Thursday, March 29, 2007
Before I review what was said and shown in the broadcasts, it's worth noting where the footage came from. Footage exists from throughout the uprising, filmed most likely by either the Korean press or possibly by the military itself, (or by reporters the military approved, considering how close to the action the camera often is). Below is a still of the paratroopers on either May 18 or possibly May 19.
Here is a still from the night of May 20, when the taxi and bus drivers led a demonstration (and with their ability to occupy the streets, began to turn the tables on the paratroopers and give the citizens the upper hand).
The footage in the American news reports above was not taken from these sources, however, but instead came from the German photographer Jurgen Hinzpeter, who made two trips to Kwangju during the uprising, filming his first footage on May 21 and 22, and returning for the final days and suppression of the uprising. The footage from May 21 and 22 is what we see in the clips above. Hinzpeter would later be severely beaten by plainclothes police in 1986 while covering a rally, possibly in revenge for the footage he filmed in Kwangju. His injuries ended his career. He is pictured below a few years ago in the gymnasium across from the provincial hall in Kwangju.
It was there that he shot the footage captured below of the coffins laid out back in 1980.
To go over some of what's seen in the clips above, ABC begins by saying that a "small war" had been fought in Kwangju and sets the tone by describing protesters as "militant anti-government groups". What follows is a second-hand description of events set to Hinzpeter's footage, as the correspondent is reporting from Seoul. It describes the protesters' demands ("An end to martial law and freedom for the opposition party members who come from this region") and their desire that the military "admit[...] the troops used harsh tactics during the riots". It should be pointed out that it uses file footage of police beatings which is not from Kwangju to illustrate these harsh tactics. As for casualties, we're told that there are "61 dead, almost all of them civilians". It also brings up the US government response, and its warning to North Korea, but then the US warning aimed at North korea is brought up by all three networks.
CBS tells us that "After four days of fighting, armed rebels appear firmly in control now of the South Korean provincial capital of Kwangju and the area around it." It provides quite a bit more context by mentioning that the military had taken over the government and declared martial law and that the protesters were "opposing the generals who seized power last weekend". It gives some graphic descriptions of the wounds of the victims, saying that "many of the dead are civilians, either shot in the face at close range or bayoneted." It also seems much more balanced, portraying the protesters in a more positive light, saying that the army was outnumbered and forced out, "Leaving the city to its citizens." The reporter also speaks of being "applauded and cheered by the crowds," and that the commandeered vehicles "carry the south Korean flag, for these people consider themselves patriots, opposing the generals who seized power last weekend". Describing the spread of the uprising, we're told that "demonstrators from Kwangju were cheered as they sought support in farming villages". The reason for the CBS correspondent's more favourable view of the demonstrators is likely due to the fact that he was actually in Kwangju, unlike the other correspondents.
NBC's segment is almost twice as long as the others, and is the only one to show hospital footage, describing the victims as "shot or bayoneted". And yet it starts out saying that "five straight days of anti-government violence" had taken place. Shouldn't that be government violence? It also sounds like the military was the main source of information, what with the description of "citizens wounded evidently at random by other citizens". The military used this as a partial excuse for the casualties in press releases after the uprising. The segment also does its best to emphasize that Kwangju was chaotic (which, especially on the 21st and perhaps early on the 22nd it was, but this report paints a more ominous picture), telling us that "Armed young men, under no apparent organization, rule the streets. They are unchallenged." Or that "The soldiers are outnumbered", while a burning jeep is shown. We're also told that "All of this stems from anti-government feelings and resentment against the discrimination this province always has suffered". While there is a certain aspect of this that is true, no mention is made of the government being taken over by the military, or the military's brutal behaviour as a cause for the uprising (though we're later told that troops in Kwangju had "opened fire on civilians, killing several"). The 'regionalism' of Jeolla-do people (and their willingness to believe "malicious rumors" about Kyongsang-do soldiers coming to kill them) was also blamed by the government for the uprising early on, again making it seem likely that the military was depended on as a main source for this segment. Adding more weight to this is the footage of army preparations to re-invade the city. The selective choice of a single scared citizen to explain how dangerous it was in the city due to the citizen army is also rather telling, considering the number of people who could have told stories about army brutality. Keep in mind that the correspondent is "near Kwangju", and not in the city, and seems to be keeping company with the military surrounding the city. The main idea this piece communicates is that the the city is in chaos, the citizens are armed, dangerous and out of control, and the army (rightfully, due to such chaos) is preparing to 'restore order'.
It also refers to the relation of the US government to the events in Kwangju, telling us that "The pentagon said it had given South Korean commanders permission to withdraw some Korean soldiers from the joint Korean American command and use them to help control the cities." Interesting. Then-ambassador Gleysteen wrote that in the late 1980s he had been set straight by the pentagon regarding US control over Korean troops, saying that the US did not have to approve the removal of Korean troops from joint command. Obviously either the US press didn't get the memo at the time, or this interpretation evolved later. It ends by mentioning that US officials thought that "Military hardliners are seizing on the political turmoil to halt progress towards democratic reforms", and that a meeting was being held (on May 22) to see how the US could "help restore civilian rule and revive the process of political liberalization."
While we're on the topic of contemporary reports about the Kwangju Uprising, there are a few Time Magazine articles available online [not anymore, unfortunately]:
Season of Spleen Jun. 02, 1980
Legacy of Righteous Tumult Jun. 02, 1980
Ten days that shook Kwangju June 9 1980
Harsh Politics Aug. 25, 1980
Grim Verdict Sep. 29, 1980
One of the first essays written about the Kwangju Uprising in English is "The Kwangju Uprising: An Inside View", by Tim Warnberg, from Korean Studies, v.11, 1987. Warnberg was a peace corps volunteer who witnessed the Kwangju Uprising, and his essay is well written and well worth reading. It can be downloaded here (The download 'button' is at bottom left, you have to wait 12 seconds). If the scanned pages are viewed at full size they are quite readable.
There are also other videos on youtube about the Kwangju Uprising, some which may be worth watching, and others that are just plain irresponsible (mixing documentary footage with footage from Jang Sun-woo's A Petal?).
Speaking of A Petal, that film is not available on dvd commercially, though one does exist here, for those who use bittorrent (hey, I'll be the first to buy it when it become's commercially available, but until then, I'm happy to have a copy (and a good copy at that, with subtitles in several languages)).
There have been several movies which deal with the uprising to some extent (most recently The Old Garden), but a movie titled "Hwaryeohan Hyuga" (Splendid Holiday - the code name of the paratrooper operation which set off the uprising), about a character who joins the citizen army, is in production (who knew the difficulty involved in re-importing 1980 era Hyundai Ponys from Egypt to use as props?). The cast list is lead by Kim Seong-kyeong (Turning Gate) and Ahn Seong-gi (Duelist). It also co-stars Lee Joon-gi (The King And The Clown), Lee Yo-won (Take Care Of My Cat), Song Jae-ho (Memories Of Murder), Nam Moon-hee (Crying Fist), Cha In-pyo (Iron Fist) and Park Cheol-min (A Petal). Footage of a scene being shot in the same gymnasium where Jurgen Hinzpeter shot his footage can be found here.
Anyone wanting more links and information about the uprising can find more in some of my previous posts on the subject.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
When exactly was it that Kim Yeon-a's name became romanized as Yu-na? I was thinking that it must be odd to have your name mispronounced regularly, but then remembered that people mispronounce my name (if they call me Matthew) here all the time; I'm sure she's just as used to it (as she must be used to strange things like seeing her treatment for a herniated disk documented on the internet). Since I don't watch tv I had to watch her performance at the world championships on youtube after the fact. Her short program was awarded a record high score and won her admiration from many foreign commentators:
She didn't do so well on the long program, however. Mao Asada came in second (performances here and here), while Miki Ando came in first (performances here and here). It was nice to see Asada do so well in the long program, as she is extremely talented, and it was rather painful to see her abort a few jumps at the World Junior Championships last year because they were apparently too difficult. Of course, when I mentioned this to some of my middle school students, they just shook their heads and said, "But Japan won." It sort of feels like the love and support the Korean team got after losing to Switzerland in the World Cup. I mean, why is it that almost every photo in this gallery is of her falls? Talk about being supportive. And who the hell thought this was a flattering photo? Unlike the other English language dailies, the Donga Ilbo at least focussed on her short program in this interview with her. For the students who complained about 'Japan' winning, maybe they need to get into the spirit of this selka ("self-camera") photo, titled, "we are rivals and friends".
I know I've said it before, but both Korea and Japan could use a little more of this attitude at the national level.
For more posts on Kim Yuna have a look here.
I quite like the fact that the Korea Times is giving us insight into the top ten searches at naver.com every week. According to this statistic from over a year ago, Naver "controls more than 68 percent of local search traffic". And what we find out this week is that people are interested in porn, scantily clad women (and men, if you include 300), and online games, mostly.
Seventh place was taken by the hardcore online game "Sudden Attack." The game is age restricted to players over 19. However, some minors managed to sneak through security to play the game.Minors like one of my eight-year-old students? Now I understand his stories about blowing people up with grenades, and catchphrases like, "Headshot!" (obviously, I'm not much into gaming). When I asked him how he plays since he's not 18, he just said, "I play when my parents aren't watching." I imagine it's more fun than watching this more than once:
Ninth on the list was "watch girl," who showed great dance skills in a video that was broadcast live on African TV, a renowned Internet broadcasting station. The video clip shown around 6 p.m. on Thursday featured four female high school students dancing frantically with their school uniforms on. Among the four, one wearing a watch attracted the most attention with her slim body and great dancing skills. As she could not be seen clearly, curious netizens launched their own investigation to find out who she is.Those must be some dance skills, huh? Judge for yourself... (there's no sound)
While I understand that the "most popular searches" become more popular due to their making the top ten list and catching everyone's attention, I really can't understand why the 20 seconds of this girl dancing became popular in the first place. It must be due to a lot of people who didn't have a chance to see this:
Coming in fourth was "Yahoo footage," a porn video that was posted on Yahoo Korea, one of the nation’s largest portal sites. Around 6:10 p.m. Sunday, an Internet user posted a one-minute sex video on Yammy, the portal’s page for user generated content (UGC). More than 25,000 Internet users clicked on the video clip, making the footage the most viewed clip for a while. Unaware of this, Yahoo Korea left the footage on the page for about six hours.But have no fear, the government is here to rescue everyone from porn!
The government Monday declared an all-out war against obscene video files circulating massively on Internet portal sites.Yes! All-out war! This should last... for about a month or so. Or is that just for crackdowns? I get the durations of all-out wars and crackdowns mixed up sometimes. This time, however, the government may be ready for the long haul; as you can see from this photo, they truly are prepared to battle obscene video files.
The Ministry of Information and Communication said it will join forces with law enforcement authorities and portal site operators to set up an online surveillance system.If there's one thing Korea needs more of, it's surveillance. We're also told that the government "will block around 180 such foreign sites by the end of May". Wow. All 180 of them. They really aren't kidding around this time, are they? I guess that's the end of porn in Korea. Just look at these other measures they're taking:
The Ministry of Information and Communication said Tuesday that it would suspend companies’ Internet services if they don’t take proper measures to prevent porn and other unethical material from circulating on the Web.[...]Yeah, but changing perceptions takes time, and the government wants to look like it isn't entirely useless, so it's time to launch a crackdown! Crackdowns and new laws managed to stamp out prostitution and get rid of all those migrant workers who overstayed their visas, right? I'm sure they'll work just as well this time, and porn on the internet will soon become just another page in Korea's 5000 year history.
Naver, the No. 1 portal, said it is a matter that goes beyond the law. ``We hope this can be an opportunity to improve the quality of UCC culture,’’ a public relations official said. ``Businesses should try to improve their monitoring systems. But in principal, it is the users’ perception on pornography that should be changed.’’
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
I've written about this development before, and used a borrowed video camera and puttered about with simple ol' windows movie maker to make this. The music is by 우리는 속옷도 생겼고 여자도 늘었다네, often known as the sokot (underwear) band.
Be fun to see what I could do with a better program. I think I'll have to make a video camera my next purchase. Any suggestions?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Jon over at I'm a Seoul Man has several photos of the Incheon Airport train line construction, which I've mentioned before (here and here).
Also, for awhile the amazing panoramic photos over at flyingcity.org weren't available, but they've returned, and they're well worth checking out (Be sure to click on the photos on this page to see the huge, full sized photos).
Just for fun, I used Google Earth to figure out where three of the photos were taken. Below is a map of Bongcheon-dong, southeast of Yeouido, and the red dots show where the photos were taken, with the lines showing the parameters of panoramas:
The photos below are ordered from left to right on the map above. They do overlap, especially the second and third photos. A set of buildings at the far right of the second photo are at the far left of the third.
