An incomprehensible protest

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An incomprehensible protest

An event outside Seoul City Hall showing N.C Heiken’s “Kimjongilia,” an award-winning documentary which sheds light on the cruel reality of North Korean prison camps through the testimonies of 12 defectors, was cut short by illegal protesters.

The film was shown as part of an event organized by seven groups of university students, who wished to send hope to North Koreans. But at the same time, members of umbrella trade union groups and liberal opposition parties held an unauthorized anti-government rally, which disrupted the students’ event. Participants in both events clashed over the screening of the film, and electricity was suddenly cut off during the brawling.

The incident symbolically underscores contrasting perspectives on North Korea.

“Kimjongilia” documents human rights abuses in the rigidly-controlled North, including brutal injustices at little-known prison camps in North Korea through chilling defector testimonies. The film’s title parodies a flower, which was named after North Korea leader Kim Jong-il, and is meant to hype the personality cult surrounding the dictator.

Participants in the anti-government rally tried to interrupt the film screening by throwing water bottles at the screen, while accusing the audience of having been paid by conservative groups to sit through the film. Some even threw water bottles at the faces of the students who gathered there, and an anti-government protestor abruptly cut off the electricity.

It is incomprehensible that a film critical of the North Korean regime had to be stopped in downtown Seoul. We cannot be exactly certain about who interrupted the showing. However, it is undeniable that the electricity line was cut off intentionally. The university students suspect the anti-government sponsors to be behind the action, and, the police should immediately get to the bottom of the case.

The city of Tongyoung, South Gyeongsang, is currently rallying to bring home its resident Shin Sook-ja and her two daughters who are believed to be imprisoned in a concentration camp in North Korea. Human abuses in North Korea should not be regarded as merely an internal affair. Grandiose talk of unification is meaningless without efforts to address the suffocating humanitarian issues in North Korea.

With these important issues on the table, it is pitiful that some adults wanted to halt an innocent humanitarian event staged by young students.
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