[KS] candlelight demonstrations in Korea and the beef deal issue

George Katsiaficas katsiaficasg at wit.edu
Tue Jun 10 03:36:23 EDT 2008

Dear all,

David Scofield's observations on the lack of spontaneity in current protests
against US beef are puzzling. The original impetus for the current wave of
candlelight marches came from middle-school netizens. Middle-school girls
led the initial demonstrations (interesting that it was girls, no?). Widely
appreciated among Koreans are the "festival-like" atmosphere and
"leaderless" movement. This may change as time goes on, but it certainly has
been the case up to now. Much to the displeasure of the NGO's Scofield
names, two nights ago militant street-fighters with iron bars showed up at
the end of the demonstration and battled with police into the night.

Scofield also underestimates the proportions of the crisis for President
Lee. The grassroots swell of opposition has turned around the political
situation in Korea. After recent presidential and parliamentary elections,
the president (and conservatives) had political initiative and popular
support behind them. Now people at the grassroots have taken the initiative,
and opposition to the president has spread even into the conservative
parties. Tonight's demonstration (on the 21st anniversary of the 1987 June
Uprising) is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people.

In early May, a high school student called for the impeachment of "One
Megabyte" (2 MB--as the president is jokingly nicknamed) and initiated an
on-line petition to impeach that garnered more than one million signatures
in the first week. The crisis facing Lee is widespread enough that former
president Noh Moo Hyun recently felt compelled to say impeachment is not NOW
a good idea.

Scofield's claims that one of the reasons these protests happen is because
the Korean political establishment sees them as useful. That is like saying
protests against the Iraq War happen because president Bush wants to show
Europeans the US really does have democratic features. If any political
establishment could be said to be increasing the current protests, it would
be the White House, whose intransigence on renegotiations is currently one
Lee's main stumbling blocks--and the opposition's main points of
mobilization. I am NOT saying the White House intends to increase protests.
I rather think they are assessing developments with the kind of
"intelligence" offered by Scofield, and therefore pretty much unable to
understand the popular impact of their actions.

Query: Is the writer to this list the same David Scofield who wrote
“Negotiating in Korea - Doing Business in Korea Guide,” published by the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Government of Canada?

권력을 민중에게

Department of Sociology
Chonnam National University
Buk-ku Yongbongdong 300
500-757 GWANGJU 
South Korea

Cell phone +82-10-6798-5852
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June 9 on Against the Grain KPFA radio

May 14 on Democracy Now!

> From: David Scofield <D.Scofield at sheffield.ac.uk>
> Organization: University of Sheffield
> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Date: Mon,  9 Jun 2008 16:46:30 +0100
> To: <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>, Korean Studies Discussion List
> <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject: Re: [KS] candlelight demonstrations in Korea and the beef deal issue
> I second Scott's observations.
> It would also be helpful if the article touched on the other side of the trade
> issue: South Korea is asking, for example, that the US declare Korea free of
> foot and mouth disease and to allow the import of Korean beef into the US.
> They
> are also seeking agreement on the relaxation of restrictions on the import to
> the US of canned ginseng chicken. And of course the larger issue of a free
> trade agreement with the US and Korea's inclusion on the visa waiver list.
> These street demonstrations - like so many in the past - are a way for the
> South Korean government to leverage the US in negotiations.
> I sense the author is new to Korea and may not be aware that that
> 'spontaneous'
> outpourings of emotion by Korea's netizens are anything but spontaneous.
> Rather, as in the past (the 'poisoning' of the Han; the accidental death of
> the
> two middle school students; Onno; the Liancourt rocks - Dokdo - fiasco...),
> these demonstrations are the result of careful and deliberate agit prop by
> certain groups (PSPD, Green Korea, Korea teacher's union) and sympathetic
> media
> in S. Korea.
> The author would do well to bear in mind that the Korean state has more than
> enough riot police and soldiers to put down any demonstration they deem not to
> be in the government's interest...these street demos happen because the
> political establishment is not at all threatened by them (as long as people
> perceive the enemy to be beyond Korea's shores), and see them as providing
> useful leverage against the Americans, while reinforcing the notion in the
> minds of many young Koreans that threats to Korea always originate from
> outside
> Korea - it's a useful distraction that has been used by Korean politicians
> since the Korean war, perhaps before.
> A final thought. In July 2000, when the furore centered around the dumping of
> 20
> gallons of formaldehyde into a drain at US Camp Humphries (the embalming fluid
> was then processed through two separate treatment centers before reaching the
> Han river), headlines screamed that the US army was "poisoning the Han
> river"...street outrage ensued, prompted by Green Korea, the PSPD among
> others.
> But what wasn't discussed, aside from the fact the chemical had been twice
> treated and posed no threat to the river as a result, was that S. Korean
> hospitals and clinics routinely dump chemicals like formaldehyde in a similar
> way. Nor was the fact that lumber companies upstream of Seoul dump TONS of
> formaldehyde untreated into the Han every year discussed. Neither point was
> allowed to distract Korea's netizens from their rightful rage.
> David
> Quoting "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>:
>> 1. `While cows 30 months of age and older at the time of slaughter are in
>> general not allowed to be sold for food consumption in the US and elsewhere,
>> the agreement between the US and South Korean government included the import
>> of beef from cattle over 30 months old.`
>> Q:ã••Can you provide a reliable and up-to-date source for the first part of
>> this statement? I have read elsewhere that beef over 30 months old is widely
>> used esp. for hamburger meat in the US.
>> 2. `A video of a cow in the US that was unable to walk but was passed as
>> acceptable to be slaughtered and its beef included in the human food supply
>> was distributed on the Internet by netizens.`
>> Vague attribution. What was the source of this video? MBC`s PD Such`op? And
>> did that cow actually have BSE (I have heard otherwise)? Please provide a
>> clear reference if possible.
>>                          *  *  *  *  *
>> Your article implies that there is insufficient democracy in South Korea but
>> does not really explain why so few people chose to participate in the
>> Presidential election of Dec. 2007 and thereby register their democratic will
>> at the institutional level. Political apathy is distinct from lack of
>> democracy. One might also note that the GNP won a majority of seats in
>> Parliament in April, yet your article does not account for this phenomenon
>> either (beyond perhaps objecting to it on ideological grounds). Up until
>> recently the Korean electorate was seemingly conservative, which again is
>> distinct from lack of democracy.
>> ChoJoongDong have their biases but many of the left-leaning sources you site
>> approvingly in your article have their biases as well, which renders the
>> persuasiveness of your analysis somewhat less than it might otherwise be.
>> --Scott Bug
> -- 
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> University of Sheffield,
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