I made a rather facile comment the other day in a conversation that very quickly turned out to be apt rather than just glib: South Korea is a predictably unpredictable place.
The one thing I would never have predicted is that former president Roh would throw himself off a mountain. Not only was this event highly unpredictable, it is also hard to predict how it will play out. This is particularly true in the current situation where South Korea’s economy is balanced on a knife edge between bubble and bust and the Lee Myung-bak government is ratcheting up the repression in order to pre-empt a repeat of last year’s mass demonstrations or even the possibility of a mass strike. Already the event has brought thousands onto the streets in a mixture of sorrow and anger and already it has brought them into conflict with the riot police who are blocking off public spaces in Seoul to prevent mourning crowds turning into demonstrations.
Since I won’t be writing anything substantial on this (lots of lovely work to do this bank holiday) here’s an excellent article by Erin Chun putting Roh’s suicide into perspective and placing it in the context of current political and social struggles in Korea.