As I said, the size of the photos above pales in comparison to the originals - go see them now!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Once again, street vendors are being targeted for removal by the city government:
[T]he Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday announced plans to get illegal street vending under control. Unlike snack booths and shoe-shine booths that the city legitimized beginning in the 1980s, street vendors are operating illegally, according to laws governing the use of roads. Currently, there are about 12,000 street vendors in the city, down from 1989 when there were 20,305, the city said.Another Joongang Ilbo article from August, 2006, which has profiles of different stalls and the food they serve tells us more:
Under a new plan, 25 district offices in the city would designate an area where street vendors could operate in uniformly designed booths.[...] For vendors who want to change their occupation, the city said it will offer free vocational training and loans of up to 50 million won ($53,130) to start a new business.
As much as street stalls are a part of life in Seoul, the city has tried several times to make its streets vendor-free. In the most recent major push, the Seoul city government, as part of its city beautification plan, planned to ban the sale of food out of street carts in the city right before the 2002 World Cup games. In response, the vendors banded together in protest and the government backed down.Also worth mentioning is that the government also tried to ban street stalls before the 1988 Olympics and the 2000 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Also, the plan to offer loans and training to the vendors are the latest variation on a theme. During the crackdown before the 2002 World Cup, "plans were in the making to have poor street vendors employed in public works projects." The city provides some information about the numbers of street vendors over the past few years:
As of last year , there were 13,715 unauthorized roadside stands in Seoul. This was up from 2004, reversing the downward trend of 18,454 in 2000, 14,540 in 2002, and 13,524 in 2004.The article also talks about a pilot project in Yeoksam-dong providing a commercial building to accommodate street stalls. The Korea Times elaborated on the new 'vendor areas', saying that the city of Seoul would "create special zones for street vendors in many districts of the city so that they can become tourist attractions," while the Korea Herald added that "vendor zones will be formed in designated areas around Bosingak in Jongno and Myeong-dong as early as October." The above was from a Herald editorial which was pretty clear in its point of view:
It comes as a great relief, therefore, that the city government is finally going to do something about the sidewalk vendors that have become a growing nuisance. There are more than 11,000 street vendors of various types, from pojangmacha selling alcohol, to old women squatting near markets selling beans, according to the city's estimate.This would make a little more sense if the Herald didn't also publish articles saying things like
Korean street food is a virtual smorgasbord of different treats, and most "pojangmacha" (vendors) sell them at a very reasonable cost.The Joongang Ilbo has had several articles about the vendors, such as this January, 2007 one about the effect of the new bus lanes on the stall owners, and another from a few weeks ago (perhaps to get the public in the right mood to support the crackdown) relating that "47 percent of street vendors said they own a house and 4 percent said they have two houses." It's not until a few paragraphs later that we're told that, "The survey covered 3,625 street snack booths and shoe-shine booths," such stalls having been legalized by the government, and thus being quite different from the illegal stalls which are being targeted by the city.
The vendors aren't happy about the city's plans, of course, as the above photo of a protest in Daehangno from a few days ago shows. If you were thinking most of the people in the photo were female, then this article might interest you:
5.44 million women _ 54.9 percent of the 9.9 million working females in Korea _ were engaged in jobs with poor security such as day labor, part-time jobs and unpaid family work.Of course, it's not just the vendors in stalls on the streets who are getting screwed over by the city government. Perhaps you remember the merchants who lined Cheonggyecheon prior to its redevelopment, many of whom were moved into Dongdaemun stadium? Well, the city is planning on building a new park, you see, and...
The number of the self-employed women, often classified as employers or independent workers, last month totaled 1.51 million, the NSO said. Most self-employed women were peddlers running street stalls without any employees, it added.
the city will start tearing down the 80-year-old Tongdaemun Stadium, whose grounds are now used as a venue for street venders, and the neighboring baseball stadium in November next year to build the urban park.Wouldn't the city allowing illegal activity to take place in a public facility like a stadium also be problematic, then? Or was the moving of the vendors into Dongdaemun stadium just a way to deflect criticism and bad publicity while the stream was being redeveloped, with the full intention of turfing them out onto the street later (in the midst of a crackdown on street stalls)?
The vendors have strongly opposed the government’s plan saying that they cannot lose their work places for a second time. The vendors were forced to move to the grounds of the stadium from the Chonggyechon area due to the Chonggyechon stream restoration project in 2003. About 3,000 shoppers visit 894 shops on the grounds of the stadium on a daily basis.
However, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon has said that although he will do his best to negotiate with the vendors, it will be hard to accept the demands since business by street vendors is illegal.
Another Korea Times article tells us that more vendors could be on the chopping block:
Namdaemun Market, Seoul’s oldest and largest retail center, is set for a facelift, municipal authorities said Monday. Urban planners will also redevelop the area around Nakwon Sangga in Chongno, one of the city’s oldest shopping malls, to give the aging building a new look.
"By redeveloping the old markets, as with the Seun Electronics Mall and the outdoor markets in Tongdaemun, we will be able to improve the competitiveness of downtown shopping outlets and make them more attractive to foreign tourists," an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Government said.
I've talked about the Seun Sangga redevelopment plans before, but now it seems the city government is not only targeting it and the Hwanghak-dong market, but also the remains of the Cheonggyecheon market now at Dongdaemun stadium ("we're baa-aack"), and now the Nakwon Sangga and even Namdaemun. Oh, and the street vendors, too, lest we forget.
We're told why this is, though:
“The street vendor situation in Seoul is still at a standstill at the moment. Although many citizens see the vendors as a nostalgic or personal part of the city, they need to be removed in order for the city to grow,” said Yu Sei-jong, an official at the vendor maintenance division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.Yes, you should try to stamp out that "personal" part of the city, it gets in the way of all the facts and figures about investment and tourism and the kickbacks from the construction companies. But there are other reasons the city should reconsider their plans. Allow me to show the photo from the top of this post again, of pojang machas near my house:
Below is a shot of them (barely visible) taken from behind, with the background buildings seen in full:
If it wasn't for the pojang machas and street stalls, we'd have to stare at the lego-block architecture that makes up so much of Seoul's landscape. Why the city would want to wish that on anyone is beyond me.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
One of the events that I've been meaning to write about was the investigation into and retrial and acquital of those involved in the People's Revolutionary Party case from 1975 - one of these days I'll get to it. The other I realized I hadn't really finished was the Silmido case, and I was motivated to post on it due to some pictures that I found, which are below.
