[KS] South Korea's Rollback of Democratic Rights

Matthias MAASS mm at mmaass.net
Thu May 7 23:48:38 EDT 2009

Dear List,

Is there any way we can (please!) agree to disagree? Maybe if we do so, and
do so with civility and respect for other viewpoints, this idea might
trickle down to the demonstrators and/or police?

I for one find this 'gotcha!' style of arguing on the list a bit tiresome.
If we can't deal with this topic in a professional way and respect other
people's views, then, really, how do we even justify us making judgments
about people/institutions/governments etc. resorting to violence over
differences of opinion?

Alternatively, all those interested, may wish to continue their discussion
off-list. I would suspect (although admittedly I have no hard data to prove
that) that some subscribers to the list might want to go back to Korean
Studies. I for one wouldn't mind.

Maass (Mr.)

-----Original Message-----
From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws
[mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] On Behalf Of george katsiaficas
Sent: Friday, May 08, 2009 6:04 AM
To: Korean Studies Discussion List; Michael Braverman-Scult
Subject: Re: [KS] South Korea's Rollback of Democratic Rights

Dear all, 

Of all the troubling initiatives undertaken by the Lee MB government, none
is more unsettling than its offensive against the media. In July 2008, MBC
producers were taken to court for alleged exaggerations in their documentary
on US beef imports, and when they refused to show up to the hearing, over
the next ten months they have been arrested one by one as they went about
their daily lives (including a bride-to-be planning her wedding). In August
2008, the KBS president was forced to resign‹-and even briefly
detained‹-before being replaced with Lee¹s crony. The president of Arirang
news channel was changed to a friend of the president. The 24-hour all-news
cable station YTN was sent a new president. When union leaders and members
sought to block him from coming to work, police intervened. Union leaders
were repeatedly summoned for questioning. Even though they complied four
times, they were arrested. The internet has also been under close scrutiny.
On July 24, Google Korea came under pressure from the government, confirming
it had been pressured to delete two pieces of video footage showing the
brother of the National Police Commissioner managing a hotel that allowed
prostitution. Minerva, a blogger who had correctly reported on the global
crisis and embarrassed the government by revealing its incompetent handling
of the economy, was tracked down and prosecuted (although subsequently
exonerated). New restrictive requirements for internet postings have been

The government's attempt to control the media is so intense that it is now
criminalizing even citizens who hold press conferences (claiming they speak
too loudly or in synch with each other). Attempts to justify such egregious
violations of freedom of speech include equating those holding press
conferences with any protester in the streets.

Were the human rights activists arrested at a press conference on May 4
(where they were protesting the arrests of people commemorating the
anniversary of candlelight vigils) identical to the "specific individuals"
who took over the stage at the city government's Hi Seoul Festival on May 2,
as Scott Burgeson reported to the list? Apparently not.

Mr. Burgeson fails to provide specific facts to support his initial
statement--which he reported to all of us as truth. I would request that Mr.
Burgeson abandon his culturally questionable projections on similarities in
people's external appearances and provide us with solid facts on the
"specific individuals" to whom he referred.

He now tells us that "It is always the protesters who attack the police
first." Last July, I was at a peaceful candlelight protest in Seoul. As it
ended in the rain and people were leaving, I saw police brutalize high
school girls for no apparent reason. As the girls cried and retreated from
police baton blows, they continued to be pushed and struck.

Since last August, I have been waiting for Mr. Burgeson to provide us with
details of his assertion that PSPD organized the initial candlelight
protests a year ago. I suspect we will wait even longer for him to provide
with factual substantiation of his latest bits of manufactured news.

