Sunday, June 28, 2009

How 'Iranic': Koreans Protest at Iranian Embassy

South Koreans Protesting Against 'Iran'
Photo by Lee Jae-Won, Reuters
(Image from Yahoo)

I must admit to an error in judgement. On Tuesday the 23rd, I had lunch with my friend Dan Ernst, who teaches philosophy and international relations at Ewha Womans University, and we discussed the demonstrations that were even then going on in Iran. Dan asked me if South Koreans were protesting against the violent and even murderous repression being used by the Iranian government. I laughed and replied:

"Are you kidding? Koreans aren't interested in protesting against Iran. Protests against anything that America does, yes -- for that, Koreans would protest. But this? No, because it has nothing to do with America."
Well, I eat my words. Only two days later, on June 25, South Koreans protested, as the photo above and the passage below make clear:

Activists chant slogans at a rally denouncing what they say is the Iranian government's repression on the people in front of the Iranian embassy in Seoul June 25, 2009. Iranian police and militia have largely succeeded in regaining control of the streets after the biggest anti-government protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, touched off by the disputed June 12 presidential election. Some 20 people are reported to have been killed in the demonstrations.
I was touched at this display of Korean solidarity with oppressed Iranians yearning for democracy, and I nearly shed a tear . . . until I looked more closely at a protest sign in English:

The US and Western Governments, the Butchers of Iraqis and Afghans, You Don't Have a Right to Talk About Iran's Democracy
My daughter and wife then looked at a sign in Korean:

이라크 아프간의 학살자: 미국과 서방정부는 이란 민주주의 말할 자격 없다!

With their help, that translates as:

Butchers of Iraqis and Afghans: America and Western Governments Don't Have the Right to Talk About Iran's Democracy!
The writing is far more clear in this JoongAng Daily copy of the photo if you click on it to enlarge:

This clearer copy of the photo (in an even more distinct black and white) appeared in the JoongAng's June 26th issue; otherwise, I might have missed the actual significance of this image showing Koreans demonstrating against the Iranian government, namely, that even this protest is really against the United States . . . well, and against 'Western Governments', too, but since "Western" includes the US, then why does America get such top billing as to be especially singled out? Oh, right, because anything wrong in the world must somehow be America's fault.

Perhaps I need not eat my words just yet . . .

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At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Mizar5 said...

Nice report. You might want to classify it under "stupid people tricks."

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, I really should follow Robert's lead and create a category like that . . . but for now, it's found under "Anti-Americanism" (which often amounts to the same thing).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a great report, thanks. I must admit this display of Korean protest baffles me. Sometimes I wonder where some Korean citizens get their information from, because it is obviously not the same as the rest of the world. I can understand anti-Americanism to an extent after the Kwangju Massacre, but the US is probably their closest “friend” and allies. Living in Korea during the US beef protests really made me rethink what I thought of Korean logic. I really don’t understand it, even being a student in Korea and seeing anti-American banners at times on my campus. If you were to go to the exchange office and ask what is the number one choice for students it is no doubt the US.

About the Iran protests, how can these protesters even call Iran a democracy, don’t these people read the news or watch Youtube and see what the government is doing to people? When the Supreme Leader has again and again said that these are the early stages of a dictator, and innocent, peaceful protesters are getting murdered? That is not democracy that sounds more like the Chun Doo Hwan regime that was oppressive, and a militant state that Korean people absolutely hated.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, ideology will take people to strange places, politically.

Those Koreans protesting probably know next to nothing about Iran. To their credit, they recognize that something's wrong there and needs to be criticized, but to their shame, they think that they have to criticize the US at the same time.

The Iranians protesting in the streets of Teheran probably wouldn't understand such a Korean protest.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every korean university has a group of left wing communist student org. I know of someone (now he's in his 40's) who was in one of these org. He told me there were a couple of hard liners who even he thought were too much. But rest of them, they just went along and tried to have fun (he told me going to a student riot was like going to an MT). I'm sure if the parents of those two kids in the pic. found out what their kids were doing, they would be furious. Most koreans do like america believe or not.

a concerned korean citizen.

At 3:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Concerned Citizen, for the note. My own impression -- based on the stereotyped language of the protest signs -- was that this was a rigidly hidebound Marxist group.

I realize that a large percentage of Koreans are not leftists, but there nevertheless seems to be a lot of distrust of America here in Korea. The beef protests last year reflected the opinion of a great majority in Korea that American beef was unsafe, a belief based upon the flimsiest of reasons.

I wouldn't say that the anti-Americanism here in Korea is worse than what I experienced in Europe, but it is often based more on nationalism (unlike in Europe), and nationalism is quite strong in Korea, which may account for what seems to me to be rather widespread anti-Americanism (and its emotional character).

Jeffery Hodges

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