On March 10th the Constitutional Court in South Korea upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun Hye amid some major political scandals and public outcry by millions of citizens over a period of four months. In December university students and news outlets uncovered a slew of bribery scandals involving the Korean President, her confidante, and businessmen; including a Samsung vice chairman, Samsung accounts for more than 10 percent of the country’s GDP.
Democracy is 30 years old in South Korea and its inception came as a result of mass national protests throughout the nation after the Korean War and under an autocratic military regime. Read more about the Democratic Uprising of 1980s here. South Koreans are no strangers to protests and demonstrations and know the importance of activism to claim their rights as citizens and bring awareness to issues hidden by the media and government.
What South Korea did well in ousting its President and taking back its democracy is that its engagement in protesting was persistent and had focus. The tumult began in December 2016 and continued on for 17 consecutive weekends with protesters gathering by the hundreds of thousands, its largest was at 1.7 million. Protests were nonviolent and many protesting events consisted of candlelight demonstration, symbolic of peace and nonviolence. Details of the scandal and impeach proceedings happened right before the eyes of the public, news outlets and online chat rooms incessantly covered each detail. While reporters covered the day to day revelations, netizens took to the internet to uncover other pieces obscured by the media some owned by major South Korean conglomerates or tied to the government. No rock was left unturned and citizens made their dissent known. Protests on social media and in person resounded with the hashtag and chant #내려와라_박근혜 (“step down, Park Geun Hye”). This Mashable page shows a few Instagram photos from one of its earlier protests. South Koreans organized in peer-to-peer fashion led and supported by one another. Nonviolence was a priority as well as safety and responsibility, for example protestors organized fellow protestors as volunteers to help clean up after each protests and an app was developed to help communicate logistical information such as hours, location, and restroom and first aid facilities. All of which contributed to the fact that there was no loss of life or injury at any of the protests leading up to the impeachment.
Protesting is a democratic act and a necessity in holding a government system accountable to ensure that the rights of the people are not diminished. In the U.S., footage of police shootings, citizen reporting on other unjust acts in their communities, and leaked tapes/documents trend on our social media platforms, building a new form of consciousness for the need for change. The Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration demonstrated a collective outcry against Trump, his rhetoric, and what it means to our Civil Rights. The importance of community and engagement is of the utmost essence in collective action and through movements like Black Live Matters and the Women’s March we are able to see that our country perhaps has the same potential as that of South Korea in successfully reclaiming its democracy as a modern day society where human rights are protected and upheld. We seem to have and know the tools, what are we missing?