Socialist Worker

Movement in South Korea radicalises—but the right prepare to take to the streets

by Workers' Solidarity
Issue No. 2541

Protesters burn a symbol representing the evil forces of president Park Geun-hye

Protesters burn a symbol representing the 'evil' forces of president Park Geun-hye (Pic: Workers' Solidarity)


Some 750,000 people took to the streets of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, last Saturday to demand the immediate resignation of the President Park Geun-hye.

The size of the protest almost doubled compared to one the previous week.

Park was suspended as president after a vote in parliament to impeach her last December. It followed revelations of her corruption.

But the impeachment has to be ratified by South Korea’s Constitutional Court before a new presidential election can be held.

Park says that the charges against her are a product of conspiracy. Right wing forces have begun to mobilise against impeachment.

Park’s supporters are calling for a protest on 1 March, a national holiday commemorating the nationalist movement against Japanese imperialism.

Parts of the right-wing press exaggerate the size of protests held by Park’s supporters, and suggest it is as big as the mass movement against her.

All this meant that people who support the mass movement were even more determined to take part in Saturday’s protest and filled the streets of Seoul.

The special prosecutor investigating Park’s crime has once again requested an arrest warrant for Samsung owner Lee Jae-yong. Samsung is accused of bribing Park.

All this is deepening the political polarization. In such a situation it is crucial for the movement to grow and take a firmer stance.

Protesters in Seoul on Saturday

Protesters in Seoul on Saturday (Pic: Workers' Solidarity)


The opposition parties recently made a treacherous agreement with the ruling party.

They together announced they would accept the ruling of the Constitutional Court, even if it is to overturn the impeachment and reinstate the president.

The “moderate” forces in the movement say the most important thing is to support the opposition parties. They are also worried by the political polarisation.

Those forces even tried to overturn decisions made by Popular Action, the umbrella organisation leading the movement, about who should host the main platform of speakers.

They wanted to replace an activist from the revolutionary socialist organisation Workers’ Solidarity with another activist from much moderate political background.

But many protesters are already radicalising and have openly criticised the opposition parties for being preoccupied with the presidential election.

This will only take place at least eight weeks after Park is impeached, and only then if the impeachment is upheld by the court.

The opposition parties’ agreement to unconditionally accept the court’s ruling faces strong criticism from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and other organisations within the movement.

Popular Action is calling for demonstrations on every Saturday, with special emphasis on Saturday of next week. It expects nest Saturday's protest to be the largest one since the end of last year.

It is also calling for a counter protest against the right wing’s mobilisation on 1 March.

More than ever, it is necessary to strengthen the movement and not wait for an election in the future.

The radical left are fighting to encourage the participation of organised workers. This is the most effective way for the movement to beat off Park Geun-hye’s attempt to fight back.


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