[Outlook]Protests with soulFrom the perspective of the soul of a nation, the recent protests are one of the most insecure and unstable in Korea’s modern history.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the public had to put up to a certain degree with development-oriented dictatorship by the late President Park Chung Hee. The president persuaded people to have patience with the dictatorship until “we get rich.”
However, when total exports in 1977 exceeded $10 billion and people grew healthy, they began to open their eyes to democratization.
In October 1979, Park was shot to death by his aide Kim Jae-gyu, the head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.
The Gwangju Democratization Movement of May 1980 was one of the bloodiest uprisings in Korea’s history. Masses of people raised their voices, threw stones and even fired guns. The souls who led the popular uprising now rest in peace in the May 18 Memorial Cemetery in Mangwol-dong. However, history shows that another military group headed by Chun Doo Hwan seized power afterwards.
The public waged a final life and death battle with dictatorships in 1987. It came about 40 years after the nation was founded in 1948. People wanted a direct presidential election system and victory was already anticipated.
Thousands of tear gas canisters were fired, and a 22-year-old Yonsei University student, Lee Han-yeol, was struck on the head by a tear gas canister while protesting.
However, protesters continued to call for nonviolence. There was never a case of an isolated police officer being beaten up.
The 1987 democratization movement had a clear-cut soul. The authoritarian government was ended with the launch of the direct presidential election system.
However, the history of protests did not come to an end.
A new regime emerged with the surprise merger of three conservative political parties in 1990 conceived in vanity and arrogance. Behind their decisions, a consensus on launching a parliamentary cabinet system was hidden. A few people possessing political power decided the fate of the nation.
In 1991, university students took to the streets for the purpose of achieving the independence of academia.
At the end of April that year, Kang Gyung-dae, a student at Myongji University, was brutally killed by riot police. As some of their colleagues were injured by Molotov cocktails thrown by the students, angry police officers wielded iron pipes, which led to Kang’s tragic death.
Protesters gathered in nationwide protests to show their strong anger against the government. Some of the students burned themselves to death in protest against the government. Then President Roh Tae-woo declared he would not launch a parliamentary cabinet system, and reshuffled his prime minister and four ministers.
However, university students who were pushed to the limit of their patience went too far in 1991.
In early June, as Chung Won-shik, who was prime minister at the time, gave a speech, some militant students hurled eggs at him, then kicked him. Later, they doused him in wheat flour.
Public opinion took a turn due to this cruelty, and protesters lost the momentum to carry on. Numerous limitations were imposed on the protests. Even though the regime had a holier-than-thou attitude, it was a civilian elected government, not an authoritarian one.
The resistance ended up being marked by violent protests ?? university students continued to burn themselves to death, and protesters became more aggressive, armed with Molotov cocktails and iron pipes. Therefore, the demonstrations in 1991 had “half a soul.”
The history of protests in Korea has been both full of soul or had only half a soul. Now, we’ve seen a new era of protests from May to June this year. What kind of soul does this era have?
The candlelight rallies of early May had a naive and young soul. Even though the student demonstrators may have been influenced by some misguided teachers, TV and the Internet, their demonstrations on the food issue gave the current administration new insight into the situation. President Lee promised that he would do his utmost to reflect them, and the government would take appropriate measures. They returned to school.
After they disbanded, civic groups, labor unions and those dissatisfied with society began to attack the police and newspaper office buildings and harm small shopkeepers. These agitators, the beneficiaries of Korea’s democratization, are battering the proud soul of the nation that had achieved democracy 40 years after the republic’s establishment.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin