South Korea in the Doldrums: Going from Worse to Bad?

Written by Kim Dong-hun (8ball)
Photographed by Lorryn Smit

First, I want to start by clarifying that I was born and raised in Korea, and I am still proud of being Korean, although I don’t see myself as a dedicated patriot. I studied political science in university, but politics had never been my forte, and seemingly complicated political situations had never interested me at all. Therefore, when it came to political issues, I was nothing but a schmuck. However, something unpredictable and unimaginable erupted last year that totally changed my mind. Since then, I have become keenly interested in pending political issues at home and abroad. I also decided to learn more about such issues through podcast shows and news on YouTube. But why?

Once again, I had never paid much attention to any ongoing political issues because I thought things would never look up, no matter what I did and no matter how hard I tried. Thus, I turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to every political issue as if it were none of my concern. I just thought politics and political decisions were like something beyond my pay grade, and all I did was shift blame on politicians and the president for any misery, tragedy, or unhappiness. I was merely skeptical and pessimistic about Korea’s political future. Then, something happened that made me realize now is as good a time as any to turn over a new leaf and do something. It was October 2016 when I returned home from my trip to Vietnam with my parents. Before flying to Vietnam, I saw some people gathering for a rally after an alleged presidential scandal, but at the time, I thought it was just another political conspiracy or rumor arising without any substantiated evidence and that it would last only for a while because I regarded myself and others as easily influenced and duped by individuals and the media.

However, when I came back to Korea, the number of people participating in the rally had drastically grown. It also astonished me that more solid evidence and crucial witnesses emerged despite these perpetrators’ denials of any wrongdoing. Accordingly, I decided to join the weekly candlelight vigils, which became an eye-opening experience when I saw people from all walks of life sitting down for hours, chanting and belting out songs together. While regularly joining these peaceful but sustainable vigils for several months, I was constantly overwhelmed by people’s strong desire and enthusiasm in their calls for changes to be made by impeaching the accused president, and for bringing all those responsible to justice and making our country better; this made me firmly believe that justice shall prevail, although we still have a long way to go.

Now, that president has been impeached and is behind bars, while her accomplices have been charged with collusion. The Sewol Ferry has finally been salvaged after being under water for nearly three years, while search efforts continue for traces of those nine souls still missing. The United States’ controversial THAAD system has been deployed, angering China and bringing economic retaliation to Korea. North Korea continues its saber-rattling by conducting missile and nuclear tests amid mounting tensions between the U.S., the two Koreas, and their neighboring countries.

With all these things happening, does our future bode well? Honestly, I have no idea, because I am not a magic 8 ball, although my nickname is “8ball”. However, I can tell you one thing for sure: Things will not get any worse, because we have already hit rock bottom in some ways. Two former presidents have ruined almost everything, including the economy, politics, and our own lives. So far, we have been reluctant to pay attention to these things, and we fear making changes. But now we know exactly what consequences will ensue if we don’t take appropriate action in a timely manner. We learned our lessons the hard way. What should we do now?

As we kept saying throughout the rally, and as the Constitution says, we are the sovereigns of the country, and the so-called leaders should not be authorized to do anything on their own without our approval. Instead of allowing them to make decisions for us, we should get involved, make our voices heard, and take action if necessary. Getting involved and voicing my opinion in unison with others during the rally has given me a sense of responsibility for what has happened and what will happen. Let us not forget why things have gone wrong in the first place and how hard we have tried and should try to fix them. In this way, we can make our country better again as our grandfathers and fathers have done.

Note: The views expressed here are solely those of the author.

The Author
8ball (Kim Dong-hun) is a free spirit working at the GIC. His major hobby is visiting different countries in the world and of all the 30-ish countries he has visited so far, his favorite country is Taiwan.

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