[KS] anti-Americanism in ROK
dmccann at fas.harvard.edu
Thu Jan 30 09:53:18 EST 2003
Why demonstrate in the first place? Because someone isn't listening. For
quite a number of years, the South Korean government did not seem to be
attentive to the content of protest demonstration, only the event, which it
would regularly control. The control, though, was often-enough quite
violent, which then produced a cycle: demonstrate about some issue that
would bring out enough people, mostly students, to cause a violent control
move by the government, which would in turn leave (students) injured or
dead, which then in turn would lead to demonstrations protesting the
government's violence... Historians would have a better sense of the
mechanism than I do, but for the decades 1960-1987, it would appear that
the issues at stake were matters of control, authority, legitimacy, and the
desired outcome was pretty clear: violent confrontation and change/ no
Again thinking about all this as an amateur, it does seem to me that the
whole enterprise shifted in the last few years of the 1980's: violent
confrontation sank away, and peacable witness replaced it. Too naive?
Perhaps so. But the Red Devil demonstrations last summer were amazing.
For one thing, huge-scale, peaceful and joyous celebrations of A SPORTS
EVENT! Soccer fans, Oakland fans, take note! And the seemingly deliberate
choice, or at least awareness of the formerly-dangerous-status of the red
thing. A few years ago, and only a few years ago, the color and the notion
of red was something one could be indicted for under the National Security
Law and its various extensions. That was at play, wasn't it, in Kim Min
Gi's song "The Morning Dew," where the "Sun rises RED above the cemetery"?
Something gloriously liberated about celebrating in red.
The nature, the atmosphere, the substance, the discursive features of the
demonstrations in South Korea seem entirely different now, but at root
isn't the matter still growing from the notion that someone is not
listening? Who, pray tell? I, for one, again, cannot help but remember
the photos and news clips of George Bush turning quite deliberately away
from President Kim at their first meeting. That was a shocking picture and
concept: Our political leader dissing-- there is no other term that
describes it-- the leader of South Korea.
If the United States government does not seem to be listening with much
attention to South Korea, to put it in the most charitable terms, even
"dissing" won't do to describe the "axis of evil" notion, and the personal,
vindictive rhetoric about North Korea and its leadership. So how does a
state communicate with another state that has made clear its unwillingness
to listen? Or maybe that's too easy as a way to describe some aspects of
the current situation. Another question might be, what if anything would
happen if the Bush administration indicated a willingness to listen? Can
that regime change happen?
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