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  • Jerome Kim

Protests In South Korea Versus United States of America

Updated: Nov 12, 2022

The United States spent the roughest four years of its history under the brutal Trump administration. There were hundreds of thousands of people fighting for human rights, democratic freedom, and the jailing of wanton police. Police and soldiers patrolled the streets and regulations were imposed, but protesters continued to gather despite the increasing number of casualties. Meanwhile, COVID-19 broke out during Trump’s presidential term and amplified the protests dramatically. As a result, the United States of America had one of the most chaotic presidential times in its history.

The U.S. and Its Violent Protests

Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, has been the most controversial president in history. Due to his presidential conduct, he has been called “a classic racist with white supremacy and prejudice.” He tried to ban social media app TikTok in the states, impose a Muslim travel ban, and even stop transgender students from using school bathrooms in line with their gender. On account of his behavior, he had his first trial of impeachment on December 18, 2019. The vote passed the House of Representatives but was acquitted by the Senate.

The 46th presidential election took place from November 2020 to January 2021. Though the results were in favor of Joe Biden, Trump refused to concede his failure and requested recounts in Arizona and Pennsylvania. As the assertion of election conspiracy rose, on January 6, 2021, violent Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. These riots were organized by people who disagreed with the results of the 46th election. Riots started to gather around 2 P.M with people flaunting "Make America Great Again" masks and banners. Thousands of people flooded into the Capitol building and pushed through the barricades of national guards who had gathered there in anticipation of the protest. After an hour, the first shot was fired inside the Congress, and it was later confirmed that a woman was shot. At 3:40 p.m, National Guards were situated around the building, and at 6 p.m, protesters left the scene as the curfew in Washington initiated.

During this 4 hour chaos, many protesters climbed over the wall and walked inside the Capitol building while electoral colleges formalized Biden's victory. These rioters vandalized sculptures, windows, facilities, and offices. The result was dreadful. The capital was on lockdown until officers fully evacuated and the rioters went away. As a result of the reckless behavior of the rioters, four rioters and one police officer were killed. More than 140 people were injured, and thousands of dollars worth of property were damaged. Later on January 19, Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, confirmed that President Trump and many other politicians provoked and encouraged people to take aggressive action to support his presidency.

South Korea and Its Peaceful Protests

On April 15, 2014, a ferry named Sewol left Incheon Port with 476 passengers. The passengers included 325 sophomore students from Danwon High School on their way to an island for their school trip. These students were accompanied by 14 teachers, 33 crew members, and 104 other passengers. After 12 hours of sailing, the ship started to slant, and in about 2 hours, it sank. Only 172 were rescued among the original 476 people on board.

As the press covered details about the two-hour catastrophe, several unanswered questions were brought up: “Why couldn’t all students evacuate? What was the president doing when she was notified of the incident? How did she respond to it?” Reporters and media investigated every minute of president Park Geun-Hye’s official and unofficial timeline during those hours. The biggest scandal of the 21st century in Korean history started. Reporters couldn’t find answers from her official schedule, but they found something even more shocking. On October 24, 2016, JTBC, a Korean broadcasting company, announced that they found evidence that proved the President has been bribed and corrupted during her term, totaling to about 180 million dollars.

The news spread quickly, and Korea soon filled with protests in major cities who wanted President Park’s elucidation and impeachment. The protests were called “The Candlelight Vigils.” Candles represented support for a specific cause: the impeachment of the president. The vigils began on October 29, 2016, and lasted until March 10, 2017, the impeachment date. Everyone, regardless of age and gender, came out to squares in front of the Blue House and shouted for the impeachment of the president. A total of 16.83 million people gathered, but no one was killed or injured during the protest. During the five months of peaceful protest, citizens had accomplished the goal: the impeachment of President Park. However, most importantly, they showed the world the appropriate way to manifest one’s voice and make a difference.

Protests are meant to be a measure to express disapproval or an objection to a particular policy or a plan, not to destroy or vandalize the country’s property. The difference between The Candlelight Vigils and the U.S. Capitol Protest was that the Vigils made their voice heard by being peaceful and respectful of other opinions, but were still persistent in their call for justice. However, the U.S. Capitol Protest produced casualties, damages, and failure. Although the U.S. protesters may have held different purposes, as a country that was built upon human rights and democratic practices, it was filled with disappointments in and out.

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