|From the Hankyoreh:|
Barricades that blocked protesters incite widespread resentment
|Internet users invent phrases laced with sarcasm to express criticism of gov’t action|
The watchword for the huge candlelight protests attended by up to one million people on June 10 was “Myung-bak castle” (Myungbaksanseong). The word combines the first name of President Lee Myung-bak and a Korean word that means “mountain fortress wall,” with the latter part referring to the rows of shipping containers used by police to block protesters from approaching the Blue House.
A 5.4-meter-high wall of shipping containers filled with sand, one of three such walls, was removed from the main thoroughfare on Sejong Avenue in the early morning of June 11. However, the phrase invoking the barricades is likely to stay on people’s lips as a symbol of President Lee Myung-bak’s refusal to communicate with the citizens of Korea.
The term “Myungbak castle” was first used by Internet users almost instantaneously beginning on June 10, and generated a number of derivatives. As police constructed the shipping containers as a way to block protesters, the term “Welding Myung-bak” (Yongjeopmyungbak) was coined just as quickly. This term refers to the method police used to weld the containers together. Tens of thousands of messages with the term “Welding Myung-bak” were posted on the Internet debate site Agora, which is operated by Daum Communications.
Some of the messages left online exude the sense of sarcasm and scorn felt by the majority of the general public toward the government. One person wrote, “Because a huge fortress wall was constructed overnight, it should be designated as a World Heritage site.”
Another said, “The look of the grand canal and the fortress wall reminds me of Qin Shi Huang.” The Grand Korean Waterway, which would connect Seoul to Busan via three interlocking canals, is one of the president’s pet projects, while Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of China and built China’s Great Wall.
A composite photograph that combines a photo of the shipping container barricade with a caption saying, “This is the ‘Myungbak castle,’ which has been designated as National Treasure No. 0,” spread rapidly through the Internet.
Behind the widespread criticism and satirical comments, lies a sense of anger and regret over President Lee’s having turned a deaf ear to the public. A 32-year-old office worker who works in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, near the site where the barricades were constructed, said on June 11, “When I saw the ‘Myungbak castle’ on my way to the office, I felt a sense of despair.” The worker, who was only identified by the surname Choi, said, “If (the government) were to think about how to allay public resentment instead of thinking about how to block the voices of the people, it could suggest more than 100 new plans.”
An Internet user with the nickname “Themis” wrote, “With the ‘Myungbak castle,’ the response to citizens holding candles is akin to a trampling of the people’s will. This government has made another big mistake.”
Police officials even criticized the construction of the barricades. A police officer said, “I was surprised to hear about the idea of blocking a main thoroughfare with a wall of containers. With the wall, citizens were made to feel that they were shut out and mistreated. I think the countermeasure seems to have gone wrong.”
Please direct questions or comments to [firstname.lastname@example.org]See also this interesting article on the new culture of protest involved in the demos.