Illustration by Gauraang Biyani

Enough is Enough: Rallying for Change In South Korea

When our president is an actual puppet, when we pay for the gain of a pseudo-shaman fortune teller and his daughter — yes, enough is surely enough.

Oct 30, 2016

As my friends and I enter the hallway on the way to our classroom, an air of heavy worry and depression presses down on us. Our normally excited and easygoing conversation is subdued to only necessary comments and weak smiles. We are conscious of our own laughter because it doesn’t feel right to laugh out loud when more than 300 students our age are stuck in a ship at the bottom of the ocean.
The solemn memory of April 2014 is still painfully clear in my mind. Days of grasping the newspaper first thing in the morning, only to be dismayed at the headlines announcing more deaths and no rescues. Hoping for a miracle, only to face the brutal truth that 300 plus young lives had already been lost. Holding on to what little faith left in the government, only to have it shattered as it is discovered that the seven-hour silence of the president delayed the rescue procedure to the detriment of those trapped on board. All that remained as a result of the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster was a devastated public, with no trust in the government and even less hope for the future of the country.
The woman responsible for the terrible handling of the Sewol Ferry Disaster remains President today. The dismal frustration we felt then is even more intense now. President Park Geun-hye is known as the most incompetent president in the history of South Korea. Not only did she fail to save 300 students from a devastating, untimely death in the dark, cold sea, but Park also failed to stop the MERS outbreak and the resulting fear from running rampant in supposedly advanced South Korea. She also failed to stand up for the suffering of the hundreds of young girls taken as Japanese sex slaves.
Though it is common knowledge that Park is an inept president, South Koreans were in for a horrifying surprise, as it was recently discovered that Park is little more than an avatar for a woman named Choi Soon-sil. What’s more is that Choi Soon-sil is the daughter of Choi Tae-min — a shaman fortuneteller who approached a young Park after her mother’s assassination, claiming that he talked to her mother in his dreams. Father and now daughter Choi had — and still hold — extreme influence over President Park and thus over the South Korean nation.
This horror story is perhaps the last straw in a long line of frustrations. In South Korea, we were aware of our government’s problems. When new cases of corruption were discovered, we roared up with anger, were once more dismayed, but eventually waved it away. What, after all, could we common folk do about the deeply rooted fraud of powerful people? Perhaps this sense of incapability, this emptiness that always accompanied our anger, frustration and despair, is what turned the South Korean public into a passive nation — keyboard warriors at most. We know how to complain and how to be especially mean about it. We know there are problems, many of them, in our society and government. What we don’t know is how to solve these problems, how to move forward. And the more we are lost, the more we are angry and, ironically, the less we are involved.
Whatever it is that has tied the hands of the South Korean public until now, enough is enough. When our nation is being cajoled by a certain few, when our president is not only incompetent but an actual puppet, when we pay for the gain of a pseudo-shaman fortune teller and his daughter — yes, enough is surely enough.
When I study abroad and answer South Korea to the where-are-you-from question, I want to be proud. It is the country I was born in, the nation my parents, family, friends and I belong to. Today, I am humiliated by the events I would expect from a horror movie. This is the reality of my home country. Today, I am infuriated and at a loss for words at how something like this can even occur. Today, I am lost — my loss of words is representative of my lack of tangible solutions.
But as I see fellow university students back home coming together, writing declarations with united purpose, risking their safety and demonstrating despite the dangers of arrest and physical harm, I look to find a way out of this maze of frustration and weakness. Those who have shared frustration and sorrow will now rally with shared passion to bring change, no matter how long it takes to fight against such profound dishonesty.
Sally Oh is a contributing writer. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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