To start, Silmido is known for the film released 3 years ago based on events which culminated on August 23, 1971 (a good review is here). As is well known from the film, the South Korean military secretly trained commandos on Silmido, a small islet just southwest of what is now Incheon Airport.
Silmido is comparable in size to the Incheon Airport terminal, and at low tide a land bridge exists between Silmido and Muuido (as seen in the film). In the photo below, the remains of some of the army buildings can be seen (a few photos of the the island can be found here):
When, in the summer of 2005, it was announced that the Silmido incident would be investigated by the Defense Ministry, they said, "the panel will attempt to identify the secret agents and uncover the process of their recruitment and where their bodies are buried." The investigation made the news when they began digging for bodies in November 2005 and March 2006, as well as when an interim report was issued in December 2005, and the final report in July 2006.
As the Chosun Ilbo reported in July, 2006,
Agents trained on Silmi Island to infiltrate North Korea in 1968 and abandoned there before making a bloody escape were civilians, not soldiers or convicts as had previously been believed.The Korea Times reported at the same time that
The Silmi Island unit was set up at President Park Chung-hee's order by the Agency of National Security Planning, the precursor of the National Intelligence Service, after a failed attempt by North Korean special forces to raid Cheong Wa Dae in early 1968. However, it was managed by the Air Force. The original plan was to draft prisoners under death sentence, but due to opposition from the Justice Ministry, which claimed an obligation to deliver bodies after execution, civilians were drafted instead, the panel concluded. Seven died during training, four of them beaten to death at the orders of superiors after attempting escape. The committee said the four escaped because they were “frustrated with beatings, killings and poor conditions in the unit and apparently wanted to alert authorities to their plight.”
Members of the Air Force’s  unit [...] were all normal civilians drafted into the military for financial rewards, not convicts as previously claimed, according to the panel.In November of 2005, attempts were made to find the bodies of those killed on August 23, 1971, as the Korea Times reports:
Due to severe human rights abuses and harsh training during their service, the commandos went on a shooting spree in 1971 against their superiors, escaped the island and headed for Chong Wa Dae in a stolen bus. Most of them were gunned down or killed themselves by detonating grenades during a street battle with government forces. Four survivors were later executed
A team of military personnel and civilian experts on Tuesday began unearthing a site at a cemetery in Kyonggi Province, where the bodies of members of the so-called Silmido Unit are believed to have been secretly buried 34 years ago.Here are some photos of the family members holdings a memorial service in August 2004, after the movie was released (they didn't like the movie much).
The excavation came as the military fact-fining committee, which pledged to shed light on the military’s wrongdoings under previous authoritarian governments, included the Silmido incident on its investigation list last September.
"We came here to console the souls of the victims after 34 years and also to soothe the minds of bereaved families," said Lee Ki-wook, vice chairman of the military panel, during a ceremony held ahead of the digging process.
In response, Kang Nak-young, 73, representative of the bereaved family members, said that he hoped the revengeful sprits buried there due to the nation’s irresponsibility would now find a peace.
The Chosun Ilbo reported further on this digging when reporting on the interim findings of the committee in December (dead link) :
The panel revealed that the bodies of 20 of the soldiers, who were officially reported to have died while escaping from Silmi Island west of Incheon, were hastily buried in a city cemetery in Byeokje, Gyeonggi Province without telling their families. Another 19 bodies believed to have been members of the unit were also recently found, and the panel commissioned DNA tests on them.
In March of 2006, the army began trying to find the bodies of the four survivors, as the photo above shows (from the Joongang Ilbo):
The four, all members of a secret South Korean military unit nearly four decades ago, were executed by firing squad in 1972 after a revolt and their bodies were not recovered. A team consisting of university researchers and an army search unit started digging to recover the remains, believed to be buried in hills in Seoul’s Guro district, the Defense Ministry said. The ministry said it has already traced the whereabouts of the remains after gathering testimony from former soldiers who claim to have moved the bodies to the hills during their service in the air force at the time.The Korea Times also reported on this.
Seeing as the main goals of this investigative committee regarding the Silmido incident were to discover how they were recruited, who they were, and where they were buried, they seem to be accomplishing these modest goals, and have hopefully brought some peace to the family members of these men.
In the course of trying to figure out exactly where the final confrontation took place, I found something I hadn't expected to find - photos of that confrontation:
Here is the bus, presumably from a film still, looking like it hasn't been shot, though it's surrounded by police (rather different from all the shooting portrayed in the movie):
Here is a remarkable shot, obviously taken from a helicoper (you can see another on the roof):
That building is the Yuhan Corporation building in Daebang-dong, on Noryangjin-ro. This map should give an idea of where it is:
As you can see above, this is just south of Yeouido (in other words, they made it quite far, almost to the Hangang Bridge). They reason I'm certain of this is because the part of the map in the rectangle above matches the picture below, which is looking east:
If we tilt the map to the east, we get a perfect match (other than the three, large new buildings). What surprised me was that the Yuhan Corporation building is still there (the upside-down 'L' shaped building):
It was at this place most of the surviving soldiers took their lives using grenades.
Needless to say I was shocked to find these photos, considering how the existence of unit 684 was denied by the government for so long. And as usual, actual photos prove to be quite different from what is shown in the movie adaptation...
Monday, March 12, 2007
The Chosun Ilbo reports that a 21 year old woman died 2 days ago while getting eyelid surgery.
The Hankyoreh has a cautionary tale about a lawsuit by an unnamed Korean pop star against her plastic surgeon. You'd hope that stories like this would make people think a little more about possible negative consequences of cutting/sawing/putting implants into your (or your child's) face, but if the plight of this woman, which was publicized in April of 2005, did little to affect plastic surgery statistics here, I don't know what would.
Over at the Korea Times, Andrei Lankov relates the history of the Korea Herald, and, in what I hope is a weekly column, the Times lists the top ten most popular searches for the week at Naver and explains them, giving insight into the day-to-day pop culture concerns of Korean netizens. In an article about the debate over harsher sentencing for teenage offenders, the Times continues the English language press tradition in Korea of reporting on shocking sex crimes involving youth only days or weeks after the fact, if at all.
