What South Koreans Can Teach US About Resisting Trump

As thousands of South Koreans protest the U.S. THAAD missile system in their country, journalist Tim Shorrock says the grassroots movement that drove out a corrupt president in 2016 offers lessons to Americans resisting Donald Trump

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Story Transcript

AARON MATE: It was about a year ago when in South Korea … you had this massive protest movement that ended up driving out the previous President, Park Geun-hye, and ultimately bringing in Moon Jae-in. Now, that was over corruption allegations. Hundreds of thousands of people taking to the street, those amazing visuals we saw. I’m just wondering your thoughts on that now in the context of in this country you’re seeing protests against President Trump over his defense this week of white supremacists, but not nearly the kinds of protests that we saw in South Korea. I think it was the writer and activist, Shaun King, who tweeted out something this week with a picture of the protests last year in South Korea saying that, “We need to replicate this here in the U.S.”

TIM SHORROCK: Yeah, I saw that too, and he’s right. The thing is that the South Korean people and citizen’s organizations were organizing for months and months on this. These candlelight vigils and demonstrations took place over almost a year in the dead of winter. It was freezing cold. They were standing out there in the cold in all these cities in South Korea. They were angry at the Park government for many reasons, for the corruption that you mentioned, for its treatment of the people during this very disaster that killed so many people, and their neglect, absolute negligence in that accident. The misuse of power, the use of the intelligence services to intervene in elections, possibly even the last election where Moon lost to Park Geun-hye. Also, police use of police power and force to put down demonstrations, so these undemocratic leanings of this government.

People were out there for months, and months, and months, and they gradually drew more and more people. It takes patience. It takes strategy. It takes … They also had sort of all-encompassing political align in a way. I mean, they were able to create one voice with this, calling for impeachment and they didn’t get lost in lots of smaller issues. They all came together, citizen’s groups, peace groups, labor unions, farmer’s groups, families of victims of the Sewol ferry that sank. They all came together in this demand to get rid of this government for its corruption and its actions. I think we can learn a lot from that. Plus, in the years before … The two years before the impeachment, they made sure in elections, they elected people that would be in their favor that would vote against Park Geun-hye.

Local elections before that were planned and organized with that in mind. They took a kind of long view and they also, the South Koreans have decades of experience doing this. They also took to the streets and by the millions in 1987 when they finally won their democracy and in periods before that it was massive demonstrations against the previous dictator, Chun Doo-hwan, that led to his martial law crackdown in 1980 where hundreds of people were killed in the city of Gwangju in the southwest. That’s seen as sort of the birth of Korea’s modern democracy and seen as its birth by even Moon Jae-in himself, who took part in those demonstrations in the ‘70s and ‘80s against the military dictatorship. I think we have a lot to learn from South Korea, and their patience, and the longterm organizing, and their ability to unite people around a call that resonates among all groups that are opposed to a government. It’s very important.

AARON MATE: Tim Shorrock, journalist covering the Korean peninsula. You can read his writings about South Korea and North Korea at The Nation and in other publications. Tim, thanks very much.

TIM SHORROCK: Thank you.

AARON MATE: Thank you for joining us on The Real News.