Wednesday, June 11, 2008

From Jeju to Paju...

Today (well, yesterday) marks the 21st anniversary of the June 10 uprising which led to democratization in 1987 (much more about it can be read here). June 9 was the anniversary of Lee Han-yeol being hit by a tear gas cannister, which caused injuries he died from almost a month later. His mother is seen here yesterday standing before his portrait.

The anniversary has been overshadowed, of course, by this:

Whether 1,000,000 people marched in the streets is uncertain, but there were certainly a lot of people. The police prepared for it by putting containers in place across Sejongno; the preparations, such as welding them together and covering them with grease, can be seen here.

The barricade near completion.

Kotaji has an interesting post on barricades in general, and I love some of the posters affixed to the containers (명박산성!). You can see how the protests grew between 7:00 (and 7:30) and 8:00, until they became rather large.

From a New York Times article on the protests

As the crowd ebbed and flowed, there were lots of different people protesting many different issues, for example the Grand Canal:

For those interested in 70's folk music, Yang Hui-eun sang "Morning Dew" for the crowds (the song was the unofficial anthem of the student movement - probably the best version I ever heard was of a bunch of guys, arm in arm, singing it loudly in a pojang macha near my house).

By 4:00 am protesters brought large pieces of styrofoam and built a pyramid which allowed them to climb to the top of the barricades (in what seems a symbolic, not tactical, act - look here to see the pyramid being built). Of course, not everyone needed a pyramid to get to the top.

It seems the tops of tall buildings in the area were occupied by dozens of reporters.

Though Seoul was the center of attention, protests took place in many other cities throughout Korea tonight, as this Seoul Sinmun article shows (it also has a graph showing the size of the protests over the last month according to both police and organizers).

According to the stats above, protests took place at 108 locations around the country.

In Jeonju there were 3,500 at 7 pm.

In Gwangju 20,000 gathered on Geumnamno. Those without candles used their phones.

There were even gatherings in Jeju City. Some 20,000 people took part in Busan, where protests have taken place in recent days:

Protests also took place in nearby Masan and Changwon, where this photo was taken.

The photo is of Lee Byeong-ryeol, who set himself on fire during a protest in Jeonju on May 25 and who died on June 9. More on him can be found in English here. Perhaps because his actions took place in Jeonju, they did not get much mention in the English Language press. This is a different person than Kim Gyeong-cheol, who set himself on fire on June 5 in Seoul, and whose actions were mentioned in this article,
“My husband has attended candlelight vigils for the past two weeks,” Kim’s wife said, adding that he lost his job at a cattle farm in Gyeonggi about a month ago when the farm shut down.
This article added,
Yonhap News Agency said he seemed to be disgruntled with the government's compensation policy for his evacuated residence in Seoul. Kim, a day laborer, had reportedly been joining daily candlelight vigils, which have recently turned into anti-government protests.
This article mentioned that in March of 2007 he was forced to leave his residence in Bon-dong, Dongjak-gu, which was being redeveloped, but didn't get 이주비, which I take to be some sort of compensation for moving (the assumption being that he was renting?) . The article also says he blamed the loss of his job at a farm on mad cow disease and began going to protests. Here's what his former neighbourhood, which lies just south of the Han river between the Han River Bridge and the Han River Rail Bridge, is planned to look like in the future:

Whatever the reason for his decision to immolate himself, Kim's injuries are not life-threatening. Ironically, both Kim and Lee were treated for their burns at Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital - the same place where Bill Kapoun was treated.

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