A brief extract from a new interview with Kim Kwang-il of All Together, one of the ‘fugitives’ currently holed up in Chogyesa temple in Seoul as one of the organisers of this summer’s massive candlelight protest movement:
Kim Kwang-il: The start of the demonstrations back in May was the combined result of a whole series of issues that had been thrown up since Lee Myung-bak was elected. From the moment he was elected Lee began announcing a whole host of blatantly right wing neoliberal, anti-democratic and pro-imperialist policies. It was like a policy tsunami—so much so that you became irritated every time you looked at a newspaper or news bulletin. Every day you got up in the morning to find that another right wing policy initiative had been announced in the media.
The gradually worsening economic situation was also behind the sudden explosion of demonstrations. Lee Myung-bak’s core promise in the presidential election was that he would “revive the economy”. This was his so-called “747 pledge” in which he promised to achieve economic growth of 7 percent, average per capita income of 40,000 US dollars, and raise South Korea to the world’s seventh largest economy. Of course this was nothing more than rhetoric that completely ignored the world economic crisis. After Lee took power the economic indicators became gradually worse while the suffering of the exploited grew.
Popular anger gradually built and then on 19 April, when Lee travelled to the US and made an agreement with Bush to allow imports of American beef, this anger exploded. This agreement drastically eased the regulations dealing with the risk of beef infected with BSE. At first the protests against this agreement centred around internet communities. An online petition set up by a high school student attracted more than a million signatures in no time.
Read the rest here.