Article 21, Section 1. All citizens shall enjoy freedom of speech and the press and enjoy freedom of assembly and association.
As enumerated in the Korean constitution, all citizens have the freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association. On January 14th, our team of six SSPI members (Juhyung Park, Diana Lee, Andy Yoon, Chris Lee, Andie Kim, Joshua Kim) exercised our civil liberties at the weekly candlelight protest at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul.
We assembled at Gangnam Station around 7:10pm on Saturday, January 14th. From here, we traveled to City Hall Station via subway, arriving approximately at 8:00pm.
After arriving at City Hall Station, we walked up Seojong-daero (Seojong Main Street) to participate in the candlelight protests, which was taking place at Gwanghwamun Square, around 1km away from the station.
On our way, we purchased LED candles. These were necessities as protestors since everyone held candles to represent “the light shining in the darkness.” We discussed the multiple interpretations of the candlelight symbol: hope, purity, transparency, and justice.
Consequently, we briefly took part in the demonstration at the center of Gwanghwamun Square. Due to extremely icy temperatures of -8℃, we were confronted by a slightly smaller crowd than we expected. However, due to the dismal approval ratings of President Park Geun-hye, we were still part of an assembly of several thousand protestors.
Following the main demonstration, we visited the numerous booths that were set up around the square. First, we took a look at a photo gallery of the previous 11 candlelight protests that took place every Saturday since last October. Taken by a coalition of photojournalists, the photos were captivating, symbolic, and inspiring. The collective power of citizens, united for a singular cause, was quite amazing.
Second, we expressed our condolences for the victims and their families of the sinking of the Sewol ferry (April, 2014). We took a moment of silence at the Sewol ferry victims’ photo gallery, where we looked into the eyes of the 325 deceased high-school students. The photos reminded us and made us inquire what President Park Geun-hye was doing in the first seven hours following the sinking of the Sewol ferry on April, 2014: a national mystery that has yet to be solved.
Lastly, we gazed at the many sculptures, posters, and displays that were set up around the booths. From parodies to symbolic sculptures to a range of powerful posters, we enjoyed reflecting upon the deep, provocative messages and meanings behind each display.
By 9:10pm, we concluded our field trip and returned back to City Hall Station. As Korean citizens, it was undoubtedly an inspirational and meaningful experience for us all.
In the upcoming weeks, SSPI will publish a diverse array of blogs, editorials, and resources that will attempt to explain and to evaluate the Choi Soon-sil political scandal. Stay tuned!
All photo credits go to Andie Kim. Thanks Andie for taking such amazing photos during our field trip!