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Main opposition leader`s protest

Posted November. 24, 2010 17:24,   


At Seoul`s Gwanghwamun Plaza Tuesday morning, main opposition Democratic Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu played a trumpet toward the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae. He called this a “wake-up play” to make President Lee Myung-bak "wake up" upon hearing his performance. As if he was seeking to emulate the role of the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-shin, which has been temporarily removed from the plaza for repair work, Sohn held a signboard instead of Yi’s sword reading “Completely replace the government of mobile phones registered with fake IDs.” People passed by only after gazing at him, approached him to shake hands, or took photos of him with their mobile phones. When a lady said, “This is a political gesture to show off,” her friend said, “The (Lee) administration IS a government of mobile phones registered with fabricated IDs.”

Sohn staged a sit-in at his office for nearly 100 hours, demanding a parliamentary probe into suspicions over government surveillance of civilians. But his protest failed to resonate. So watchers in and out of his party predicted that the next option for Sohn, who is not a sitting legislator, will be nothing other than an outdoor rally. Since making a triumphant return as the head of the main opposition party, Sohn has hardly impressed the people with leadership. Under this circumstance, his “struggle for democratization” effectively constitutes something he could do very well. No doubt, Sohn decided to stage a week-long overnight sit-in at Seoul Plaza from Monday. He conducted Tuesday’s sit-in at Gwanghwamun Plaza by briefly suspending his rally at Seoul Plaza.

Not many approached the “public signature collection” corner installed at his sit-in site in Seoul Plaza. Groups of women who came to the site by chartered bus from a constituent of a party lawmaker gave their signatures collectively, and only senior citizens were seen hanging around the site. Asked by a reporter whether he really came out for an outdoor rally, Sohn said, “People are still unaware of the severity of the issue,” adding, “It`s important to propagate (the issue of) mobile phones registered with fake IDs.” He attempted to show an image of conducting state administration and struggle by choosing to stage both an outdoor rally and appear at the National Assembly at once.

What percentage of the public would support Sohn’s outdoor struggle? The mood at the site was hardly warm. To replace his campaign against cell phones registered with fake IDs, Sohn might instead more proactively tackle the economy and North Korea`s nuclear threat rather than conducting overnight sit-ins. After Pyongyang`s attack on Yeonpyeong Island Tuesday, Democratic Party spokesman Cho Young-taek said, “We will focus our energy on countering the North’s aggression and shelve other pending issues for the time being.” Apparently judging that the situation is unfavorable toward him, Sohn packed up his tent and left the protest site Tuesday afternoon.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)