RISING | SUMMER 2019
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It’s my honor to share our sixth issue of The Social Justice Review with you. “Rising” celebrates those who act in the face of injustice. The fight for social change and justice is as relevant today as ever, and we want to celebrate the art and writing which compels resistance, demands reform, and builds communities. For this powerful and timely issue, we supplemented thought-provoking written pieces with historic and contemporary protest art to juxtapose the social action of today with the chants of those who marched before us.
Pieces such as “Awareness is not Activism” by Jahman Hill remind readers that adversity demands active response, not just the ability to know better. When political action fails, poetry prevails in “An Imaginary Parkland Address” as Francisco Castro Videla dreams of a country where the president aids in healing the wounds of a fractured nation. "Hope and Community Among Migrants in Tijuana" by Bryce Merrill and "A Statue for Our Harbor" by Gialina Morten asks us to revaluate how we define what it means to be American.
The injustices faced across the world are seldom met by the action required to solve them. Fear and hatred permeate the surface and threaten the rights and safety of citizens. Instead of building walls and marking boundaries, we should strive to stand and shout in the face of inequality. In the United States alone, the past 100 years have seen the women’s suffrage movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War protests. More recently, Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement have come to the forefront of our cultural consciousness. If there is one constant in social justice, it’s the undeniable and inevitable motivation to act.
When injustices seem insurmountable, it’s our hope that you will find solace in the work we hope to share. Moreover, we hope you are compelled to scream, to speak up, to take to the streets and to the classrooms, to call your representatives, and when all else fails, rise up.
In solidarity, Kelly Clark
Editor-in-Chief, The Social Justice Review
*AN IMAGINARY PARKLAND ADDRESS
BY FRANCISCO CASTRO VIDELA
*AN IMAGINARY PARKLAND ADDRESS
(WASHINGTON D.C., MARCH 24TH)
PRESIDENT of THE UNITED STATES of AMERICA:
“My fellow citizens
no preamble is necessary to determine
the meaning and the reason
of our gathering here today.
during the last few hours
during the last few days
during the last few years
there have been words in abundance,
images in abundance,
and voices in abundance to detail,
our presence upon these sombre fields;
we have had plenty of those;
we have grown tired of those;
we have grown indifferent of those.
no longer beneath the calm blue vault
of vast Floridian skies
but in the bleak mid-winter
of our grieving hearts
we proclaim and we call
undeterred by misery and loss:
now is the time for deliberate action;
now is the time for fearless determination;
now is the time for passionate enterprise.
three simple words that would baffle
and utterly and irrevocably perplex
any mortal man or woman we dare
call our representatives upon that Hill.
too long have they averted the People
with their resounding pledges,
and their echoing promises.
too long have they deflected
the People’s honourable demand
with empty declarations
and splendidly financed speeches.
and the People have been believing
and the People have been patient
but the People have never been forgetful.
the Old Book puts it wisely:
‘there is a time to plant
and a time to pluck up
that which is planted.’
I say the fruit is ripe.
I say it is ready for the plucking.
I say it is ripe with the blood
of our brothers and sisters.
I say it is ripe with the sorrow
of our mothers and fathers.
I say it is ripe with the future
of our children.
therefore I avow
therefore We The People avow
let us be rid of this cruel weed
that has snarled itself
around the good seed of our Nation.
my fellow citizens
a choice must be made:
this land of plenty
this vale of life
cannot hold both Violence and Freedom
as its driving Principles
both have grown together
but now it is time for the Reapers
to burn the one
and gather the other.”
'It's coming from the feel/ That this ain't exactly real/ Or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.'
L. Cohen, 1992
HOPE AND COMMUNITY AMONG MIGRANTS IN TIJUANA
PHOTO SERIES BY BRYCE MERRILL
In December 2018, journalism student Sydney Zuckerman and I went to Tijuana, Mexico to learn about and document the status of the Central American migrant caravan residing there in hopes of gaining asylum in the United States. While there, we heard about the conditions (mostly in Honduras) that led them to join the caravan, the journey so far, and their hopes for the future. This migrant movement as a whole impressed me as extremely brave, struck powerful cords of human commonality, and demonstrated the arbitrary nature of political borders.
