Candle-lit vigil in central London

It is the weekend when Korean culture is on display in Central London: today sees the Dano Korea Summer Festival, with traditional dancing, food, fan-making and more contemporary music in Trafalgar Square. Last night another traditional Korean activity was on show – the street protest.

Candle-lit vigil design

An estimated 250 Koreans gathered in Whitehall opposite Downing Street to protest about the President Lee’s beef deal with the US. There were speeches and communal signing. Korean TV and press were there. And, in a nod to the 72-hour candle-lit protest in the streets of Seoul earlier this month, the protestors held up paper candles.

There was an ominous moment when three policemen armed with automatic weapons approached the protestors from behind – but they were just off across the road to relieve their colleagues guarding the entrance to the Prime Minister’s street on the other side of Whitehall. The demonstration had been well-organised, and the Metropolitan police were keeping a good-natured eye on them. It didn’t look like there was likely to be much trouble.

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While the London rally focused on mad cows as the message, one placard being held up protested about President Lee’s grand canal project. Press packs were being handed out, which noted that there were many complex issues behind the Seoul protests, with beef imports only one of them. The packs also helpfully articulated the demonstration’s messages (I quote):

  1. Stop or nullify the 30 month old (and older) US beef imports and any parts that include Specified Risk Material to S Korea
  2. Stop the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations by armed police forces right now
  3. Stop the arrogant one-way type of policy making without the slightest consideration of public concerns

Notice boards showed pictures of the Seoul protests, including some of injured protestors and others of the demonstrators handing the police drinks and snacks.

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