Top Five Sightings from the Anti-Park Geun-hye Protests


In the sixth straight weekend of rallies in South Korea, a record number of protesters gathered in Seoul and across the nation Saturday, calling for the ouster of president Park Geun-hye. According to the progressive newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun, it marked the republic’s largest rally in history with an estimated 1.7 million protesters in Seoul and up to 2.32 million in total across the nation.

Protesters made it up to 100 meters from the presidential office and residence, the Blue House, and also rallied in Yeouido, where the National Assembly is located, to put pressure on lawmakers to vote for Park’s impeachment this week.

After following the protests these past six weeks, editors at Korea Exposé have put together their top five picks of sightings, marked by ingenuity, spirit and diverse participation.

1. Lights out

Protestors at the rally and in homes and offices put out their lights for a full minute at 7 pm on Saturday, in reference to the seven hours that president Park was unaccounted for on April 16, 2014, the day of the Sewol ferry disaster. On-going investigations allude to the possibility she was getting cosmetic work done that day while the Sewol ferry sank and killed 304 victims, many of them teenagers on a school trip.

The lights-out gesture was also said to signify that “darkness cannot conquer light” and that it can be “darkest before the light.”

"오후 7시에 소등을 하는 이유는 세월호 7시간을 의미합니다."#7시_소등 #1분_소등 #세월호_7시간

Posted by JTBC 디지털뉴스룸 on Saturday, December 3, 2016


2. But not going out in the wind

Kim Jin-tae, a lawmaker from the ruling Saenuri party – to which the president belongs — angered citizens last month when he scoffed at the candlelight protests: “Candles are just candles. If wind blows, they’ll all go out.” People started pointing out that electric candles and smartphone candle apps were also in use, and snapped pictures of actual torches in front of Gwanghwamun gate in downtown Seoul this Saturday.

This Saturday also took the demonstrations to Yeouido, where protesters brought a copy of the Saenuri party’s flag to the party’s HQ and tore it apart.

3. Diverse participation and humor

Although the rallies are primarily organized by the People’s Action for Immediate Resignation of President Park Geun-hye, and the country is used to seeing activist groups such as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions attend protests, what has stood out here is the numerous families with small children, middle and high school students marching after exams, and casual groups and clubs with humorous flags such as can be seen below in a screen capture of a JTBC report.

Although was unable to confirm all the groups’ official English titles, we are translating (from left to right) flags proclaiming:

– the Zebra Research Society

– Jeon-gyeonnyeon – a play on the acronym Jeon-gyeongnyeon (the Federation of Korean Industries), which would translate to the Federation of Korean Dogs (or Dog Owners)

– Pan-Meowies Solidarity (whose official title was confirmed with the group through @hayaakor)

– Minjumyochong – a play on the acronym Minjunochong (the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions), standing for the Korean Confederation of Cats (or Cat Owners).

“Unusual flags on display, ‘resignation coffee’ on offer” (Source: JTBC)

Another favorite, the ‘Rhinoceros Beetle Research Society’ was trending on Korean Twitter after their flag was spotted at the Nov 12 rally – @junmiguel_lee tweeting, “Can you hear the fury of the rhinoceros beetle” here:

And the “Eungam-dong pork spine potato stew gathering”:

It’s apparently a club dedicated to enjoying the spicy specialty for which the Eungam neighborhood is known.

4. Creative expression

In a country where freedom of expression has been increasingly repressed to the point where the government was reported to have created a blacklist of dissident artists, it has been surprising to see what protesters have brought out to the rallies.

According to Kyunghyang, the guillotine in the picture above was created by a group of artists with a neighborhood woodworking shop – twice. The police took down the first one they put up on Oct. 29 within a matter of minutes, so they made another which was seen here Nov. 12.

President Park has been known to use the word “guillotine” in her speeches – as when she spoke at the G20 summit in Australia in Nov. 2014, referring to regulation reforms and again at her cabinet meeting the same month calling for “cancer-like” regulations to be “put on the guillotine” and done away with.