THE CANDLELIGHT REVOLUTION: REVOLUTION WITHOUT BLOODSHED
BY JEEWEON MOON
On March 10th, 2017, the judges of South Korea’s Constitutional Court brought their final verdict: the impeachment of President Park Guen-hye. President Park, now with the dishonorable title of the first South Korean president to be impeached, stepped out of the presidential palace, awaiting future trials for her charges on bribery, corruption, extortion, and more (Choe). President Park Guen-hye was not the first corrupt government official, but unlike other social movements which have struggled for change, let alone, peace, South Korea’s first presidential impeachment was the result of an especially effective and unprecedented civil democratic overthrow. A Harvard professor, Paul Chang, replied in his interview with the Harvard Political Review that “what stood out most, other than the incredible scale of course, was how civil the protest was...There was not even a hint of possible violence” (A. Kim, 2017). Here, he refers to South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution in which tens of millions of people protested by holding up candles and marching to remove President Park Guen-hye from power. The Candlelight Revolution is unique and notable for its nonviolent nature and successful results, which required factors like unification of citizens, practice in history, and the widespread usage of media to happen.
The Chief Justice, Lee Jung Mi, described President Park’s actions as one that “betrayed the trust of the people and of the kind that cannot be tolerated for the sake of protecting the Constitution” (Choe). The cause of Park Guen-hye’s scandal dates back to her youth. Her father, Park Chung Hee, ruled over South Korea as a dictator for 16 years. After losing both of her parents by assassination, Park Guen-hye became increasingly close with a woman named Choi Sun Sil. Choi was a daughter of Choi Tae Min, who founded the cult of Eternal Life Church in the 1970s. Taking advantage of Park’s parents’ passing, Choi began establishing her control and as Park became a political force and was elected as the president in 2013, Choi amassed a substantial amount of wealth and political power herself. Such facts, however, weren’t revealed to the public until the summer of 2016 (Griffiths).
In July, 2016, a news platform called TV Chosun broadcasted about Mir Foundation and K Sports Foundation, which were reported to have gathered about 80 million dollars as a donation from various business companies and corporations. However, it was the suggestion that the Korean government might be involved with its financial funding that really began controversy in the media. Later in November, Choi Sun Sil was outed for her connections to the two foundations. As controversies around Choi intensified, her daughter Chung Yoo-Ra’s admission into Ehwa University, the most reputable women’s university in South Korea, also came to attention. Chung Yoo-Ra’s admission was revealed as a preferential decision stemming from pressure from Choi. The widespread tensions that were gradually building finally erupted into a mass protest in October, when another news media outlet, JTBC, found Choi’s abandoned computer containing President Park’s classified and secret documents (Han). The collection of documents, coined the “Choi Files,” contained various government and legal material, from presidential speeches and personal schedules to human resources and diplomatic records, proving suspicions that President Park was merely Choi’s puppet (Chung). On October 25th, President Park released a televised apology to the public in which she admitted giving those files to her “friend,” Choi. However, it wasn’t enough to subdue the anger of citizens. For weeks, hundreds of thousands of South Korean citizens came out, lighting up the streets with candles in their hands. The protest continued on for ten weeks, recording 1.5 million people on the fifth protest, and ending with a total number of 10 million protestors (Yoo), a large feat for a country with a population of 50 million.
Significance of Nonviolence
Many scholars described the 2016 Candlelight Revolution as a significant movement, the most prominent reason being its nonviolence especially at its unprecedented scale. Nonviolent protest is closely associated with specific behaviors described as, “civilian-led action in which unarmed persons confront opponents using coordinated, purposive, sequences of nonviolent methods” (Day, Pinckney, and Chenoweth, 129). As such, a nonviolent protest is not a vague or arbitrary term. Indeed, nonviolent protests are significant in two primary ways: First, they have a shared moral ideology—they represent right to speech, but also the protection of human life and safety as “an indication of ‘human development’...and…‘human empowerment’” (Dalton and Welzel, 213). Second, are their efficacy. Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, the authors of the book “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict,” demonstrated that of twenty-five of the largest resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006 nonviolent protests were 70% successful, whereas for violent protests, only 40% were successful (Chenoweth and Stephan, 33). Chenoweth and Maria suggest that nonviolent protests appeal better to the public, thus bringing out greater participation and mobilization. The lack of physical risks and/or costs motivate more people to join, and there are less physical and financial barriers for women, elderly, or teenagers (Chenoweth and Stephan, 35). Compared to violent protests, nonviolent protests have larger memberships, but require less training and resources when recruiting and organizing members. Non-violent protests do not require experience in using weapons or military tactics, nor do they require the need to gather equipment or substantial amount of financial funding (Chenoweth and Stephan, 37).