Last month, Koreans were shocked by the murder and rape of a girl by middle school students in Kyonggi Province. The girl was the same age as the offenders.This took place in Namyangju, just east of Seoul, north of the river, on the night of February 27, when 6 local middle school boys and a middle school girl from Seoul, who had been there visiting a friend, drank together on a hill until she got incredibly drunk and three of the boys took turns raping her. They then carried her, unconscious, down to a field and the other three boys took their turns before covering her with plastic and leaving her there, where she froze to death. They were all 14, though whether that's western age or Korean age I have no idea (Korean articles are here and here, and a TV report is here). Whatever their age, it's all pretty shocking.
Six male students were involved. Three of them had a previous history of wrongdoings, booked by police on charges of theft and resisting arrest.
To end on a more uplifting note, youtube has a video telling the story of a Korean student who saved the life of a Japanese woman who had fallen onto the train tracks at a station in Tokyo - the same place where another Korean student died 5 years earlier trying, along with a Japanese photographer, to save the life of a drunken man who'd fallen on the tracks. The latter story was the subject of a recent Japanese film.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
My middle and high school students had told me that in some of their schools, uniforms wouldn't need to be worn until May, in order to allow parents to save money. This Joongang Ilbo article from last weekend explained more about this:
Due to controversy over expensive school uniforms, 38 middle schools in the Gangnam area allowed students to delay wearing their school uniforms until May. The delay was offered to give parents time to buy the uniforms collectively at better prices.A Korea Times article from last weekend also brought this up:
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, 231 out of 360 middle schools in Seoul have their students in uniforms already. Nineteen schools, or 5.2 percent, will have the students wear uniforms from April and 95 schools, or 26 percent, from May. Fifteen schools will start wearing uniforms in June. Eighty-five percent of the high schools in Seoul started wearing uniforms at the ceremony yesterday.
In an interview with a morning radio show, [Fair Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Kwon Oh-seung] said, ``We’ve obtained some evidence verifying allegations that school uniform makers had blocked consumers from making group purchases (in an attempt to sell uniforms for higher prices).’’It's hard to read the prices on the uniforms in the photo at the top of this post, but the ones I can read are more than 200,000 won. Most of the students I talked to said they generally wear the uniforms for the entire three years they go to their school, unless they outgrow them.
In January, the FTC started a nationwide investigation of makers of middle and high school uniforms and retailers and vowed to impose harsh sanctions over possible price fixing.
Consumer advocates say housewives were shocked when they read pamphlets about school uniforms in order to buy them for their children. They argue that winter uniforms cost around 400,000 won ($425) and summer ones are priced at 300,000 won _ prices similar to or more than those for adult men’s suits.
This topic came up in a class of middle and high school students, and we talked about some of the different attitudes towards school uniforms in North America and Korea. One of the high school students goes to a school with no uniforms, and she really dislikes this, the main reason being that she has to worry about what clothes to wear every day; those who wear uniforms don't have to think about this at all. The girls generally preferred uniforms because they were more comfortable; the boys didn't find their uniforms comfortable, but preferred them to having no uniform at all. At any rate, the girl who goes to the school without uniforms was happy because as of either next semester or next year, the school will get uniforms. The reason? In 2010 students will begin choosing which schools they want to go to (as opposed to being randomly assigned to schools in their district), and the school will have its students wear uniforms because, as my student put it, "Students want uniforms."
One reason for having uniforms that the students didn't overtly bring up was the fact that it masks, to some degree, the class differences between students. For awhile in the 1980s, uniforms weren't allowed in schools, but this was reversed for precisely this reason, at least according to friends who were in school at that time.
This reminds me of how, when I was in high school, the student council announced that from the next year we would be made to wear uniforms. During the last week of March, possible uniforms were displayed, and students were asked, sometimes on video camera, what they thought about this. Most of the students were against this, decrying the lack of freedom uniforms represented, and talking about expressing their individuality, or just ranting incoherently against the whole idea. Then on April 1 the entire exercise was announced to be an April Fool's joke.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
South Jeolla police said yesterday that a detainee at the Yeosu Immigration Office set the fire [...], and sought arrest warrants for four security guards on charges of neglecting their duties. Police are investigating eight guards at the center who were on duty that night [...] The guards at the immigration center, operated by the Justice Ministry, did not properly watch the rooms and initially tried to keep the detainees inside the building, causing more deaths and injuries, police said.Will it be mentioned that the Justice Ministry had the guards working 24 hour shifts, and that the fire took place at the end of that shift? Or will the guards be made to take all of the blame? While they seem to have acted irresponsibly, the system is what needs to be scrutinized, and not just the actions of the people employed within that system.
Also, as it said above, the police have determined that the man suspected all along must have set the fire, based on circumstantial evidence:
“Based on two lighters found at the site, testimony from detainees, and video clips from a security camera, we concluded that the Chinese man set the fire,” Mr. Kim said. [...] The Chinese man was prepared to escape, police said, as he wore many layers of clothes, including cotton pants, sweat pants and long underwear, and also had 130,000 won ($137) wrapped around his left ankle with a rubber band.While the police could very well be right, the first things that popped into my head were the reports I'd heard about insufficient heating and blankets in the detainment centers, as well as simply asking if there would have been any better place to keep 130,000 won in a detainment center cell shared with 7 other people. I guess I'm not alone in those thoughts, as the KCTU held a press conference yesterday (in Korean) denouncing the police statement and asking the same questions.
While I'm at it, the photos related to the fire turned up by a search on naver can be found here.
Also, a commenter pointed out that the Seoul immigration website has a pop-up window reading, "At this time the Justice Ministry offers prayers for those who died in the Yeosu fire and prays for the quick recovery of the injured," which is the least they could do. Well, actually the least they could do is nothing, so I guess this is one step better. It's odd that there's nothing on the English language website, but then that kind of says something about their attitude towards foreigners anyways.
Speaking of which, the government has come up with new visa rules for ethnic Koreans from Russia, central Asia, and China, making it easier for them to work in Korea for up to five years, and allowing those who have overstayed their visas for less than a year elligible to apply:
The new visa rules are designed to help expand visa and job opportunities for ethnic Koreans from countries that have been relatively neglected compared to countries like the United States or Japan, and to ease labor shortages in low-wage jobs in small and medium-sized firms in South Korea. [...]Y'know, there are a lot of people “who became illegal immigrants because of the complex procedures for getting a job”, but the government seems to be concerned only with helping those who are ethnic Koreans. Not to say that this isn't a good thing, as, of course, it was mostly Chinese citizens of Korean descent who died in Yeosu, and they are discriminated against to be sure (just watch Kim Dong-won's short documentary, "Jongno, Winter," about an ethnic Korean from China who froze to death in downtown Seoul in December, 2003, while waiting for unpaid wages), but the point is that people from many different countries have suffered under the current rules, not just ethnic Koreans.
