What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
Protests and rallies at Moon Jae-in’s new home in Yangsan
May 9 was Moon Jae-in’s last day as president of the Republic of Korea. The next day, after attending the inauguration of his successor, Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook left for their new home in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province. Moon has consistently expressed that he would like to be forgotten after the end of his term. Yet, even before he had managed to move in, some right-wing groups, as well as a number of civic groups, had started holding protests around his new home in Yangsan.
On May 12, starting at 1am, one of the right-wing groups began repeatedly playing recordings of former dictatorial president Park Chung-hee reading the National Educational Charter, via two loudspeakers aimed at Moon’s home. They also played music and live-streamed an internet broadcast criticizing Moon.
Locals, who were initially excited about Moon’s move to the area, have made over 50 complaints to the police as of May 15 regarding the noise pollution created by the protesters.
On May 15, Moon Jae-in expressed his dismay about the overt rallies and protests, as well as apologizing to the locals:
[I attended] mass at the Deokgye Catholic Church in Yangsan.
On the way back, [I had] a bowl of naengmyeon (cold noodles) for lunch at Wonsan Myeonok, an old naengmyeon restaurant in Yangsan.
When I returned home,
Anti-intellectualism together with loudspeaker noise and obscenities were breaking the peace and freedom of Sunday in this small rural village.
People of Pyeongsan Village, I’m sorry.
— Moon Jae-in, former president of the Republic of Korea, May 15, 2022.
Even the People Power Party expressed concern regarding such protests at Moon’s private residence. Party leader Lee Jun-seok wrote on Facebook the same day:
The freedom to express political opinions in the vicinity of President Moon Jae-in’s residence must be guaranteed. This is a right that no one can deny.
My heart is heavy, especially seeing the sorrow and protests of those who have lost their families after being vaccinated against Covid-19. The People Power Party will always communicate with the Council for the Families of the Victims of Covid-19 Vaccines through the National Assembly member Choi Chun-sik.
However, some other rallies are worrisome.
I have criticized the methods and form of Solidarity Against Disability Discrimination (SADD) protests, which try to get what they want by causing inconvenience to the unspecified majority. Instead, I have proposed different ways of discussing and publicizing SADD’s arguments through an open discussion, and have thus attended televised debates several times.
The effectiveness of a message is not necessarily proportional to the volume of the loudspeakers and the magnitude of the inconvenience inflicted on the residents of the surrounding areas. I hope that the protesters can deliver their message to President Moon Jae-in in a moderate and logical way.
When criticizing and rebuking President Moon Jae-in, please proceed in a manner that will always receive a lot of support in terms of the method and form.
The era of President Moon Jae-in is over. Now is the era of President Yoon Suk-yeol and a new hope. The party will work hard to ensure that even those people who have been angry for the past five years can join us on the path of hope rather than anger.
— Lee Jun-seok, People Power Party leader, May 15, 2022.
On May 13, the police announced that they would restrict protests and rallies from sunset to sunrise (7:40pm to 7am the next morning). But protests during the day are still allowed, so it remains to be seen how long the protesters will continue their rallies at Moon’s private home.
Protests and rallies at the Yongsan Presidential Office
On May 10, Yoon Suk-yeol was inaugurated as the president of the Republic of Korea, and he became the first president in the country’s history to live and work outside of Cheong Wa Dae (also known as the Blue House for the blue roof tiles of the building), which has been the official residence and office of the president since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948. Yoon decided to move his office to the more central location of Yongsan, and it seems that this has now become a popular place for civic groups to hold protests. One of the first groups to apply for a permit to hold a rally near the new presidential office was Rainbow Action Against Sexual-Minority Discriminination, who requested that they be allowed to march past the office on May 14, ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Inter & Transphobia on May 17.
The police refused the permit, however, citing the Assembly and Demonstration Act, which prohibits outdoor rallies within 100 meters of the presidential residence.
Rainbow Action requested a stay of execution of the refusal, and the Seoul Administrative Court partially granted it on May 11:
The effect of the Notice of Prohibition of Outdoor Assemblies by the Yongsan Police Station is suspended until a judgment is rendered on the merits of this case. … Even considering the dictionary definition of the official residence and the legislative intent and purpose of Article 11(3) of the Assembly and Demonstration Act, the interpretation of the term “office” as being included in the official residence seems to deviate from the accepted meaning of the term. Moreover, a complete ban on all 2.5 kilometers of the march can be seen as excessively restricting freedom of assembly, when it is difficult to conclude that the presidential office is included in the presidential residence under Article 11(3) of the Assembly and Demonstration Act. … The partial ban notice, which completely prohibits the march along the proposed route (for which the organization filed a permit), fundamentally bans even assemblies for which there are no clear and existing fears of infringing on public well-being. Therefore maintaining this ban raises concerns about inflicting irrecoverable damage to the organization, and we recognize that there is an urgent need to prevent this. … In consideration of the fact that, if the march on the proposed route is allowed without restrictions, unexpected confusion may occur with regard to traffic management and security near the Presidential Office and the Ministry of National Defense, the problematic section of the march will be subject to a certain condition (the entire party must pass through the section once, as quickly as possible, within 1 hour and 30 minutes). Under such circumstances, the effect of the partial ban notice related to the march will be suspended.
— Seoul Administrative Court, May 11, 2022.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, which has the authority to grant the permit, immediately appealed the decision on May 12, but did not block Rainbow Action marching within 100 meters of the president’s office on May 14.
However, it then also denied a permit for another group, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, to hold a rally outside the president’s office on May 21, stating that the court’s decision had specifically related to Rainbow Action’s march. Through a press release, the group announced that it had also approached the court:
Today (May 13), ahead of the Korea-US summit on May 21, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy filed for a stay of execution of the police’s notice of ban on our request to hold a press conference and rally, to support the implementation of the North-South agreement and peace on the Korean Peninsula, in front of the Ministry of National Defense and War Memorial. …
In particular, this rally was scheduled to be held on the occasion of the Korea-US summit on May 21, 2022. It is expected that various discussions that will determine the future of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia will take place at the new administration’s first Korea-US summit. The rally aims to express the views of Korean society at an opportune time during the Korea-US summit. The choice of place and time of assembly are decisive factors in the success or failure of a rally and are an essential part of the freedom of assembly. Therefore, if this rally cannot be held at the same time as the Korea-US summit, it cannot achieve the same effect in terms of attention and timeliness as was originally intended, even if it is held in the same place.
Accordingly, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy announces that we have filed for a stay of execution of the police’s notice of ban at the same time as our lawsuit on the merits of this case. In addition, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy points out that the continuous ban by the police on assemblies in front of the presidential office, despite repeated court decisions, will incur unnecessary social costs. We also request that the police view rallies and protests as issues of respect and cooperation, not as issues of suppression and management.
— People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, May 13, 2022.
The Yongsan Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the area, now seems to be in a bind as a result of the court’s decision to allow the protests, as Yongsan residents have already begun voicing concerns over the disruption to their daily lives.