Average people living in Seoul are not going to remember what policies were debated or agreed upon by world leaders at this year's G20 conference in Seoul. They will however remember all the crazy stuff that protesters are planning. Bees, golf balls, hurling feces, self mutilation, and flag eating are only a few of the creative tactics that the nearly 200 registered protest groups are planning to employ to gain attention to their causes.
I have already posted pictures of some of the nearly 50,000 police officers giving a demo of their protester submission skills. I also posted some videos of large protests by Koreans in previous years. I am looking forward to the cell phone videos posted on Youtube on Monday morning.
Article in the LA Times:
Reporting from Seoul — The Group of 20 summit set to begin here Thursday may have already dodged one major crisis: the golf ball protest.
Residents of a shantytown engaged in a development dispute with government officials planned to hurl hundreds of golf balls over the security fence as leaders of the world's top economic powers huddled at a mall complex in central Seoul.
But nervous officials struck a deal to avert the public dissent, agreeing to hear the protesters' grievances after the two-day summit ends.
"Emotions are built up, so we were planning something pretty violent, maybe even throwing Molotov cocktails," said the vice chairwoman of the community, known as Nine Dragons, who declined to give her name because the issue is so sensitive.
For Seoul officials, it's one down and 199 protest groups to go.
About 200 organizations have registered to demonstrate during the summit, including labor unions, the physically challenged and former navy commandos who say they plan to set cars and oil tankers on fire nearby.
Few of the organizations have gripes with world leaders, but they aim to grab the international stage to air their grievances with the South Korean government. The former commandos, for instance, want bigger pensions.
Volatile South Korea is often called the Protest Republic. With a population of just under 50 million, it averages 12,000 protests a year, by far the most of any nation in Asia, according to National Police Agency statistics.
Many protests in South Korea feature theatrical tactics such as animal sacrifices, torch burnings, flag-eating, dummy decapitations and feces hurling. Last month, one anti-government protester set himself on fire. Then there was the man who covered himself with bees.
"Korea is Korea; we are who we are," summit spokeswoman Sohn Jie-ae said. "You cannot put a lid on demonstrations; you just have to live with them. While Americans write letters to their senator to get something done, we demonstrate. We voice our concerns on the street."
South Korean officials will deploy 60,000 security personnel, including 10,000 military riot troops. They have declared a 1.5-mile protest-free zone around the meeting venue, which will be surrounded by a 7-foot-high security fence.
Analysts warn that any violence would be a costly public relations blunder.
"Nobody pays attention to a peaceful rally. The media doesn't report a single sentence on peaceful protests. Only when it turns violent, albeit negative, it gains attention. It's a vicious cycle," Kang said.
As a result, demonstrations can turn into absurd theater.
In 2005, one angry protester tried to eat a Japanese flag. The following year, a man stabbed himself in the stomach in a re-creation of the ritualistic Japanese suicide known as hara-kiri to protest Japan'splans to conduct a marine survey in South Korean-claimed waters. Another man, a beekeeper, slathered himself with honey to attract 187,000 crawling bees.
In Seoul, activists have slaughtered pigs and decapitated dummies representing foreign officials. During 2008 protests against the importation of U.S. beef that many in South Korea believed was tainted, one protester threw cow feces in supermarkets that sold the product.
Last year, 11 protesters and police officers died in a street battle over forced evacuations of businesses to make way for a redevelopment project in Seoul.
Organizers at the Nine Dragons shantytown, home to Third World hovels near some of the priciest housing in South Korea, recently hung effigies believed to represent Seoul officials. But thanks to a last-minute intervention, they won't be taking to the streets.
"We were ready," said the community's vice chairwoman. "We would have used any method possible to bring our matter to the public eye."
Hilarious that the G20 organizers are already a magnet for protesters, and they decided to have their meeting in the protest-crazy capitol of the world.