Mr. Kang said the expansion was aimed to help ethnic Koreans “who became illegal immigrants because of the complex procedures for getting a job under the previous visa rules.”
On the topic of ethnic Koreans, the Hankyoreh has a story well worth reading about the discrimination North Korean refugees face living in South Korea (at the bottom of the page are links to other stories), which just goes to show the difficulty foreigners face, even when they're ethnic Koreans, when they try to fit into Korean society.
(Crossposted at Two Koreas)
Monday, March 05, 2007
I've already written one update about the Yeosu immigration center fire which left 9 migrant workers dead and 18 injured. Here begins another, because, as I anticipated, there has been a lot of ink spilled on this topic over the past two weeks.
To start off, for a background on the migration of foreign workers here, an essay titled "Past and Present of Foreign Workers in Korea 1987-2000" can be downloaded here.
The Migrant Trade Union and others released a statement on February 11, the day of the fire, titled "How Many More Times," which can be read here. A petition related to the fire can be found here.
Different newspapers have covered the tragedy and response to it in varying ways. The Joongang Ilbo had an article titled "Fire might have been a planned escape" on February 14, but more interesting are a February 16 letter to the editor( "Tragedy at Yeosu should shame Korea") by a student at Ewha Girl’s Foreign Language High School, and a February 26 opinion piece titled "Korea needs to start welcoming immigrants", by Gouranga Gopal Das, a professor of economics at Hanyang University.
The Joongang also covered a February 23 press conference by migrant worker organizations in the article "Migrant workers collective demands changes in policy."
Eight migrant worker organizations held a press conference yesterday[feb 23] at the Press Center and demanded that the cause of the recent deadly fire at the customs and immigration office in Yeosu be established. They also asked that such facilities be abolished.It's nice to see that them getting their message out - the above statement certainly cuts right to the heart of the matter. This press conference was also covered by the Hankyoreh.
In a joint statement the organizations said, “This problem transcends the issue of those killed in the Yeosu fire, it is the problem of 200,000 unregistered immigrants. We are anxious that this might happen again.”
The statement continued, “Migrant workers work assiduously for the development of the Korean economy, but we are treated like animals, not humans.”
The statement further read, “Three years is too short a period in order to pay off the debts we made to come to Korea and save. The Korean government needs to accept that it cannot rely on deportations and regulations to solve the migrant worker problem. Migrant workers are not like batteries; you can’t just throw them out when you’re done with them.”
The Korea Herald ran a 5 part series on the lives of migrant workers in Korea between February 14 and 26, but three of them, "Maltreatment of illegals shocks Korean society," "Migrant workers abused in workplaces," and one other are no longer available online. Two others are still available: "Migrant workers detained in poor facilities", and "Maltreatment of migrant workers tends to feed anti-Korea sentiment", which tells us that:
The anger of migrant workers toward Koreans, who treat them with contempt, has grown. In some areas, migrant workers from Vietnam stage strikes. There have been moves to form labor unions.I guess we shouldn't surprised that the Herald, which seemingly ranks 'business' news more important than 'national' news on its webpage, should consider strikes and unions to be 'anti-Korean'. Despite this nitpicking, by doing this series, they've managed to set themselves above many of the other English language newspapers here in their 'Yeosu fire fallout' coverage. Another Herald article from Febrary 23 relates that
Many deportees have become hard-line anti-Korea activists. A few years ago, Nepalese workers who had been in Korea distributed 12-page calendars containing photographs of those forced to return home after being injured or beaten while working in Korea, to make these atrocities known throughout the world.
Over 109,000 foreign workers from 15 countries including Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar will be able to come to Korea through a legal employment process this year, the Labor Ministry said yesterday. Among the total number of migrant workers this year, 60,000 are overseas Koreans. Last year, 105,000 migrant workers came to Korea from 10 countries including the Philippines, Pakistan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and China.The Herald has another good article I'll get to later. The Korea Times' coverage has been quite poor, other than a February 14 opinion article titled "Illegal Aliens: Tragic Fire Forces Review of Policy on Imported Labor":
Human rights groups representing migrant workers have been asserting that the government should stop accepting more foreign workers, but legalize the workers that are currently here illegally.
Police suspect the fire at Yosu Detention Center was caused by one of the foreign inmates in an attempt to escape, who was killed in the accident. If this proves true, it leads to the question: What could have driven him to such desperation to get out of the state facility? [...]Other than this, we're given another article the same day titled "Vision-Impaired Pastor Fathers, Feeds Culture to Hundreds of Migrant Workers", a paternalistic story of a pastor working with Mongolian migrant workers in Guro-gu who sees the present situation of migrant workers as fine, and the Yeosu fire as an aberration, speaking of "the fight religious organizations and social groups carried out years ago" to help the migrants. Another article the next day titled "Migrant Workers Enjoy Their ‘Sollal’" is essentially the same story, from the migrants' point of view.
In many cases, the only reason these illegal aliens outstay their welcome is that they didn't make enough money to pay debts to brokers who sent them here. The so-called industrial training system has been changed to a work permit scheme, but nothing has changed fundamentally except for the operators. Three years is still too short a time for most immigrant workers to pay back debts and return home. Re-entry into Korea is very difficult, so many become illegal aliens.
The Donga Ilbo, which has the least amount of English coverage to begin with, has had only one article on this topic, but at least its February 17 article, "Migrant Workers Help Less Fortunate Koreans" turns the paternalistic assumptions of the Korea Times articles on their heads:
Axmon Community Service (ACS) is made up of 20 foreign workers from Bangladesh. The workers, who came to Korea in search of the Korean dream, spend most of the day at a factory and spend the rest of their time in a tiny room. However, they take a very special trip on the fourth Sunday of every month. Their destination is a mentally handicapped care facility where they have been volunteering for the past five years.The article tells their story, which involves one of them having been deported after a random passport check by police on the street.
