OVER A million people took to the streets of South Korea last Saturday. More than 200,000 people gathered in Seoul for a candlelight rally to protest against the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun by the three opposition conservative parties-the Grand National Party, Millennium Democratic Party, and United Liberal Democrats.
Our demands on the demonstration were 'Defend democracy' and 'Stop impeachment'. Roh is not of the left, but has built up populist support. The demonstrations against the conservative attack on him were not simply by diehard Roh supporters. For example, more than 10,000 anti-war protesters joined the rally after holding the biggest demonstration over Iraq ever in South Korea. As an office worker on the protest said:
'I remember fighting to bring down the dictatorial regime in the 1980s. They are trying to push back the democratisation we have achieved with our lives. 'Of course, I blame Roh Moo-hyun for the repression of workers and sending troops to Iraq. But when they impeach Roh, it is like the pot calling the kettle black.'
The South Korean anti-war movement has grown and is now integrating with other movements such as the anti-capitalist movement and the anti right wing movement. The leading anti-war and anti-capitalist organisation, All Together, was quick to realise that the impeachment of Roh was the prelude to an attack by the right wing on our movement. It was a direct attack on democracy. We have called the impeachment 'the parliamentary coup d'etat'.
Unfortunately, the traditional left organisations have been playing the role of bystanders, allowing the soft NGOs to lead the anti-impeachment rallies. The danger is that the soft NGOs have shown inconsistencies in their position on president Roh's neo-liberal policies. But the lesson in South Korea, as in Spain, is that popular mobilisation is the way to take on the right, which is hoping to win votes at the general election in three weeks time.