‘Buried Democracy’ | No Democracy, No Nation | 민주주의가 없다면 국가도 없다

Buried Democracy

‘Buried Democracy’ – Artist: unknown*

If, quite likely due to the Paris Attacks, you’re unaware of what happened in South Korea on Saturday, 11/14, please read this article by Korean daily Hankyoreh first. This illustration, which I found on Instagram, is my favourite among the many illustrations people created, and I’ll explain it to the best of my knowledge.*

The white gush forms part of the ‘taeguk’, the symbol that makes up the red and blue centre of the South Korean flag and is commonly associated with Daoist philosophical values as well as Korean shamanism. It is white, here, to symbolise the water shot at protesters by the police, which contained capsaicin, an active component of chilli peppers.

The man lying in the fountain is Baek Nam-gi, a 69-year-old farmer from South Jeolla Province, who fell hard and injured his head as police doused him with water cannons. They continued to fire the cannon even as Mr Baek lay on the ground and received assistance. He later underwent brain surgery at a hospital. You can see a video of the incident here. Viewer discretion is advised.

The block-like rectangles around the gush symbolise the buses the Korean police regularly uses along with huge movable walls to block and lock in protesters. This is part of what some call the ‘K-Police Wave’, in reference to the pop-cultural ‘Korean Wave’, which Korea aims to export to other nations. For more, read this article by Al Jazeera.

The ribbon for the awareness campaign about the 11/14 anti-government protests in Seoul appeared both in black and blue and in black, blue and yellow. The blue part symbolises opposition to censorship; the black part symbolises opposition to authoritarianism; and the yellow part incorporates the yellow ribbon which commemorates the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster, as well as symbolising people’s anger over the poor handling of the aftermath of that and the fact that President Park frequently leaves the country to sit out conflicts.

My favourite part of this illustration is the little gush under the ribbon, covering one of the characters of 大韓民國 (Dae Han Min Guk), Republic of the Great Han people, which is the legal name of the Republic of (South) Korea. The character that’s buried under water is 民 (Min) which stands for people or citizens, thus perfectly illustrating the events of November 14th.

Without meaning to offend the many thousands who bravely protested in Seoul last weekend, I’m afraid I don’t yet believe that a political change to the better will happen anytime soon in South Korea. But this anti-government protest, the biggest of its kind in seven years, surely was remarkable, and I hope people will stay strong and continue to stand up together for their rights. Young and old, women and men, students and workers, united for a better future.

*Should you know the name of the artist, have any comments or like to correct anything that I might have gotten wrong, please leave a comment below.

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