Weekly Brief: Nov. 28th – Dec. 4th

News

Foreign residents banned from participating in nationwide rallies

The weekly demonstrations have drawn enthusiastic crowds, but a reminder to foreign residents of South Korea: It’s illegal for them to participate. Immigration law bans non-citizens from any form of political activity. However, there’s a low chance of any negative consequence given the nature of the current rallies — police aren’t arresting anyone, Korean or otherwise.

That said, the chilling effects are definitely present. Posts on online forums caution people against attending, all citing the same law. I received the same warning before attending the third rally (as a member of the media).

Rallies continue to uphold peace, organization … and humor

Unsatisfied with President Park’s recent third apology, citizens again came out in force to demand her immediate resignation. Again, the demonstrations across the country were peaceful, disciplined and well-organized. And not without their share of humor.

The demonstrations have brought out endless displays of creativity and parody from the attendees, the likes of which would have been unthinkable before the Choi Soon-sil scandal broke back in October. One would hope that this doesn’t change with the next administration, whenever that comes.

S. Koreans have low opinions of their work and their livelihood

There’s always another way of looking at how measures of happiness and life satisfaction in S. Korea got to be as low as they are. One survey showed that a majority of workers have low opinions of their jobs, mostly over workplace culture. Another showed that more than half of people in the middle class believe they’re in the lower class. There are some government policies that try to improve things for new parents, for instance, but many employers still choose to not implement them.

Opinions mount in favor of alternative military service

The country’s human rights commission has weighed in on the conscientious objector case currently at the constitutional court. The commission stated that refusing to provide an alternative to the country’s mandatory military service is unconstitutional. The court is currently expected to issue its ruling on the case in January.

In brief

  • Even single-person protests in front of the president’s residence, Cheong Wa Dae, are being blocked by police.
  • This week marks the 50th anniversary of the Binh Hoa massacre, the largest case of atrocity committed by South Korean troops in Vietnam.
  • Making or selling cosmetics tested on animals will be illegal come February. This follows from an EU campaign from 2013.
  • 82 years: Life expectancy for children born in 2015, up slightly from the previous year.

In depth

  • Organ and tissue donation rates within the country are extremely low, to the point that roughly 75% of the domestic supply comes from overseas donations.
  • Students at Yonsei University elected a gay student council president who was open about her sexuality throughout her campaign, despite the hardships that came along with that decision to come out.
  • A street next to a park popular with elderly residents in downtown Seoul was redesigned to better accommodate the area’s aging population.
  • Dictionary.com called ‘xenophobia’ the word of the year. A look at some examples of xenophobia in South Korea from recent years.

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And that was the news from last week. We value your feedback. Send any questions, comments, errors, or omissions to weeklybrief@8d2.359.myftpupload.com.

Weekly Brief is a collection of the must-read articles regarding human rights and social issues in South Korea, produced in collaboration with the Korea Human Rights Foundation (KHRF / 한국인권재단). The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of KHRF.

Cover Image: A sculpture of a chicken, gripped by a giant fist, is painted with a phrase from President Park’s second apology over the Choi Soon-sil scandal. Park’s surname and the Korean word for chicken have similar sounds. It was seen in front of Sejong Culture and Arts Center in Gwanghwamun at the third anti-government rally on Nov. 12. (Daniel Corks/Korea Exposé)

Daniel Corks is Korea Exposé's human rights editor and a research fellow at Korea Human Rights Foundation.