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Serial Smacker Hits Seoul’s New Mayor
월스트리트 저널 11-16-2011
A protester known only by her last name, Park, lays a head smack on her latest victim, Seoul’s new mayor, Park Won-soon.
There’s a new addition to the diverse and colorful ranks of South Korean protesters: a woman who is a serial head-smacker.
The 62-year-old woman has only been publicly identified by her last name, Park. She has been going around for the past few months hitting left-wing politicians on the head.
On Tuesday, she walked into an event in a subway station where Seoul’s new mayor, Park Won-soon, was speaking, got right up behind him, then hit him on the head and called him a “communist.”
“Step down,” she yelled before being dragged away by some other city workers. He ducked and continued with his presentation.
This was Ms. Park’s fourth apparent slap-attack on a person with whose political views she obviously disagrees.
On August 2, she walked into the office of Cheon Jung-bae, a Democratic Party member of the National Assembly, and asked a male secretary of Mr. Cheon’s, “Are you supporting Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun?” Then she hit the neck of the secretary with her palm.
On August 8, she visited the office of another Democratic Party lawmaker, Kim Young-hwan, and called him a “stool pigeon” of Messrs. Kim and Roh, the liberal presidents who served from 1998 to 2008. She then hit a female secretary of Mr. Kim’s in the mouth.
On August 15, at a public ceremony in downtown Seoul, she grabbed the hair of Chung Dong-yong, a lawmaker who was the DP’s presidential candidate in 2007. “I will kill the communists in the DP,” she screamed.
This assault was the first by Ms. Park to get lots of attention from the news media. But apparently, it wasn’t enough to warrant an arrest, a penalty or even cause police to be on the lookout for Ms. Park.
Following his head-smacking on Tuesday, the new mayor of Seoul also did not seem in a prosecutorial mood. He joked with reporters afterward about the “tap” on his shoulder. Mayor Park is technically an independent but has identified himself as a liberal or progressive on many issues.
Ms. Park was detained and then released by police on Tuesday. After her release, she told reporters, “I love my country.” And she vowed to keeping hitting politicians she doesn’t like until Lee Hoi-chang, a conservative who has run for president three times (and lost each time), is elected to the Blue House. On Wednesday, police issued a warrant charging Ms. Park with disrupting city business.
The tolerance for Ms. Park’s outbursts may be rooted in her age, anachronistic language and a deference throughout Korean society to older women known as “ajummas” or “halmoni.” Of course, South Korean politicians themselves sometimes smack and shove each other around in public, so they may see little point in getting worked up about Ms. Park.
To understand that, one need look no further than the hot-button political issue of the moment — ratification of the Korea-U.S. FTA. The entire debate is being shaped in large part by the threat of opposition party lawmakers to physically block and fight ruling party lawmakers who try to use their majority power to unilaterally approve the treaty.
In any case, Ms. Park definitely adds to the cast of characters and types found in South Korea’s protest scene, an environment that is so organized and ritualized that it makes the Occupy Wall Street movement in the U.S. look like downright amateurish.
The Pros – Usually from unions or civic organizations, these are the organizers of most of the big demonstrations and protests. Sometimes the cause they’ll latch onto seems picayune or quite removed from their core mission. This group includes some of the activists who led the democracy uprisings in the 1980s, though today’s causes and disputes are of far less consequence.
The Farmers – Bring up the topic of rice prices, quotas or tariffs and you’re sure to bring tens of thousands of farmers to the streets.
The Yellers – Not a group itself. But there are individuals who show up outside of a building, government or corporate, and scream out the injustice they feel – sometimes for hours. (Ms. Park is in a kind of extreme version of this type of protester.)
The Fighters – Sometimes at big public protests where the national police are deployed in riot gear, there are groups of young-ish men who are designated to hurl themselves at police lines or brandish sticks against police shields. Occasionally, one goes too far and gets arrested. But for the most part, the fighters show a remarkable ability to smack a stick right in front of the police without actually hitting them.
The Hired Help – One of the little-spoken-but-well-known attributes of Korean demonstrations is that organizers will often hire people to come out and stand with them. Journalists who interview protesters can find the hired help easily: they’re typically young and middle-aged men standing by themselves in the crowd.
The Military Retirees – Veterans of South Korea’s military, particularly older ones who fought in either the Korean or Vietnam wars, form the heart of South Korea’s right-wing protest movement. They’re happy to mix it up with their “juniors” on the left.
The Children – The most unsavory aspect of South Korea’s protest movement is when adults enlist children to stand up and inveigh on a cause or an issue that is the business of adults. This happened during the 2008 beef protests and, recently, in a protest against President Lee Myung-bak.
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