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Koreans Cheer Pres. Lee’s Inauguration

Posted February. 26, 2008 03:21,   


Hundreds of Koreans gathered in front of the National Assembly in Seoul yesterday for President Lee Myung-bak’s inauguration, though most were not invited to the ceremony.

Hailing from a variety of fields and age groups, they had one common wish: for their new president to revitalize the economy to create jobs and make their lives comfortable.

○ “I hope to see a harmonious country.”

“I slept yesterday in my son’s house to see the ceremony in person, and I hope that President Lee will reform Korea’s politics.” said Cho Jeong-yeon of the southern Seoul suburb of Ansan. Cho is a decorated veteran who suffered a bullet wound during the Korean War.

He struggled to stand on a flower garden to see the new president’s inauguration.

The Venerable Do San, a Buddhist monk from Sujeong Temple, said, “I wish President Lee will make people live in harmony regardless of their regional and academic backgrounds.”

Sohn Sang-cheol, an animation producer, said, “My hope is that the new government will have more interest in fields other than politics.”

Foreign residents also took an interest in Lee’s inauguration.

An American studying for a master’s in Korean studies at Korea University, Lee’s alma mater, said the inauguration ceremony of Korea is quite different from that of the United States, in that dance and songs create a party-like atmosphere.

Anthony Parker, a British management consultant, said the British people believe their prime minister should stand on the equal ground with the people, so the United Kingdom has a simpler ceremony. He said the Korean president thus seems more authoritative than the British prime minister.

○ Scuffle between protesters and citizens.

Some protesters looking for publicity gathered around the National Assembly building, where more than 100 members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held banners saying, “Save temporary workers and stop restructuring.”

As unionists sang and shouted their slogans with bullhorns, others complained, “Why make such noise on this good day?” Police and citizens had a light scuffle with protesters.

Lee Gyeong-ryong, a temporary worker for clothing retailer E-Land, said, “My co-workers and I have fought our company for eight months, and I hope the new president will wipe away our tears.”

Kim Cheol-hwan, who did a one-man demonstration to promote awareness of information accessibility for the physically disabled, was removed from a restricted area by police, as reporters gathered.

From 70 meters in front of the front gate of the National Assembly, police blocked access by people without invitations, which made some angry.

○ Passengers in buses and taxis cheer

When President Lee left for the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae from the National Assembly building, people on the street greeted him with hearty cheers.

One passer-by shouted, “Lee is the best! I love MB.”

Another person said, “Even though I couldn’t be at the historical place, I am here to see Mr. President,” waiting for Lee’s motorcade at Gongduk Rotary in Mapo-gu, western Seoul.

Passengers in buses and taxies running toward the Yeouido district, where the National Assembly is located, greeted their new president with loud applause.

“Today is definitely a good day for our nation, but I need to make a living, too,” said delivery men who had to park his motorcycles on the sidewalk due to traffic control, which lasted for 25 to 30 minutes.

sukim@donga.com niceshin@donga.com