george katsiaficas

> From: Michael Braverman-Scult <mbscult at gmail.com>
> Reply-To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 00:07:02 +0900
> To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Subject: Re: [KS] South Korea's Rollback of Democratic Rights
> Dear all,
> This is a fascinating topic and I would like to thank Proffessor
> for starting the discussion.
> I believe that the police crackdowns last weekend were the latest chapter
> Lee Myung-bak fulfilling his promise of zero tolerance for illegal
> demonstrations and to crackdown on protesters, demonstrations, and descent
> in general.  The recent arrests of the MBC producer and chairman of the
> union, as well as the conviction of the organizers of the online boycott
> against business placing advertisements in the Chosun Ilbo, Joongang Ilbo,
> and Dong-A Ilbo attest to the current administration's disregard for
> democratic rights and freedoms.
> In relation to Scott's comments on the violent actions of "*these same
> individuals* attacking "violent crackdowns" by the police" who exactly are
> we talking about?  The Human Rights Network of Korea?The Korea Progressive
> Alliance? The Korean
> Confederation of Trade Unions? The high school and college students? There
> was a myriad of groups and organizations involved in the activities over
> weekend representing a wide array of issues.  I think it is inaccurate to
> lump the whole of Korean civil society into "theys" and "folks" who "lie
> distort in the interest of promoting their own agenda."  Were there fringe
> groups of protesters who engaged in violent activity?  Possibly. However,
> also having been there, I can say that I witnessed only peaceful
> gatherings.  I would further say that most protests in Seoul are conducted
> peacefully and within the confines of the of the rule of law.  The point
> many of these protests is to influence or gain access to the political
> process and those involved know that violent conduct is not a productive
> means.  Too often the focus is put on the actions of a small group of
> provocateurs, while ignoring the issues and concerns of the thousands of
> peaceful protesters involved.
> I think most pressing concern with this issue is the threat to the
> fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly that these "crackdowns"
> In terms of violence, I am sure there are those few who are guilty on both
> sides.
> Michael Braverman-Scult
> M.A. Candidate in International Affairs
> Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies
> On Thu, May 7, 2009 at 12:17 AM, Matthias MAASS <mm at mmaass.net> wrote:
>> Dear Prof. Katsiaficas,
>> You make a good point, asking for proof from Mr. Burgeson., and I second
>> that. However, in order to avoid double-standards, I's suggest you might
>> also provide the list with more 'meat' than an arguably one-side
>> news-clipping. For what's it worth, I find it a bit one-side to align
>> yourself with one side (by posting the news item without further comment)
>> and then shoot down the counter-argument by setting higher standards.
>> We might want to keep the discussion, I'd suggest, on the 'journalistic
>> level,' for all, or limit it to a discussion that requires scientific
>> methodology.
>> I, for one, can live with different opinions quite well, and would
>> an open discussion where people can present their reasonable viewpoints
>> without prior extended trips to the library.
>> Aloha,
>> Maass (Mr.)
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws
>> [mailto:koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws] On Behalf Of george
>> Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2009 2:57 PM
>> To: jsburgeson at yahoo.com, Korean Studies Discussion List; J.Scott
>> Subject: Re: [KS] South Korea's Rollback of Democratic Rights
>> Dear all,
>> Scott calls for "further research and investigation before drawing any
>> final
>> conclusions" about individuals holding a press conference being arrested
>> masse.
>> I am all for further research and in that spirit, I would like to know
>> factual basis for Scott's assertion that "these same individuals
>> "violent crackdowns" by the police and calling for a "guarantee (of) the
>> freedom to assemble and demonstrate" had physically hijacked the stage of
>> the Hi Seoul Festival at City Hall on the previous Saturday night."
>> Evidently Scott has some inside information that can name specific
>> individuals who held the press conference(s) and were arrested being the
>> same individuals present a week before at a different location.
>> Scott, please provide us with the names and/or other research you've done
>> to
>> draw your conclusion.
>> Thanks,
>> george katsiaficas
>>> From: "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>
>>> Reply-To: <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>, Korean Studies Discussion List
>>> <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>>> Date: Tue, 5 May 2009 21:25:53 -0700 (PDT)
>>> To: Korean Studies Discussion List <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
>>> Subject: Re: [KS] South Korea's Rollback of Democratic Rights
>>> I suggest further research and investigation before drawing any final
>>> conclusions.

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