…In South Korea, not the United States. The newly elected mayor of Seoul is Park Won Soon, a longtime activist and human rights lawyer who ran on an explicit “Occupy Wall Street platform” of challenging social inequality. Could this happen here as well? Via New Left Project:
Park Won Soon, the newly elected mayor of Seoul, is “perhaps the first politician to win with an Occupy Wall Street platform”.
Park Won Soon ran on a platform of social justice. The previous mayor of Seoul had resigned over the issue of school lunches, Park pushed for the universal provision of lunches to all Seoul school children. He also promised to direct social services to helping the poor and disadvantaged. Korea has become increasingly divided in terms of rich and poor, and Seoul has some of the richest and some of the poorest people in the country. Park pledged to be the mayor of all of Seoul and not just the wealthy. His opponent Na Kyung-won was a wealthy businesswoman. The Park campaign characterized her as part of the 1 percent, whereas Park himself would represent the 99 percent.
The OWS movement in Korea hasn’t been particularly large. About 250 protesters gathered in front of the Financial Services Commission for a weekend of demonstrations in the middle of October. But since then, the focus of the movement for economic justice has been defeating the KORUS Free Trade Agreement.
Park Won Soon is a long-time civic activist who was expelled from school in the mid-1970s for his student activism. Later, as a human rights lawyer, he was active in the democratization movement of the 1980s. In 1994, he helped found one of the pivotal civil society organizations in South Korea: People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD). This organization focused on expanding the notion of democracy beyond the narrow definition of voting. In those early days of Korean democracy, and to a certain extent even today, Korean politics is rather opaque, still subject to the influence of powerful families and wealthy chaebols (conglomerates). PSPD has done much to bring transparency to government and to dispel what Koreans call jeongkyung yuchak (political-economic collusion). After PSPD, he went on to create the Beautiful Foundation and a thinktank called Hope, both devoted to principles of economic justice and sustainability.
Park’s supporters, during his mayoralty race, extended far beyond his civil society followers. Many Koreans are disgusted with political as usual. They dislike the ruling Grand National Party. But many are not particularly happy about the opposition either. They supported Park because he is not a politician. Much of his support came from younger voters.