At the time, people noted that the term seemed a bit extreme for the leader of a nation to use and of course, after the revelations that her friend Choi Soon-sil had been doctoring her speeches, we’ve been set to wondering where the choice of wording came from.

광화문에 나타난 고래 한 마리

11월 12일 광화문에 세월호와 아이들을 태운 고래가 나타났다. 우리의 눈으로 볼 수는 없었지만 우리는 그 자리에 분명 함께 있었다#닷페이스 #리얼퓨쳐 #광화문에_나타난_고래_한마리

Posted by 닷페이스 .FACE on Tuesday, November 15, 2016


sister medium .Face produced this video report above about an Augmented Reality (AR) whale, carrying the children from the Sewol ferry on its back with the yellow Sewol memorial ribbon on its tail, to be seen floating over Gwanghwamun.

Producer Gunsup Lee, who says he created the AR whale in lieu of picketing, did so in the hopes that the Sewol children “might look down upon the people who had come out into the square, feel happy and be comforted.” (Lee has made an emoticon of the whale available to be added to profile pictures on messaging app KakaoTalk as part of memorial and fundraising efforts.)

Protesters also put up a sign in the Gwanghwamun subway station saying “Park Geun-hye Resignation Station.”

5. Clean-up

Protesters have been picking up trash to clean up after rallies, with JTBC noting around 1 am on Nov. 12 before they released this video that the streets were so clean it looked ‘like nothing had happened.’

쓰레기를 줍는 사람들

그냥 돌아가지 않았습니다…#쓰레기를_줍는_사람들 #11월12일 #촛불집회

Posted by JTBC 디지털뉴스룸 on Saturday, November 12, 2016


Although a lot of South Koreans have said they’ve felt embarrassed by their president and her corruption scandal, the level of civic mindedness seen at these protests should make them proud.

Cover Image: The Sewol student victims ride on a whale and fly over the field of candlelights in Gwanghwamun. Visual artist Seok Jeong-hyun made this illustration for the second anniversary of the Sewol sinking, and the drawing, known as the “Sewol Whale,” has gone viral.




  1. I’m really proud of Koreans for doing such an awesome job in these protests. They are so well-organized, so well-behaved, and civil.

    I hope he President is impeached and removed from office, so the country can move on. Her presidency has been a nightmare.

  2. It is amazing and beautiful how much creativity and energy is poured into this protest effort!
    While it seems Park Geun-Hye herself has agreed she should leave office over the crony-captialism and inappropriate outsourcing of political control to unelected officials, I offer a concern for consideration.

    Laying blame of the Sewol disaster on the president defeats the ability to solve the issue.
    The cultural problems that led to that horrific event are many, diverse, and the issues it brought to light are systemic in Korean society. Blaming that disaster on Park Geun-hye might feel good, but it prevents the necessary investigation and action to prevent something similar from happening again. It should be apparent to anyone paying attention that many people in Korea pick and choose the safety laws they are willing to follow based on how convenient it is to them at the time. As long as that attitude is the norm and accepted, disasters like the Sewol ferry sinking will continue to be a threat.

    • I agree with your second point. I think Korean people, too, understand that she couldn’t have prevented it. But that doesn’t mean that Park is not responsible. People are angry because she basically disappeared for 7 critical hours right after the ferry incident. There is a log of reports being sent to Park (through e-mail? phone? fax? or in-person reporting? we don’t know), but no directives sent from Park other than something like “Make sure no one is left inside.” Rescuers from the Costal Guard were more concerned with recording the scene with their phone than actually rescuing people, so that they can send the footage to Park. Can you imagine how Americans would’ve reacted if Bush had acted this way after 9/11?

      Park administration did everything they can to thwart the efforts of Sewol Ferry Special Investigation Commission by delaying providing funds, reducing the its term by deliberately misinterpreting the regulations/laws, and refusing to answer to the requests for information necessary for investigation, to name just a few.

      There have been a rumor for quite a long time that Park had done cosmetic procedures, 7 missing hours. Given what we know now (her love of cosmetic fillers and intravenous vitamin and beauty shots), that rumor doesn’t seem to be that far off.

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