South Korea’s Nonviolent Protests: The Candlelight Revolution
The history of South Korea’s candlelight protests goes back to 2002, when thousands of Korean citizens held up candles in vigil for two teenage girls killed by American soldiers. When the court trial acquitted the soldiers, the vigil turned into a protest for a fair verdict. Since this incident, mass civil movements in Korea have taken the form of candlelight protest that signifies the opposition to injustice (S. Kim). Later, another major candlelight protest occurred in 2004 when citizens protested against the impeachment of President No Mu Hyun. More than 200,000 people took to the streets, consisting of both groups who agree and disagree about the impeachment, and ended in peace with no casualty. Again, in 2008, thousands of people protested against government’s reactions to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as the Mad Cow Disease, as well as its approval of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Again in 2014, people gathered to mourn for the 300 lives lost during the Sewol Ferry accident and demanded a quick and thorough investigation of the incident. Candlelight was thus engraved in people’s mind as the symbol of justice and a tool of change (Sim).
On October 29th, 2016, the first candlelight protest of the Candlelight Revolution against President Park broke out. At first, the protesters voiced for President Park’s resignation. When the president refused, however, the citizens began to advocate for impeachment. On December 19th, the National Assembly of Korea passed the bill to move on to voting procedure for the president’s impeachment. For 134 days, people continued to protest in large squares, like the Gwanghwamun Square, until finally, on March 10th, the president was impeached.
As a whole, the protest incorporated an extremely diversified group of people ranging from elderly, adults, and students, to children, families, and celebrities. There was no individual political party that dominated or led the protest, and the high participation rate of ordinary citizens was noted by foreign media. Despite the diversity—ideological and otherwise—the protest was completely nonviolent, but even more noteworthy was that it was the citizens themselves who overwhelmingly pushed for nonviolence. For example, when a group of protesters tried to engage themselves in a fight with city police, everyone around dissuaded both the police and the protesters from making violent actions. In another incident, when a protester fainted, doctors and nurses who were protesting nearby ran to aid. Strangers brought hot packs, water bottles, and towels from their nearby homes to help. The recurring civility of protestors shows their deliberate goals for safety and non-violent action. The communal atmosphere of the Candlelight Revolution is often compared to that of a festival. Jungyoon Choi, a high school student who participated in one of the candlelight protests in October, described her experience as, “uplifting, feeling overwhelmed by an indescribable wave of emotion by just being there at that moment.” Famous Korean celebrities and singers performed during many of the protests. Large stages, lights, and sound facilities were set up in the streets. People created satirical shows, posters, and art, mockingly dressing as Choi, or using humor to criticize the president. These protests were broadcasted on live shows throughout Korea. Donations accumulated to over 600 million dollars.
Why South Korea?
South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution's success did not happen in a vacuum, instead three traits specific to South Korea enabled a smooth transition from public outrage to peaceful protest: stable unification of the public, culture and history that provided preceding practices, and the common usage of the internet. The cause of this revolution was so widely agreed upon that it brought about strong unification. Commonly, political issues, such as government-passed bills, or new diplomatic relationships, tend to polarize constituencies. For example, the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea was one of the most debated issues in 2016. The population was split distinctly in two, with 46.3% of citizens supporting, and 45.7% opposing the deployment (Son). Such occurrences of controversy are typical of almost any political issue, as diverse cultural, social, and educational backgrounds lead to different perspectives.
However, President Park’s scandal was different. By November, Park's support ratings plummeted to 5%, which meant that almost 95% of the citizens, an extreme majority, opposed President Park (“BBC Asia”). The specifics of this scandal were intolerable to people regardless of their backgrounds, as was shown through the consistently decreasing support rate for President Park during the protests. People were united against one figure, so the goals and agendas for each protest was clear and definite, and decision makings were quick and efficient. This almost unanimous agreement on an issue was a rare occasion, but because it was so rare, it proved to be a powerful stimulus for South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution.
