One-Man Demonstrations Gaining Popularity

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 19, 2001 | Go to article overview
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One-Man Demonstrations Gaining Popularity

A man stands by himself silently holding a picket sign in front of Seoul City Hall during lunch while people passing by on the street curiously look on.

To campaign against the construction of a memorial hall for the late president Park Chung-hee, people have been taking turns since February staging lonely one-hour protests in front of the building.

Korea is widely known for its aggressive and massive rallies by students, workers and civic groups, but these days they have taken up a special method of rallying found to be both easy and effective -- one-man demonstrations.

The new type of protests came to public attention when the Peoples' Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), one of the most influential civil groups, initiated a one-man campaign in front of the National Tax Service building last December to protest the alleged illegal transfer of wealth from the Samsung Group owner to his son.

PSPD members and other civic rights activists have been staging one-man demonstrations in front of the building for 59 days straight.

The current Law on Assembly and Demonstration forbids any kind of outdoor rally or demonstration within 100 meters of foreign diplomatic missions. As most embassies are situated in major buildings in downtown Seoul, people are virtually banned from staging any protests in the district.

This is where the one-man demonstrations come in.

As the current laws define "rallies" and "demonstrations" as activities involving two or more individuals, these ``one-man demos'' do not fall under them, and thus make it possible to conduct protests without any legal restrictions.

Since then, one-man demonstrations have been gaining popularity among civic groups as an effective means to protest and have become a common sight around downtown areas.

In front of the U.S. Embassy, a daily one-man demo takes place from 12 to 1 p.m. for revision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

``The rallies were found to be very effective in stirring up public interest,'' said Kim Pan-tae, a representative of the People's Action for the Reform of the Unjust SOFA.

He said that it was the first time that rallies were able to be held ``legally'' in front of the embassy.

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