Not surprisingly, the Hankyoreh has had a number of good articles about the plight of migrant workers in Korea, such as the "Illegal workers often face withheld wages", from February 14, or the next day's "Illegal workers often consider Korea a 'second home'":
Yu Seong-hwan, an official at the Ansan Migrants' Center, stressed, "Illegal migrant workers who have settled in the nation speak Korean fluently, and are very skillful. To small companies, they are precious employees, as these firms suffer from a shortage of manpower," adding that if the nation deports them and instead brings in workers who cannot speak Korean, the economy will receive a serious loss.A February 16 article tells us that "Foreign laborers working illegally in South Korea suffer from intestinal ailments at twice the rate of their legal foreign counterparts", while perhaps the article most worth reading for its clear look at the issues involved is a February 22 column by Park No-ja titled "Why does Korea refuse to accept immigrants?":
In 2005, Spain decided to give 700,000 "illegal aliens" legal status, after they proved they had lived in the country six months or more, had contracts for at least six months, and had no criminal record. A considerable number of the 190,000 foreign workers in Korea with "illegal status" are believed to want to work in the country long-term or live here permanently. If the government were to give them amnesty and legal status with eventual eligibility for naturalization, it would accomplish many things at the same time: contributing to the making of a multiethnic society, reducing the rights violations that stem from being "illegals," and helping an economy in need of workers. [...]
The tragedy in Yeosu demonstrates the bankruptcy of an immigration policy that only focuses on rounding people up.
On Sunday, February 25, a protest was held at Seoul Station calling for the government to admit responsibility for the Yeosu fire, and to call for changes to the way the government treats migrant workers. This image search over at Naver has about 5 pages of links to some 50 news photos of the event, while Ohmynews has a short video overview of the protest (which includes a performance by Yeon Yeong-seok, whose music can be found and downloaded here). A longer set of videos of the protest can be found here and here. As for English coverage, the Joongang Ilbo and Hankyoreh's (at the top of this post) were limited to photos, while the Korea Herald had a good, lengthy article about the protest titled "Migrant workers take to the streets":
According to the secretary of the Migrant Trade Workers Union, Masun, who organized the rally, "most of these men had been in this facility [at Yeosu] for longer than six months." He went on to say that one of the dead workers "had been at this lockup facility for almost a year, waiting not for the deportation that would inevitably come, but for wages owed to him, that once paid, would have allowed his journey back to his homeland and his two children."I hope that for once the spotlight on these questions that Yeosu has caused will help bring about some sort of positive change, instead of such concerns being quietly swept under the carpet and responded to with the resignation of some sacrificial lamb in the government, as is the usual case.
He was not the only one with wages owed. "One of the only reasons why a worker would be in this facility for a prolonged period of time would be because they were owed wages or compensation for an industrial accident," Masun said.
Some of the speakers at the rally asked, "How can a country so obviously in need of workers put a three-year cap on migrant visas, especially when broker's fees for these jobs can sometimes take more than three years to pay off?"
"Why are migrant workers who have contributed so substantially to the success of this country treated like they are criminals when their only crime is to continue to work and be productive members of society?"
One speaker asked a question that received a loud response from the demonstrators. "What are they going to do about the real criminals involved in this, the companies that refused to compensate these workers for the dangerous jobs they did, the guards that did not open the jail cells as these men were burning to death?"
(Crossposted at Two Koreas)
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Police arrested a 32-year-old man last night who they said injected detergent into 60 containers of yogurt that he handed out to residents of a town in southern Seoul that will be redeveloped. Three people who ate the yogurt were briefly hospitalized and released this week for nausea and dizziness, police said yesterday.According to the Korean language article, the suspect, Mr. Seon, lives alone in Changshin-dong, (which itself is about to become redeveloped into a new town), while his mother works in Garak market, one stop north of Munjeong station. The Joongang's English article is a bit confusing, but the point is that his mother lives in a nearby area which won't be redeveloped.
Between two and four containers of yogurt were each unexpectedly delivered to about 30 households in the town on Tuesday, police said. The residents found a small hole in the containers, which they believed was caused by a needle, and reported it to police.
“I was angry because the residents there are going to make big money on the redevelopment project while my mother has to live on peddling fruit in an outdoor market,” police said the man told them. He is not employed. The man’s mother lives in a village adjacent to Munjeong 2-dong.
Recently the town was designated as the new home of the offices of the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office and the Seoul Eastern District Court, now both located in Gwangjin District. The move is expected in around 2010.The decision to make this move came back in May, 2005, though the previous September plans had been made to move merchants displaced by the Cheonggyecheon redevelopment to be moved to the same area. Obviously the plans were cancelled (really, could they have found a more remote place to try to move them to?).
Munjeong-dong is several kilometers south of Olympic Park, and the map above shows the area to be redeveloped, the market where the man's mother lived, and the town to be redeveloped, known as 'Gaemi Maeul' ("ant village"). The article describes this village:
The town consists of 95 households in black vinyl homes near giant apartment complexes, police said. The residents, mostly the elderly and people with low incomes, moved there beginning in the late 1980s.
Above is a closer view of the village. To get a better view, this short video (a news clip) shows them briefly, while this post by Antti over at Hunjangûi karûch'im tells more about such 'vinyl houses' (converted greenhouses - notice that the village is surrounded by a field of greenhouses put to agriculture use). Antti also links to a lengthy report about the history of vinyl houses, which is well worth the taking the time to read. The name Gaemi Maeul (interesting translation here) is also used to refer to other, older (though not made of vinyl houses) neighbourhoods in Seoul, such as the ones pictured here (said to be from Geoyeo-dong and Hongje-dong) and here. The Gaemi Maeul mentioned in this article would seem to be the same one pictured above. The Joongang article continued:
“Although compensation for the residents has not been set, residents are expecting to receive money to move to other places or the right to live in low-rent apartments,” said an official at Munjeong 2-dong office.I'm not sure how much policy has changed towards these communities since the report I linked to above was written (in 2002), but as of that time, despite most districts having rules to demolish such structures, Songpa-gu was the only district to allow people living in such communities to register their residence, which made it much more likely that they would receive compensation in the event of redevelopment. While those championing the right to affordable housing would cheer Songpa-gu's decision, the man who distributed the tainted yogurt obviously didn't feel the same way.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Some of the following photos may well have been taken by Schofield. He was one of the only foreigners to know about the uprising in advance, and was present in downtown Seoul, camera in hand, on March first. The first three photos were taken in the Jongno vicinity, the first by the bell tower (at present-day Jonggak station).
The following two photos were taken in the same area: the first was taken in front of Daehanmun, the front gate of Deoksu palace...
...while the second shows independence protests in front of what is now city hall.
Samil movement began written by Syngman Rhee, rebutting George Trambull Ladd, a friend of Ito Hirobumi who wrote In Korea with Marquis Ito in 1907, extolling the virtues of Japanese rule in Korea. Unfortunately I can't find it. At any rate, the protest below took place on April 14, 1919, while newly discovered photos of protests commemorating the first anniversary of the uprising, which took place in Dinuba, California, one the first Korean towns in the US, can be seen here.
