Korea Times

Peace is a new norm at anti-Park protest in Seoul

More than 60 injured and 20 arrested, but this past weekend’s protest was nowhere near as violent as past rallies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 10:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 11:01am

By Kim Se-jeong

Water cannons, iron bars, police and protesters beating each other up, bleeding people, walls of police officers in riot gear and so on used to be the common images of protests in Korea.

That was nowhere to be found at Saturday’s rally against President Park Geun-hye, with approximately one million people marching shoulder to shoulder across the entire 16 lane road in front of Gwanghwamun Square and the vicinity.

People walked around downtown Seoul in peace, even near Cheong Wa Dae where President Park, embroiled in the worst scandal ever involving her close confidant Choi Soon-sil, lives. People were holding candles and posters demanding Park’s resignation, but they made no attempts to pick fights with the more than 25,000 police officers present in riot gear.

There were a few sparse confrontations, but it was nothing compared to previous rallies that resulted in serious injuries. The police announced that 64 police officers and protesters were injured, but none seriously. Also only 23 people were taken into custody.

The biggest rally in Korea’s modern history which lasted almost 12 hours was a large-scale carnival. The candlelit protest was accompanied by music and chanting, “Park Geun-hye Resign!” People laughed at posters and performances mocking the President and her confidant. Some brought along instruments to play, and people danced to their tunes. The protestors also had quick bites to eat gimbap, boiled fish cake and soondae ― from street vendors, while marching.

Singers and comedians took the stage, livening up the crowd.

The Korean media, News 1, said history will remember the protest as the most mature of them. Roads were kept clean. People dropped their empty water bottles at designated points, and volunteers cleaned the area at the end of the protest. Subway stations nearby were packed with people arriving and leaving, but they moved with courtesy and good manners unseen at previous protests. Participants also volunteered to look for lost wallets and children who wandered away from their parents.

It reminded people of the 2002 FIFA World Cup during which the citizens were lauded for their exceptional manners.

The peaceful protest was possible in part thanks to the composition of the participants. It saw a wide range of people from three-year-olds to mothers, fathers and grandfathers, who were motivated not only by their frustration but also by their love for the country and the desire for a better future so that their children and grandchildren will be able to live in prosperity in a full democracy.