Compounding with the unanimity of the cause, the history and culture of South Korea provided citizens with practice and training for nonviolent protests. When the scandal broke out, it was implicitly agreed that holding candles was the key to representing public opposition. Previous incidents in history, like the protest against FTA or the vigil for the Sewol Ferry Accident, served as a guideline for action. For example, people immediately created organizations, like ‘Bisang 2016’ which was responsible for informing protestors of specific venues and dates, and also led fundraisers for the protest (“Bisang16”). If it wasn’t for more than 10 years of the Candlelight Revolution’s history, citizens would not have been aware of efficient means of organization.
In addition, South Korean society and culture are more collective than individual. Dr. Tan Soo Kee, in her International Journal of East Asian Studies, states that South Korea’s collectivist atmosphere is “contributed by its national education system and compulsory military training program” (Kee). National education systems like Membership Training (MT) gather college freshman students on a mandatory trip, doing teamwork-building activities and games to “promote friendship and community spirit” (S.S. Kim), and have become a vital part of college culture. Similarly, Chul Joon Moon, a sophomore who finished his two year military training—mandatory for all men in Korea—in May, said he was “grouped into military units and lived together, facing consequences and accomplishing tasks as a whole.” Even though this collectivist culture is often criticized for its overly oppressive discipline, it was a helpful factor in South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution as working as a group was not a new concept to most citizens, and control and discipline contributed to successful organizing of a large scale revolution.
The usage of internet is one of the most important factors that led South Korea to its successful revolution. Because it is supplied to almost all households, there were fewer gaps between generations—it was used from kindergarteners and teenagers to adults and elders. Therefore, a larger number of people were able to participate in using this online media to share information on candlelight protests. According to the Korea Social Research Center’s report on “Online-Mediated Mobilization: Revisiting the Candlelight Demonstration and its Theoretical Significance,” the venue and time for each protest was uploaded on websites, and Social Network Services (SNS) broadcasted the protests in live videos. Such live broadcasts made people witness the climactic atmosphere all around the country, being able to recruit more members which then resulted in raising the number of participants in each protests (Choi, 84). The report also reveals how people contributed ideas to the protest through the internet, sharing new slogans, poster designs, and activities that were physically brought out to the protests. People celebrated and praised the results for each protest by sharing statistical data, photos of clean streets, and inspirational quotes of personal experiences, which encouraged the continuity of nonviolence and civil order (Choi, 98). In addition, the report concludes that online debate forums or free discussion websites also contributed to creating a collective emotion and public sentiment; this, with the common tendency of citizens to be swayed by public opinion, resulted in unifying Korean citizens’ causes (Choi, 73). Even among More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs), universal internet utilization is uncommon and, therefore, an important and unique feature of South Korea.
The most direct and evident result of this candlelight protest, as mentioned several times above, was the impeachment of President Park. However, this protest holds more meaning and implications than its democratic and political success. It created a new sense of pride and civil order among citizens by eliminating negative stereotypes on mass protests. This, then, resulted in the diminution of political indifference and political pessimism, as Byung Ik Kim reveals in his opinion column for Hankyoreh newspaper (B. Kim). Other researches have also revealed that candlelight protests through year 2000 to 2008 have a direct correlation with the rise in voting participation rates of citizens in their twenties (Koo and Sung, 2).
Despite such successes, however, the Candlelight Revolution did not bring a complete upturn in public’s support of political parties. In the new presidential election in May, 2017, 24% of the public still voted for the candidate from a conservative party, Hong Joon-pyo, who demands full amnesty for President Park (Song). The protest did not succeed in pacifying extreme conservative groups, the most prominent one being People Who Love Park, also called the Park-Sa-Mo.
South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution, and the unique features of the country that enabled such protest, serves as a political protest model to countries around the world. Various scholars, professors, and foreign analysts have praised South Korea’s Candlelight Revolution for exemplifying successful political reform through nonviolence. This complete lack of violence, along with the diverse group of participants and festive-like atmosphere, was one of the three most important features of the revolution. This revolution, without a doubt, is one of the most appropriately fitting examples of a contemporary nonviolent protest. It was only possible because South Korean citizens had easy cause of unification, were trained to previous incidents of Candlelight Revolutions, already lived in a collectivist society, and had easy access to online media. Its success has both surprised and inspired citizens around the world of the possibility and potential of nonviolent protests, as it has proved that such protest can not only be described theoretically but actually be done and led by the citizens.