How the boycott started

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How the boycott started

 Protesters in Sydney urging a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. [AFP/YONHAP]

Protesters in Sydney urging a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. [AFP/YONHAP]

The author is the head of the Parents Team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

When he settled in Ireland in the 19th century, English land agent Charles Boycott wouldn’t have imagined that his name would be used so widely in the future. Boycott, in his early 40s, was assigned to manage plots of land for an absentee landlord. He would take a 10 percent fee from tenant farmers, and he would make a good profit by managing the land. But things didn’t go as planned. A conflict arose seven years after he settled.

One day in September 1880 before the harvest, a famine struck, and peasants formed an alliance to demand a reduction in rent. With a lot of farmers who wanted to rent the land and farming land in short supply, Boycott was not willing to cut prices. Instead, he ordered the tenant farmers to leave, and they started to retaliate. In the village, no bakery would sell Boycott bread, his mail was not delivered and the maids who did his laundry and cleaning disappeared.

The problem was the harvest. In the harvest season, workers were afraid of the villagers and were reluctant to work. Boycott was agonized and sent an article to a local newspaper about his plight, and reporters spread the story. For the harvest in early November, some 50 workers appeared, but they drew attention after police gathered to prevent a commotion. Boycott could not get over the discord with the local farmers and fled with his family to England at the end of November.

“Boycott” now describes a protest against unjust behavior. Recently, it has appeared often in the news about the Beijing Winter Olympics scheduled to be held in February 2022. The United States started the boycott as it is not sending a government delegation to the Games due to the human rights issue in China. China called it a “political insult” and suggested retaliation, but some countries are siding with the U.S. Australia and New Zealand will not send diplomats, and Japan is considering a boycott. How about the Korean government? While a “diplomatic boycott is not under review,” no decision has been made to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, the government said.

The clock is ticking. The Korean government’s diplomatic caliber is being tested again.
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