The day after the Philadelphia protest, one of the best known atrocities of the Japanese suppression of the independence movement took place in Jeam-ri, near Suwon. The Korea Times , Hankyoreh, and especially the Donga Ilbo have articles discussing a recently discovered journal written by Japanese General Utsunomiya Taro, 'commander of the Korean Army Command during the March 1 independence movement'. Not only did the journal confirm the massacre, its cover-up, and the punishment the officer in charge was given, it also gave some of Utsunomiya's views on the Samil movement: “It is only natural that Korean people have resentment, lament and feel agitated.” He was also among the first to recommend more autonomy for Korea. At any rate, on March 18, 1919, three days after the Jeam-ri massacre, Francis Schofield made his way down to Suwon by train, taking with him his camera and bicycle. After being questioned and then tailed by police in Suwon, he made his way to Jeam-ri.
Everyone he ran into on his way had a face deeply etched with sorrow. At a roadside he saw two small children crying pathetically in front of a newly made grave. Dr. Schofield took a picture of them […] At last Dr. Schofield arrived at the scene of horror. Among the ashes stood a charred column and a blackened partial wall where a church had been. All the houses near the charred ground had been burnt except one little cottage that stood forlornly.
Making sure that no one was around, Dr. Schofield held up his camera, when, lo and behold, he caught sight of a Japanese policeman and a westerner. The policeman came up to Dr. Schofield and asked, not too politely, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” Dr. Schofield did not know Japanese and just stood there. The accompanying western man interpreted for him.
“I am a Canadian missionary. I went to Suchon-ri on church business and dropped by on my way home,” he replied calmly.
The Japanese man did not dare query him because the westerner was an American missionary specifically invited by the Japanese to be briefed on the situation in Korea after the March 1 Resistance Movement. The Japanese wanted the American to report on it favorably for Japan.
Dr. Schofield asked the American, “Why did they burn the church and the houses?” The American answered, “A village loafer accidentally started a fire that quickly spread by strong winds, they say.” “Oh really?” was all Dr. Schofield could say but he could not believe the American’s obtuseness.
While the policeman and the American were deep in conversation, Dr. Schofield stealthily took out his camera and took a picture of the scene.
It goes on to describe the picture as “the only one of the Suwon Massacre.” Numerous other photos are said to be of Jeam-ri:
The first two photos show burned-out homes, while the photo above is said to depict two family members of a victim. If the account above is correct, and Schofield only took one photo there, this may explain the three above:
Having heard that there were other villages near Suwon that had been leveled by fire, Dr. Schofield went to Suchon-ri, and found only eight houses remaining out of the original forty-two. Since there was no one watching him, he was free to talk with the villagers, among whom one had been killed and many severely beaten.If he was in another burnt-out village where he wasn't being observed and had a camera with him, it seems inconceivable that he wouldn't have taken photos.
It's odd that Schofield ended up documenting scenes similar to those that F.A. McKenzie, a fellow Canadian, photographed 12 years earlier when he searched for the Uibyeong, or righteous armies (as he describes in this chapter), who were then fighting a guerrilla war against the Japanese. In the autumn of 1907, he became the only westerner to travel out into the countryside and meet one of these righteous armies. He travelled by horse from Seoul to Icheon, then "Chongju" [likely Chungju], Chee-chong [Jecheon], Wonju, and then back to Seoul. He encountered combatants on both sides, as well as the civilians who had suffered the wrath of the Japanese counter-insurgency operations.
As I stood on a mountain-pass, looking down on the valley leading to Ichon, I beheld in front of me village after village reduced to ashes.
Up to Chong-ju [Likely Chungju] nearly one-half of the villages on the direct line of route had been destroyed by the Japanese. At Chong-ju ....I noticed that its ancient walls were broken down. The stone arches of the city gates were left, but the gates themselves and most of the walls had gone....I struck directly across the mountains to Chee-chong [Jecheon], a day's journey. Four-fifths of the villages and hamlets on the main road between these two places were burned to the ground.
The destruction in other towns paled to nothing, however, before the havoc wrought in Chee-chong. Here was a town completely destroyed...Not a whole wall, not a beam, and not an unbroken jar remained.... Chee-chong had been wiped off the map.
After going to Wonju and then to a place called Yan-gun, McKenzie finally found members of the righteous army. On his way home, while passing through a valley, he was surrounded by other members of the righteous army who, due to his western clothes, mistook him for a Japanese, and was told
"It was fortunate that you shouted when you did. I had you nicely covered and was just going to shoot." Some of the soldiers in this band were not more than fourteen to sixteen years old. I made them stand and have their photographs taken.
Mckenzie documented the high point of what was ultimately a futile attempt to stand up to the Japanese militarily. Seeing as Japan had defeated Russia only two years before, the outcome was never in doubt, though the righteous armies were certainly not powerless:
In June, 1908, a high Japanese official said that about 20,000 troops were then engaged in putting down the disturbances, and that about one-half of the country was in a condition of armed resistance.Twelve years later, Schofield bore witness to another attempt to regain independence, this time eschewing violence, and once again villages began to burn. It's interesting what the official history chooses to remember and commemorate. By the end of the righteous army uprising in 1910, about 17,000 insurgents had been killed - far more than the perhaps 7,000 killed during the Samil movement. Both could be said to have failed, though Samil mobolized far more people and gave its participants the higher moral ground. Beyond that, I think the initial act - the signing of the declaration of independence followed by those who signed it turning themselves in to the police - resonates with the perceived Korean Confucian ideal of the scholar. That act was something men of letters could conceive of as a possibility, whereas taking part in military action was something they both considered beneath them and were incapable of pursuing.
This year is also the 20th anniversary of the June democracy protests, but you have to wonder how much they'll be celebrated (especially as the 15th anniversary was popularly ignored during the 2002 world cup). Perhaps you can draw a line from 3.1 to 4.19 (1960) to 5.18 (Kwangju, 1980) to the June 1987 protests (but do you include Cheju 4.3? Or Yeosu? And how was Samil's anniversary treated under the Yushin regime and Chun Doo-hwan?), but in the end, the 1987 protests have more connection to the present day than resistance to a colonial oppressor who's been gone for 60 years. But when you have new government-approved textbooks declaring that the mythical founder of Korea, Tangun, actually existed, it might not be the easiest point to argue.