Newsletter N°3 - January 2018
Korea: from Teargas to Candlelight
Korea’s democratic transition was perfectly encapsulated by the release last year of ‘1987’, a movie that on the one hand addressed the forgotten and often hidden scars of Korean democratization and on the other reminds us how far we have come in the past 30 years. While people protested the corruption of President Park through almost festival-like candlelight vigils, in theaters, we were reminded of the violent repression of the 1987 June struggles, leading to the deaths of two students, Park and Lee.
The contrast between the people’s protests, despite teargas, violence and even incidental deaths, in 1987 and the 2017 candlelight revolution couldn’t be bigger. It lays bare a generational gap between those who grew up before the June struggles and those who grew up after, and is a testament to the democratic achievements of 1987.
In 1987, democratic protests achieved the direct election of our president, opening the door for a just and non-violent political system. In 2017, nationwide demonstrations allowed us to impeach a president who according to many had abused her power for too long. Will we be able to make the final leap and make Korea a truly participatory democracy? In this Newsletter, among other stories, we will look at the context for direct democratic reform in Korea today.
Professor of Sociology, Daegu Catholic University and Member of the board of Democracy International