[Editorial] Toward the Next Stage of the Candlelight Revolution

 

The Quarterly Changbi 176, Summer 2017

 

We have been through a breathtaking time: from the first candlelight vigil last fall to the presidential election on May 19 of this year. While human society never follows a predetermined course, this time we seem to have crossed a river we haven’t crossed before. The corruption, incompetency, and negligence of the Park Geun-hye regime-the triggers of this entire process-could not have been more egregious and shocking. It is hard to list all the examples of its corruption, incompetence, and negligence: the policies and personnel affairs that depended entirely on a so-called “secret line” of cronies; incredibly widespread corruption that spanned all areas of society, including the economy, politics, education, and culture; the negligence of democratic communications and responsibilities; and a grave regression in governing ability, as revealed in the 2014 Sewol Ferry Disaster and the 2015 MERS Outbreak Incident.

 Korean citizens sent a dire warning to the Park Geun-hye regime during the general election in May 2016. Still, the Park regime tried to deal with this situation by applying hackneyed scare tactics, including false pro-North accusations and an overall belligerent policy toward North Korea. By gathering in the public square, lit candles in hand, and passionately staging rallies, a vast number of common citizens fought against the Park regime, which recklessly and outright denied the basic principles of a democratic government.

 During the candlelight rallies, Korean citizens followed three principles: their demands were firm and unwavering, their actions were highly restrained, and their participation was passionate and highly consistent. The candlelight citizenry did not pursue the dissolution and overturning of the current political system, which was the 1987 system; rather, they pressured the government to carry out the institutional process inscribed in that system. This was also the work of establishing a sort of “floating bridge” for the various agents within the system, who had been hesitating in front of a river they had never crossed before-a structure for them to go forward with the strong support of the citizens. Through this process, which can be summarized as “pressure from outside, development and advancement within,” we crossed this river of an impeachment indictment of the president and the passing of the Special Prosecutor Act in the National Assembly, the investigation of the president by a special prosecutor and the Constitutional Court’s impeachment decision, and the first presidential by-election in our republic’s history. This institutional process, which was propelled by the direct actions of citizens and to which they continued to add fuel, drove a wedge within the conservative party, and came to fruition through a power shift within the system, achieved by the election to the presidency of Democratic Party of Korea candidate Moon Jae-in. This might be called the completion of the first stage of the Candlelight Revolution. Now it is time to go forward with the next stage.

 As participants in this revolution, we certainly can exult and feel pride in the achievements of the Candlelight Revolution so far. Looking at all the individual candles, resembling a grand pointillist painting, we might even feel a sublime sense of achievement. However, as a revolution, this new one requires a higher-level of institutionalization of freedom, as well as a firmer foundation created by the liberation of all members of our society from destitution. From this perspective, although the Candlelight Revolution is one of the greatest political accomplishments of the 1987 system, its achievements remain fundamentally on the level of defending this system rather than going beyond it by overcoming its limitations. There are yet tasks to be fulfilled in order for the Candlelight Revolution to deserve the name of “revolution.”

 Four tasks are clearly emerging. First, there is the need to eradicate the deep-seated evils that the majority of Korean people have been demanding. Beyond the abolishment of the undemocratic and corrupt policies that the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye governments pursued, it is necessary to provide restitution and compensation to the people whom these policies wronged and harmed. This task involves dealing with various events, including the Sewol Ferry Disaster, the corrupt and politically biased practices of the Prosecutors’ Office and National Information Agency, the Japan-South Korea Comfort Women Deal, the Deployment of THAAD, and the Four Major Rivers Project.

 Another important task is to resolve the national security crisis, which has grown graver due to the previous governments’ antagonistic policies toward the North, and to actively pursue peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula through the restoration of inter-Korean interchange and collaboration practices.

 Third, we must explore a new economic model. One of the factors that led the citizenry to demand President Park’s impeachment was the corrupt alliance between state power and conglomerates. The Candlelight citizens called for the impeachment of the president and the trial of the CEOs of conglomerates because they wanted Korean society to make a complete break from the Park Chung-hee regime’s economic model. 

 Fourth, in order to accomplish these tasks, we need to firmly maintain and expand a political foundation, as well as a base of support for it, and we need to transform our political institutions and political party system.

 Through the Candlelight Revolution, we have started on the path toward the achievement of these tasks. However, it is not easy to finish the whole course. Some undertakings can be relatively simple and have clear results; but there are many others that require complex and painstaking processes, and whose results are hard to achieve. Given the painful and torturous history of modern Korea, the list of deep-seated evils is long. And the longer the list, the more cautious and wiser we need to be. For example, it is now difficult to return to the engagement policy of the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments in order to ease tensions and establish peace between South and North Korea. We need an Engagement Policy 2.0, that is, a plan and practice of the Korean Commonwealth that will respond appropriately to North Korea’s policy of parallel nuclear and economic development.

