ji-young, commented about this viral poster:

The keyword of the year 2013 is “We are not fine”. One student's conscience and courage has shaken up the whole country this winter. One individual is not insignificant at all.

Photos of Mass Candlelight Rallies in South Korea

By holding candlelight rallies across the country, frustrated South Koreans have voiced flooding concerns over current political developments and series of scandals, including the snowballing election manipulation allegations@Emfla505 tweeted [ko] this stunning photo of protest in Seoul (below) and WikiTree.com site gathered more photos of rallies on December 19.

오늘 서울시청 광장입니다! 민노총의 깃발이 빠져 나가고 난뒤 순수한 시민촛불의 사진입니다! 촛불시민이 대한민국의 잘못된 역사를 바꿀거라 확신합니다! pic.twitter.com/vGJJztbHSP

— 12월의 노래! (@emfla505) December 19, 2013

Today at Seoul City Hall Plaza! After Korean Confederation of Trade Unions’ flags have all retreated, only citizens’ candlelight were left as you can see from the photo. I strongly believe that these citizens with candlelight will change the derailed history of Republic of Korea.

 

December 13 2013

South Korea: Students Voice Dissent Against Korea Railroad's Mass Layoff

South Korea's state-owned railway operator, Korea Railroad Corp., has laid off an unprecedented number of more than 7,600 workers [ko] within a week as it decided to set up a subsidiary for new high-speed train operations, which critics call ‘a prelude to privatization of the national rail system'. Inspired by students at the Korea University in Seoul who posted on their school's offline bulletin board a message criticizing the government's such decision– a longtime symbol of students’ dissent, many universities have followed the moves and posted similar messages on their respective school bulletin boards. A Facebook page entitled ‘안녕하십니까‘ [ko] (meaning hello/how are you? in Korean) was set up to share images of those bulletin board messages posted in their universities. The page was set up on December 12 and it has already received more than 41 thousand likes. 

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