“Candle Revolution” is a sign of political dysfunction

Many, especially South Koreans and western English media, praise the “Candle Revolution” as ” an example of democracy”, but actually it was “a sign of political dysfunction” as Wellesley College politics professor Katharine Moon points out.

“I find worrisome this glorification of South Korea’s protests,” she says. “If governance structures were working properly then citizens normally would be channeling their concerns through institutional processes—reaching out to their elected leaders, going to the courts. Spilling out into the street is a sign of political dysfunction.”

There are some signs that other democratic processes are developing alongside protest tactics, such as a campaign to set up a website to help Koreans contact elected officials so they could urge them impeach Park. But for the most part, Koreans strongly distrust their leaders and institutions, which is why they rely so heavily on protest above all other forms of democratic action, Moon says. “Americans should not at all envy the fact that Koreans find resolution though these massive protests,” she says.

The fact that so many Koreans felt they had to go out every night to protest against government shows that they do not trust the rule of law in South Korea. That worries me. They even pressured and protested in front of the court.

That was not something you should praise.

“Koreans strongly distrust their leaders and institutions, which is why they rely so heavily on protest above all other forms of democratic action, Moon says.” In another words, Koreans “felt” Park should be in Jail and that was the “justice”. And they acted accordingly and claimed the law should be bent if the law is against the “feeling of justice”.

And the new leader won the election pretty much because of Park. The scandal led to the collapse of conservative and lack of meaningful discussions in the election. Moon won largely because of “everything non-Park” or “anything but Park” and the populist promises such as creating new government jobs without showing any financial basis to do it.

But, many western media blindly praise (“South Korea just showed the world how to do democracy” By Ishaan Tharoor May 10 – the Washington Post) what happened in South Korea.

But let’s look at the comment section of above article.

5/11/2017 11:32 PM GMT+0900
For gods sake we just impeached democratically elected president by mob justice. There’s public sentiment on top of the law. It has happened so we gotta live with it but please don’t try to fancy it up.

5/11/2017 1:01 AM GMT+0900
WP please tell me this reporter is fired for this article? Often times American reporters say stupid things about a foreign country because they don’t know in-depth about that foreign country. This reporter’s knowledge on Korea is superficial and try to sound like he knows. Don’t write about a foreign country when you don’t know. I am Korean and I hate these “liberals” using Korea as a case to impeach Trump. Korea issue is very complicated and its not an example you use freely like this.

Right. Korean politics lacks integrity. It is just ochlocracy(mob rule).

I think the reason why so-called “Candle revolution” is perceived as good thing is partly because of the prejudice of “North=bad Korea, South=good Korea” bias exists in the west. And also, there must be an underlining assumption that South Korea is an immature country and South Korea did good job this time FOR an immature country. And also there is a hidden criticism against the US trump administration. Eventually, blinded by those bias, western media failed to portray South Korea in an objective manner.

Also, while being furious, South Koreans actually felt very shameful for what happened (“a shaman controlling the president“), South Koreans felt they had to defend the country, so they create a “beautiful story” and advertised to the world.

My skepticism comes from my experience of watching two MASSIVE protests in 2008 against the US beef (and FTA) based on rumors!! and supporting Hwang Woo-suk(aka “Pride of Korea”) in 2006 even though his work had been proven to be fake..

They just went nuts just like this time and I’m worried every time Koreans goes nuts because they are so…… easily go nuts (manipulated) based on fake news, rumors and propaganda…no offence…


From The Times
May 9, 2008
South Korean internet geeks trigger panic over US ‘tainted beef’ imports

Tens of thousands of young internet-obsessed South Koreans, whipped into a frenzy by alarmist television programmes, a complex scientific paper on genetics and a hyperactive online rumour-mill, have held candlelit vigils protesting against imports of American beef.

Believing that the meat carries a high risk of BSE and that Koreans are genetically predisposed to contracting the linked Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the online masses have taken to the streets, cursing America and demanding that their Government should act to avert catastrophe.


Here is an editorial in the Chosun Ilbo that only further validates my belief of how Korean children’s ability to critically think is hampered by their own educational system that allows nonsense like this to be taught in the classroom:

And, again, the new president Moon, accusing the conservatives for all the cause of corruptions are conservative’s fault, declared the purging of them in stead of tackling the real problems at hand. In fact, he is a left wing nationalist.

In contrast to the western media, the reaction of most Japanese media was “Oh boy, not again…” South Korean former presidents were mostly arrested or killed, and some ended up equally bad consequences.

Korean Democracy Needs to Grow up” – Chosunilbo Editorial
May 24, 2017 13:30

“Park is the third president of Korea to appear in court facing criminal charges, but other former leaders have faced other dire outcomes, including asylum, assassination and suicide. This is tragic for a country with only a 70-year history of constitutional rule. How long will this continue?”

The existing presidential system, in which leaders wield tremendous power while their policies are stonewalled by the National Assembly, has run its course. Koreans will get to vote on a new Constitution in June next year. We must put an end to a political landscape where parties battle it out simply to ensure that their candidate gets to be president, and a system that hands absolute power to the president who then goes on a vendetta against his or her rivals once in office. It is time for Korean democracy to grow up.

This is not normal. And certainly not an example of “how to do democracy”. Japanese knows much better than the Westerners or Koreans themselves.

Lastly, again from the comment section of Washington Post article.

5/12/2017 8:31 PM GMT+0900
Shades of the People Power Revolution that brought down Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in the 1980s and ushered in Corazon Aquino. It’s a shame that 30 years after that, the Philippines today is more mired in corruption than ever, with Marcos’s family in key political positions. Hopefully South Korea does not suffer the same fate. For true democracy to flourish you need solid democratic institutions that stand the test of time.

Just remember – Corruption plagued the Joseon Dynasty for a long long time and that won’t go away easily.

The roots of corruption in Korea derives Korean culture itself. Nepotism and cronyism are strong products of Confucianism, and these two problems are also considered to be major reasons for corruption in Korea (the same for China too). It’s not uncommon for people in power to help get relatives and friends into high places, as well as helping covering up their misdeeds, if not even take part in them together.


(This entry is an edited version of my comments here)



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