Tonight in Seoul there will be yet another protest against the importation of US beef. Lately it has been with more of a twist. The protesters are now generally protesting the general difficulties of life in Korea. Extremely high food and product prices due to tariffs and trade restrictions (ironic), insane oil prices, "world's best" high housing prices, lack of jobs, and low salaries with few benefits for those lucky enough to get a job. They are protesting a government that they feel is out of touch, a government that they feel is by the rich, for the rich. They are disappointed that this government hasn't brought a change, even though it has been in power only two months.
A few weeks ago I was talking to my co-teacher about how quickly Korea was changing. On almost every front change is happening at a pace that doesn't leave time for much reflection. This is on top of the aforementioned difficulties of living here. In talking to her, I postulated that youth protests, similar to those in France, US, and Latin America in 1968 might soon be occurring here in Korea. I didn't see it happening in the next few weeks.
At first I derided the beef protesters as morons who were letting xenophobia, emotionalism, ignorance trample over science, reason, and rationality. This was confirmed by talking to other Koreans who agreed that the protesters had a few legitimate points, but their methods were akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.
Then I had a realization. They aren't only protesting beef. They are protesting the establishment. So forty years after the social revolutions in the west, it seems that Korea is having one of its own.
Add to the fact that June 10th is the anniversary of protests that led to the first directly elected president in Korea and you've got yourself a stew going. I just hope it doesn't boil over.