Monday, September 29, 2008

Counter demonstration for Armed Forces Day parade

Its been 60 years since the founding of Korea's military and this Wednesday, October 1st, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) will be celebrating the occasion by showing off its big guns in a good old fashioned military show of force in down town Seoul. Not just guns, but tanks, missiles, and spiffy new uniform designs will be paraded through the streets as well. Meanwhile at Jamshil Olympic Stadium, closed to the general public, the government will host a veritable lollapalooza of VIP attendees featuring concerts, presentations about new high tech military gizmos, and rather unsubtly crafted performances of nationalistic flavor such as "Advanced Powerful Military: The Musical". Peripheral events occurring throughout the month include a letter writing contest for high school students to write letters about why national security and the military are important to Korean society.

Granted, since the holiday stopped being a national day off, the attendance will likely be far few than an average candle light vigil.

While Armed Forces Day (국군 의 날) may not inspire a huge turnout for the ticker-tape, a small but dedicated group of citizens were significantly moved by the planned military pomp and circumstance that they are preparing their own independent events to express what the Korean military means for them.

One of the more ambitious of the counter demonstrators is Kang We-suck. We-suck, a conscientious objector who will serve jail time next year instead of doing his mandatory military service, will likely get a sneak preview of prison life as a result of his protest. Catapulted into the public light as a highschool activist for religious freedom, We-suck will bring his provocative form of protest to the parade, as he plans to confront the rolling tanks head on in the buff. Dancing and hors d'oeuvres are also anticipated as part of the show. We-suck, eager to probe the boundaries of Korea's social sensibilities, will be treading into relatively unknown territory, as Korea lacks a developed tradition of nude protest and will likely interpret the act as a form of perverse exhibitionism. This bare-all standoff with the military will be the latest in a number of symbolic volleys by We-suck, the most well known one being the letter to Park Tae-hwan, olympic gold medalist swimmer. In the now infamous letter, We-suck criticizes the standards for military exemption where athletes who win gold medals are rewarded with not having to fulfill their national duty. His ultimate denouncement, however, is conscription, militarized Korean society, and the military itself. He has been lambasted by conservatives and progressives, accusing him of being immature, taking cheap-shots, sensationalism, and being a traitor.

The Counter Events:

While smaller events are expected to be occuring from 12pm on, at 4pm October 1st, a number of organizations will hold a press conference at Asia Park. Among the sponsoring groups are World Without War, Peace and Human Rights Solidarity, Blood Sisters, and "Gundae?". At 4:30 the groups will begin a direct action counter parade towards Sam Sung station in the direction of the official military procession. At 5:30 back in Asia Park there will be a cultural festival consisting of musical performances.

To get to Asia Park, take the green line # 2 to Sports Complex Stadium station 종합운동장역 in Songpa-gu and exit 1.

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