 Neither is the break from the Park Chung-hee developmentalist economic model an easy task, for it includes a break not only from a conglomerate-centered economy, but also from a society addicted to development. In other words, it is a task that requires a fundamental reorganization of the way we supply and consume housing, education, and health care. For this, we need to establish an economy that combines social solidarity with small-scale pluralistic reforms and to redefine the economic role of the state accordingly. The task of political reform through the reform of the election system, as well as the reform of the political party system in general, including the formation of a co-governance culture, also requires persistent effort. One of the essential projects will be the banishment of reactionary forces-those forces that hold onto the division system by altering ordinary political competition under common rules so that it turns into domestic warfare-from the field of public discussion to the margins of our political party system. For this task, conservative citizens, who have been held hostage by reactionary political forces for a long time, need to be awakened. Certainly, it is not easy for them to part with their customary practices, particularly when they do not have other alternatives. However, there is some indication that conservative political forces are emerging that are trying to explore possibilities for their survival through a break from reactionary forces.

 What we need to do in the face of these tasks, which are required to elevate the Candlelight Revolution to its next level, is to maintain the three above-mentioned principles observed by the revolution. Of course, now our efforts will not take on as extraordinary a form as during the crisis phase-we will need to find a more ordinary approach. Nevertheless, our orientation should remain consistent and firm. We should maintain an uncompromising attitude toward the solution of the tasks mentioned above; yet we will also have to temper our eagerness to see results, and to continue participating in efforts to reinforce the political foundations for this reform work. This is required even more strongly because of the reform approach of “pressure from outside, development and advancement within,” since it means a break from the past approach, in which citizens simply elected a new government and then made political demands on it. Instead, we will have to methodically carry out reforms that also respect the institutional process, through supporting, criticizing, and leading the path of the newly established government. With the willingness of Candlelight citizens to take on the role of watchmen, who will come out at a moment’s notice, we will be able to accomplish the task of surpassing the 1987 system, which celebrates its 30-year anniversary this year. If this happens, we can declare that the Candlelight Revolution transcended the 1987 system by realizing its utmost democratic potential.

 The current issue features “the significance of feminist perspectives in reading literary works” and tries to analyze several stories and poems. Gender debates have surely been triggered by the last year’s murder case which occurred at a bar restroom near Gangnam Station and the controversy surrounding sexual assaults within the literary world, and yet, regrettably, they have not been expanded enough to cover subtle readings of literary works.

 Baik Ji-yeon, giving a tactful overview of the topology of feminist controversies in recent years, points out the limitations found in some critical responses to misogynic tendencies. These tendencies are framed in terms of victims vs. assailants, when they are both associated, and come into collision with neo-liberal discourse at the same time. Through the balanced analysis of two short stories: Kim Seung-ok’s “The Tour to Mujin” and Kim Aeran’s “The Covering Hand”, she delves into the theme of masculine subjectivity and misogyny, and the symptom of hate in general. Kim Su-i redefines the seemingly negative word “side effect” as a passage to “the other” and “things beyond”, and, by using the term as a keyword, tries to interpret the poems of Choi Seung-ja and Kim Seung-il. Based on this, she argues that the feminist agenda as a “side effect” has never waned in our poetry since 2000, and rather, it has made great progress for “the feminism for everyone”. Cha Mi-ryeong, with the analysis of several authors’ (Sung Suk-je, Park Min-jung, etc) stories, explores the potential of queer as a category to generate changes outside the normative power which has fixed and assigned the gender identities until now. Her discussion demonstrates the depth and width of our queer narratives, and as such, we have high expectations for follow-up discussions on this topic.

 For the last a few months, up until the presidential by-election, we have been through unprecedented, and almost revolutionary changes. As our response to that, we present the project of “The Moon Jae-in Administration and the Turning of an Era”. It inquires about the grave tasks for the new administration to deal with in order to carry out the spirit of the Candlelight Revolution. In the first article of the project, Lee Nam Ju deliberates on the significance implied in the results of the last presidential election, enunciates clearly what the newly inaugurated Moon administration is equipped with for its strength and weakness, and then suggests some points to consider in terms of government operations and political choices. On top of that, he asserts that the voice of common citizens should be persistently input during the political process, and the citizens, in turn, should also follow some basic principles of action. Jun Sung-in underlies the grave economic situation confronting the new administration. The twenty-first century Korea is witnessing an unprecedented stage of population ageing, in which productivity retreats, the poverty problem reemerges, and the conflicts between generations over the distribution of resources are intensifying. To overcome these problems, the author insists on the necessity of technological development, economic growth based on the accumulation of human resources, and the unification between generations. Jung Hyun Gon addresses the way the new administration will cope with the serious situation on the Korean peninsula, which has been aggravated by North Korea’s nuclear development during the two previous governments. He stresses the fact that during the October 4th Talk, the South and North Korean summits agreed to work toward signing a formal peace treaty for the Korean War. The new administration needs to adopt such an audacious position in order to open the road to peace, and start a genuine debate on the significance of Inter-Korean Confederation.

