Parents, union members join ‘half-price tuition’ demonstrations

Posted on : 2011-06-11 14:34 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Once embattled by arrests, the candlelight vigil demonstrations have been strengthened by outside groups’ colorful performances

By Lee Seung-joon

Five hundred apples made a surprise appearance at Seoul’s Cheonggye Plaza, the site of a candlelight vigil demonstration for “half-price tuition” Friday evening. The fruit was furnished by the members of a student parents’ group, who cut the apples in half and shared them with the university students attending the assembly. The meaning of the gesture was as an apology from the established generation to students faced with expensive tuition rates. In Korean, the words for “apple” and “apology” are both pronounced sagwa.

Prior to the assembly, progressive party leaders held one-person demonstrations at Cheonggye Plaza beginning at 1 p.m. Friday.

At 5 p.m., students, working people, and others took on the roles of part-time workers and politicians for dancing and singing around the streets near the plaza. This was the set of a “lip dub” suggested on Twitter by SungKongHoe University media studies adjunct Professor Tak Hyun-min. “Lip dub,” a combination of “lip-syncing” and “dubbing,” refers to a video in which people dance to music and mime singing. Tak, who handled the production, said he planned to post the lip dub on the Internet to share the situation with the world.

A “kicking” performance also took place near the Chosun Ilbo building across from Cheonggye Plaza. The performance was given by 30-year-old Internet shopping mall model Ha Sin-a, who is famous for costume play. Ha dressed up as Chun-Li, a character from the computer game Street Fighter, and broke a plaque bearing the words “expensive tuition.”

A “book demonstration” followed, with books being shared with assembly participants. Youth Union, an organization representing young unemployed individuals and temporary workers, shared 100 copies of the recently published book “Real Youth” with people in their teens to thirties.

Following up on a similar appearance Tuesday, members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Union’s Women’s League delivered around 1,000 rice balls to students at the assembly. The “moms” who held a sit-in for a minimum wage across from Cheonggye Plaza said, “We are joining with the hearts of mothers. Let’s raise the minimum wage and lower tuition.”

Conservative-leaning civic groups countered with their own assembly and press conferences. Christian Social Responsibility and Advanced Citizen Action held an assembly in front of the Dongwha Duty Free Shop in Seoul’s Jongno neighborhood Friday afternoon, while Right Korea held its own in front of the KT building at Gwanghwamun. The groups contended that the tuition assemblies have deviated from the purity of their original goals and transformed into political demagoguery and anti-government political gatherings.

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