|Protesters chant a slogan "Park Geun-hye should step down" at Cheongun-dong, just 200 meters away from Cheong Wa Dae during a rally, Saturday. / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul|
By Kim Se-jeong
The presidential scandal has roiled the country, but its people are expressing their anger peacefully and humorously.
The scandal has prompted hundreds of thousands of people to gather in the streets every weekend since the end of October. But clashes and detentions have disappeared, replaced with singing and performances making fun of President Park Geun-hye and her friend Choi Soon-sil.
The scope of participants may be one of reasons for the peaceful gatherings: ordinary citizens of all age groups, ranging from toddlers in strollers to senior citizens in their 70s to 80s, have been among the protesters.
This contrasts with previous demonstrations led by a handful of civic or labor groups which often used violence.
During the massive rallies, no one has sustained any major injury from violence.
People put stickers of flowers on police vehicles that were surrounding areas near Cheong Wa Dae as a symbol of peace ― unlike scenes from violent rallies in the past where demonstrators climbed upon the vehicles or attempted to move them with ropes.
Performances by musicians and artists have brought a festive mood to the protests, with singing, chanting and applause.
|A protester takes a photo of a cardboard cutout of President Park Geun-hye in a prison uniform and handcuffs. |
/ Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
Full of mockery, satire
Wit and parody has also become an important factor in the rallies.
The soundtrack of "Secret Garden," a popular soap opera aired from 2010 to 2011 could be heard. The TV series gained public attention again after it was known that President Park received medical treatments under the fake name of Gil Ra-im, which was the name of the lead female character. People sang along or danced to the music. Some came to the rallies wearing glittering sports outfits, which the male lead in the drama wore.
While most held the sign: "Down with Park Geun-hye," some came with their own version of messages that satirized the situation.
Park has often made remarks indicating that she did her best for the national interest but her efforts have been not acknowledged, and this lack of acknowledgment had frustrated her to the point of regretting running for the nation's top job.
During her second public apology over the scandal, lamenting her hardship, she said, "I thought to myself ‘Is this why I became President?'"
This remark caused a public uproar and parodies of the comment went viral such as: "Is this why I became a Korean citizen?"
Another sign reads: "Korea is like a convenience store with buy-one-get-one-free products: When we elect a president, one more (Choi) is elected."
Applications have also been developed for protestors' convenience, such as one displaying a lit candle so that demonstrators can use it instead of a real candle, and a map of restrooms in the Gwanghwamun area.
Some participants took their pets to the protest. One dog wore clothes with an anti-Park message, entertaining the crowd.
Jerry.K, a hip-hop musician who has been participating in the weekend protests since Nov. 12, said, "It's not like any protest I've known. It's like a big show. It's fun to see other people."
Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the ruling Saenuri Party underrated the massive anti-Park candlelit protests, saying: "If the wind blows, candle flames will be blown out," said
To counter his remark, a protester held a poster reading: "The wind won't blow out candles; rather it will spread them widely."