The Olympic torch arrived in Seoul April, 27. As Seoul is home to one-fourth of the national population and underwent countless historical mass-scale public protests for decades, the South Korean government dispatched some 8000 police force, more than twice the 3000-men force in Nagano, Japan. However this proved inefficient to contain the disturbance and violence; ironically provoked not by anti-Olympic protesters but pro-Olympic pro-Chinese protesters.

Smiling pro-Chinese protesters carry a banner in Korean saying, [Tibet is Forever Chinese Land!]

Estimated 6000 to 10000 pro-Chinese protesters gathered to celebrate the Beijing Olympics and protest against human rights activists protesting against China.

Around 300 or so activists from various human rights groups (on left) are vastly outnumbered by pro-Chinese protesters(right). They had to be protected by the police.

Angered by the “No human rights, no Olympics” slogan, the pro-China protesters made a rush and broke down the police line.

Either 8000 was not enough to contain a 6000-strong angry mob, or the police was probably ordered to avoid aggressive control (which the Korean riot police is traditionally infamous for, and only recently begun to subdue) in light of the Olympic ceremony. The Korean government is usually able to mobilize some 10000-20000 men to control public protests and riots, which it did several days ago to contain protesters against the FTA.

Human rights activist Dr. Norbert Vullertsen is confronted by pro-Chinese protestors. North Korean human rights activists made up a large portion of the anti-China protesters, as China is criticized for sending North Korean refugees back to North Korea, where they will be executed for certain.

A Canadian spectator is surrounded by pro-China protestors for wearing a “Free Tibet” t-shirt. He was one of five Canadians and American onlookers wearing a “Free Tibet” t-shirt, surrounded and pushed onto the Deoksu Palace walls, and beaten until police interfered.

A Tibetan protester is beaten by pro-Chinese protestors.

Seoul citizen Park Cheol-hoon is kicked and beaten by three young pro-Chinese protesters. He claims the beating continued for 30 minutes and his injuries require a two-week physical treatment therapy for full recovery. Park is currently seeking out the assailants via the web.

A pro-China protester aims to throw.

Korean reporter Hong In-gi bleeds from a square bar thrown from the pro-China side.

Korean protestors show the objects thrown from the pro-China side.

More thrown objects.

 

Feeling threatened by the pro-Chinese protestors, anti-China protestors ran inside the  Plaza Hotel for safety. The pro-Chinese protestors followed in, rushed a Tibetan to a corner and beat him, and also the police officers trying to shield him.

See the video here.

The Chinese Embassy obviously sees that the (300 or so) Korean protesters provoked the (6000 and more) Chinese, who righteously retailiated in self-defence. Anybody send them a calculator?

One South Korean Egloos blogger once wrote that she simply cannot comprehend the fact that contemporary Chinese staunchly believe and stand by their government when it comes to Tibet-even in this time of highly advanced  information technology. “Yes, I know the Korean government, too,  enforced the same type of control and propaganda over the people decades ago. But the Chinese have no right to make excuses. They can go abroad, they’re not like us back then.” Was her claim. In other words, exposure to outside perspectives and media (whether through the internet or going overseas) should be enough to “correct” an individual’s political standpoint. If she allowed non-Egloos bloggers to comment or if I wasn’t interested in preserving our mutual friendship I would have  replied, “Sorry, but I can’t agree with that. (and, hey, even the internet is censored in China.)” I am not trying to downplay the effects informational and personal exposure/contact with different perspectives can have; in fact, my years in Canada have affected me in terms of how I came to view human rights and social justice. I would have acquired a different viewpoint if I’d stayed in South Korea. At the same time, the experience is precisely why I understand changing ideas and thoughts, or trying to defy a concept or myth long imprinted in one’s mind is extremely difficult and occasionally painful-which is why people aren’t easily subject to change. Especially if the issue is a highly politicized one.

Before discussing overseas Chinese and Tibet, let me introduce a family account. This involves my parents, who temporarily resided in Illinois in the early 90s.  Once, they went to a screening held by one of the local Korean communities, a club based on the Jeolla province. Mother recalls being surprised that not only Koreans, but also some American professors and students showed up as well. The film was a documentary about the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement in Jeolla province,  showing graphic footage of civilians brutally beaten, arrested, and gunned down by the army and explaining how the government manipulated the Korean people from learning the truth. The incident was covered up by the then-military regime and distorted as a Communist rebellion by the media. This “myth” was so successful that many people, even now, believe the uprising was a Communist conspiracy and is one of the basis of deep inter-regional hatred and prejudice yet pervasive in South Korea.  Now after the screening, every Korean at the screening was completely taken aback by shock, shame, and to mask it, anger. As foreign students or immigrants they are always aware of their minority status, are socially vulnerable or feel victimized, and when attacked, are incliend to react aggresively as means of defense. Even a well-to-do, healthy, heterosexual white male might feel uneasy when a non-Western country he resides constantly depicts white men as criminals. Added to the aggressive protectionism is of course the political factor; how would you feel, if you’re suddenly told your country (or maybe somebody or some organization you dearly love, respect, or follow) did something extremely evil, like slaughtering people and doing everything to cover it up? And I mean totally out of the blue; you’re only informed of it now. I think most people will shut it out, deny it, declare the informer a liar or traitor, no matter the amount of solid evidence. The same thing happened when survivors of the Holocaust first came out with their accounts; the truth was just too terrifying to handle so many tried to deny it ever happened. Denial is an extremely powerful defence mechanism, and combined with effective political propaganda or lack of political interest can produce social unity and shared consciousness functioning upon a common social myth, and havily fueled by hatred. The point is that overseas Chinese are not so different from overseas Koreans in that Illinois screening room.

Of course, this does not mean that the truth will be forever buried; now everybody (sane enough) acknowledges the Holocaust, and the victims of sexual slavery in the Pacific War (known as the euphemism “comfort women”)  are finally gaining recognition. Last week 29 dissidents in China spoke out against the government’s propaganda campaign. Small yet significant movements as such can shape an environment where individuals are less afraid to consider alternative or conflicting perspectives. That’s where the possibility of change begins.