Listen to the voice of the peopleA peaceful protest can be more powerful than a violent one. Mass rallies became explosive when rage evolved from weekend civilian festivity during the nationwide protests against the mad cow disaster in 2008 and corrupt President Park Geun-hye in 2016.
A crowd of around 2,000 people comprised of staff from Incheon International Airport Corporation and college students held a rally in front the Korean Depositary Insurance Corporation in central Seoul late Saturday.
They flew paper planes and held games while holding a banner that read, “Out with Injustice” in protest to the preferential conversion of irregular workers to those with permanent status at the main air gateway operator.
The previous Saturday, civilians gathered around a plaza in front of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies with books in their hands. The “reading” protest was aimed at the string of alleged sexual harassment committed by administrative heads including the Busan and Seoul mayors.
They did not make any rally chants or hold up pickets. They sat around and discussed the topics of the books.
Weekend protests over government real estate measures have been rapidly gaining ground among those in their 30s and 40s. They threw their shoes, mimicking the man who hurled his shoe at the president during his address to the National Assembly.
Anti-government rallies have turned inventive and diverse over the last month. Protests previously against the government under liberal President Moon Jae-in had been mostly restated to senior rightists. But they have expanded to those in their 40s and younger — the voting base for the liberal camp — amid mounting complaints over housing and job policies and Me Too scandals.
The approval rating for Moon which hovered at 64 percent after the ruling party’s overwhelming triumph in the April parliamentary election slipped to 44 percent by the last week of July.
In another poll on party preference, the Democratic Party (DP) which swept 41 out of 49 representative seats available from Seoul in the April 14 general election fell behind the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) at 31.4 percent versus 40.8 percent.
Public sentiment can sour faster if the ruling party continues with its unilateral ways such as rubber-stamping real estate-related bills despite civilian protest.
Protestors at the real estate rally argued they were ordinary citizens who cannot tolerate legislation that threatens their livelihoods. They are protesting against government policy because they fear for their livelihoods and not because of ideological differences.
The young people protesting against the job plan at the Incheon Airport Corp. and females against the government’s lukewarm attitudes to the Me Too allegations against administrative heads from the ruling front would give the same reasoning.
The president and ruling party must humbly pay heed to the quiet but decisive changes in public sentiment. They must listen to the voice from the people not their inner ideological faith.