Unfortunately, the mood didn't last, and that 'let's gather in the streets and express our patriotism and uniformity' attitude contained within it the seeds of something darker which revealed itself later in the year after two U.S. soldiers, who were made to face a court-martial for political reasons, were found not guilty for involvement in the accident. (This was accompanied by the appearance of posters, some quite large, featuring the photo of the girls' crushed bodies, which appeared in many subway stations.) The month or more of candlelight protests which followed were conceived of by a netizen who used some sock puppetry to spread his idea of a candlelit non-protest protest near the U.S. embassy after watching a report on the case by (ahem) MBC's news program PD Notebook. So, in addition to what I mentioned previously, MBC has helped set off two sets of candlelit protests, what with the way they helped generate the hysteria surrounding mad cow disease which fueled months of anti-government protests in 2008 (which was built around several xenophobic/anti American tropes as well as the idea of Koreans being uniquely vulnerable).
As I wrote at that time,
I've seen posts in the English language Korean blogosphere pointing out that vigil organizers were going to commemorated the deaths of Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon, the two middle school girls run over by a US military vehicle on June 13, 2002 (for more background on the incident [...] the Metropolitician offers his analysis of those that used their deaths to create a protest movement against the US military). [...] Candlelight vigils have been held in the same places as the current vigils are taking place every year since the girls died. The inclusion of a memorial for the girls should be of no surprise whatsoever to anyone who has been paying attention to how they've memorialized over the past few years.As well, the candle girl image which became a prominent symbol of the 2008 protests was based on the image of one of the girls:
Above is a photo of the memorial vigil held in 2003 at City Hall (before Seoul Plaza was built), which is the same place the vigil was held this year. In 2004 and 2005, the girls' deaths were commemorated with vigils at Gwanghwamun. In 2006 there was a problem: June 13, the anniversary of their deaths, was the date of Korea's first World Cup game:(The "up" isn't necessary... (from here))
The Hankyoreh criticized those celebrating in the streets for forgetting the anniversary of the girls' deaths, though a small memorial was held near Gwanghwamun. In 2007 a vigil was held at Cheonggye Plaza.
People gathered at the memorial built on the spot they died yesterday, and the night before protesters gathered in front of the gate of Deoksu Palace.
I wonder if it's even possible to conceive of them as anything other than symbols of a victimized nation.
The Hankyoreh has a very good article which does just that (via the Marmot's Hole).