 Dialogue covers the reform of the prosecution, which is, according to the general opinion, the first of the deep-rooted evils to be eradicated. Under the presiding of Park Geun-yong, the commissioner of PSPD (People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy), the following participated in the conversation: Jung Yeon-soon, the president of Minbyun-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Im Soo-bin, lawyer cum the former chief prosecutor of Seoul Prosecutors’ Office, and Seok Jin-hwan, the team leader of judicial officers at The Hankyoreh. Through their extensive dialogue, the readers would feel keenly how enormous the power wielded by prosecutors has been, how serious its convenient exercise has been, and how urgently reform of the prosecution is required through the establishment of an official investigation into corruption of high-ranking officials.

 In the corner of Articles, Kim Tae-woo reconstructs the June Democracy Movement in celebration of its 30th anniversary from the perspective of the Candlelight Revolution. According to him, the June Democracy Movement in 1987 and the Candlelight Revolution, which contributed greatly to the progress of democracy in South Korea, have the following three features in common: ‘truth and courage’, ‘participation and solidarity’, and ‘general election and Constitution’. In this sense, it is important for us to contemplate the essential lessons the Candlelight Revolution, the proper inheritor of the June Democracy Movement, should learn from its predecessor, to be a real system-changing event. The article by Won Tiejun, the Chinese scholar, is based on the discussions on the topic of the 2008 global financial crisis by experts from various fields in China. He allows the readers to increase awareness of the ever-changing situations of China and the world, by delving into the questions relating to major changes in China’s international strategy, including the One Road One Belt Initiative, the internationalization of the Yuan (renminbi), and relations with the US, while also trying to predict its current condition and prospects.

 The essay by Kwon Yeo-sun, the novelist, shows drastic differences between the two contrasting rallies held at Gwanghwamun Square last winter: the Candlelight protests resonated with the language of fraternity and creativity; Taegeukgi (the national flag of Korea) rallies were thrown into a frenzy with aggressive and sordid bawling. She points out the morbidity of the latter might reflect the other side of our society and boldly suggests that wider democracy will be possible when the participants of the rally will be tolerated into the co-existing square.

 Two articles are presented On the Scene: Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul city, contributed the first one, who rendered services to the public at the square and the area surrounding downtown. He proposes that “new citizens” born in the middle of the Candlelight Revolution should transform the democracy witnessed at the square into everyday democracy from now on. The second article is a report by Jung Young-Shin on the rushed deployment of THAAD to Seongju County at a sensitive time when the presidential election is just two weeks away. In this article, the struggle to oppose the installation by local residents is positioned in the context of the movements against military bases in Korean history. It is intriguing to note the process how a political issue on the international level is bound to form a struggling community, and what kinds of dilemmas that community happens to confront.

 The corner of creation also witnesses those changes our society is now making. In the selection of new poems by thirteen poets, including Ahn Do-hyun, readers will surely enjoy the diverse and profound thought of each poem. And those distinctive short stories by Gu Byeong-mo, Kim In-sook, and Jung Yong-joon capture the sharp images of our era, respectively. Also, the second contribution of Kim Keum-hee’s novel deserves our continuous attention. In the corner of the Focus of an Author, Kim Hyun, the poet, has an interview with Park Sang-soon, who published his own collection of poetry after thirteen years. In Literary Focus, Son Taek-su, the poet, Jung Ju-a, the critic, and Yoon Sung-hee, the novelist cum special guest, have a lively and fruitful discussion on recent collections of stories.

 In Literary Criticism, Lee Jeong-jin, the scholar of English literature, delves into the literary world of Thomas Pynchon, an American novelist. Along with the historical background of the 1960s, the main setting of the author’s major works, this essay sheds a new light on some features of his writings, often regarded as ‘post-modern’. Kim Na-Young, critically examining Park Sang-su’s essay printed in the last issue, develops her own views on the “new poetry” of the 2010s, focusing on Park So-ran and Han In-joon. We earnestly hope the issue centering on the division of the decades will be followed by productive discussions afterwards.

 In Book Reviews, nine books selected from diverse fields are discussed by authors at home and abroad, Each review contributed by the experts in their respective field deserves to be read at least once. For Readers’ Voice, Lee Seung-jun, the reporter at the Hankyoreh, and Noh Tae-hoon, the literary critic, have sent their respective reviews on the last issue of our journal. We appreciate their heartfelt evaluation and will keep it for valuable advice on editing work. Lastly, it is regrettable to say that we were not able to select the winner for the 2017 Changbi Award for Novels, even though this year marks the 10th anniversary of the award. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the participants and readers for their attention to the award.

Kim Jong-yup