What is the story on ‘occupy’ movement in South Korea? We visited the site of the protests on February 7. It was the 60th day since the beginning of the protests. From a humble tent, several banners, and two riot police, we knew it was the site of the demonstration at once. After greeting each other, we started the interview in the tent.
About 20 demonstrators are now involved in Occupy Yeouido (OY.) The participants are mostly university students but also people in their 30s, who are part of the financial group, are involved. They introduced themselves as ‘Occupy Yeouido Jeomryeongdan’ (Jeom-ryeong-dan means a group who occupies.) Though their roles in society differ respectively, they have similar thinking as the 99% taking part in the Occupy movement.
Last December 10 was the day of international action proposed by the Occupy Wall Street movement. The OY has since been thinking of themselves as a continuation of the OWS. Kim Jae-ui, a member of the OY movement said, “Our financial problems might not be noticeable compared to other countries’ conditions. However, it is true that 1% oppress 99% by their greed. So many people are victims to a such structural problem. For example, there were 230 suicides involving youth unemployment and university students last year. Therefore, we started the protest to make the 1% take responsibility for such a problem.” As a result, they are currently making five requests related to tuition, youth unemployment problems, the issue of irregular workers, the repeal of the FTA, and financial and taxation issues.
Some people criticize that the Korea Stock Exchange (KRX) is not the proper site for the demonstration. Most social problems in the South Korea begin from political issues rather than the issue of investment capital. Therefore, there are those of the opinion that Parliament House or the Blue House would be the more proper scene of the protest. Nevertheless, they did choose the KRX as the site of the protest. Mr. Kim stated that “Yeouido is not only the economic center but also is political center. There is Parliament House as well as KRX and financial institutions. We want to occupy the social, political, and economic centers in Korea symbolically, so we chose the KRX in Yeouido.”
Although the OY movement started 60 days ago, the press did not show much interest in the OY movement. With respect to this, we asked how they can realize their movement’s influence on people. Mr. Kim said, “There are plenty of sensations in tweeter. We have many followers and I think the meaning of the movement is well-known. However, we do not know how widely spread our movement is in the larger society. Nevertheless, last January 26, after we interviewed about making the ‘occupy movement headquarters of university students,’ the press showed interest in us. The OY’s influence is a little less than our expectations, however, there is some significant measure. ”
When we interviewed him, February 7, it was a very cold day; we felt it might be 10 degrees below zero. In that severe cold, protesters continued the movement relying on their tents and hot packs. Although it was cold, they showed their will to stay at Yeouido in February. They also spoke their mind to continue their movement at the Seoul Plaza with many university students in March. It is for talking with many university students about the 1%’s duty that if the 1% takes responsibility for the financial capital problems, the productive capital problem, the conflicts between capital and labor, and corrupted politicians, our lives will improve. Then, they showed their plan to protest aiming at the general election in April and how they will try to get their demands met by politicians.