Amnesty holds rally that’s totally virtual

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Amnesty holds rally that’s totally virtual

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A protest by hologram is shown Wednesday night outside Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, as passersby look on. [KANG JUNG-HYUN]

Korea’s first-ever hologram demonstration was staged Wednesday night in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, by the local branch of Amnesty International to protest what they called authorities’ infringement of the freedom of assembly and speech.

The hour-long demonstration, staged a day before the third anniversary of President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration, was peaceful. Three hundred police officers were dispatched to the scene.

Korea became the second venue in the world for a political protest done with holograms. The first was held in Madrid in April 2015 to protest a new law prohibiting people from rallying outside government buildings.

In Seoul, ghostly images of some 80 people were projected onto a large translucent screen in front of Gyeongbok Palace, illustrating 3-D holographic forms holding politically charged placards. Separate voice recordings demanding the right to assembly pierced the night air.

Earlier this month, around 120 volunteers were recruited by Amnesty Korea and filmed picketing inside a studio for two days. After 10 days of editing and photoshopping the images, the humanitarian group was technically able to reflect the shots onto a screen that was 10 meters (33 feet) in length and 3 meters in height.

Scores of other volunteers were involved in the voice recordings, which were received via the smartphone chatting app Kakao Talk.

Park Si-hyeon, 24, who was among the virtual protestors, said she felt like she had watched a short movie when the end product was finally shown in one of the capital’s most bustling districts.

“It was my first time shooting in a studio covered with green panel walls,” said Park, adding she was eager to find out how the unusual process would turn out in the end.

Amnesty Korea said their core task was to establish an “institutional framework” to battle against the “abuse of police force.” Police on the scene checked whether the holograms were reflected on nearby roads and disturbed traffic.

Authorities also measured the chanting sounds to verify whether they were legally under domestic limits for nighttime protests.

Noting that Amnesty Korea downplayed its political purpose by registering the event as a “cultural festival,” the Jongno Police Precinct had warned it would take legal action if the program led to real people chanting.

A Jongno police officer said the hologram form made it “difficult” for them to apply some key clauses of the domestic Assembly and Demonstration Act on it because it was completely beyond the norm.

BY JEONG JIN-WOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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