South Korea's candlelight rallies stir discussions about democracy amongst North Koreans

Choi Song Min  |  2016-12-17 14:03
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The North Korean authorities have been highlighting allegations of corruption in the South Korean government following the news of President Park Geun Hye's impeachment, as well as the candlelight protests that have played a major role in bringing it about. North Korean residents are, however, instead using the reports as a rare opportunity to learn about democracy in action.

"Subscriptions to the Rodong Sinmun have increased with the fifth page reporting on 'Recent news in South Korea' becoming the most popular. People are learning about the true meaning of democracy through the large-scale demonstrations held in central Seoul, a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on December 14.

"Ordinary citizens are more interested in the fact that hundreds of thousands of people can join a mass rally, which is even permitted near Cheongwadae (the South Korean presidential residence), than the actual reason for the rallies. They are also surprised that no one has been arrested, even though the rallies have been going on for more than two months," he added, noting the total lack of freedom of assembly in North Korea that would make such a notion inconceivable.

Many people are having meaningful discussions over the totally different political systems of the two Koreas.

As such, continuous reports on South Korea are accelerating the spread of news somewhat different to that intended by the regime. According to the source, an increasing number of residents are marveling at the ability of ordinary citizens to drive the impeachment of a leader accused of wrongdoing, and the freedom of assembly and expression. 

In addition, elderly citizens are said to be comparing South Korea's current protests with those held in the past.

"Elderly citizens who remember South Koreas mass demonstrations in the 80s can recall how protesters were violently suppressed for their resistance, being beaten with clubs and attacked with tear gas. Now, however, adults and children alike are joining the peaceful protests. Unlike us (North Koreans), they are progressive," a source in South Pyongan Province source noted.

The news about South Korea being reported on by the North Korean authorities may even be having a more powerful effect on changing people's perceptions than the foreign movies and TV series that are secretly smuggled into the country. Because the authorities are directly providing the news, people are able to openly discuss it, with a growing number of people reportedly asking questions about freedom and the rights of the individual.

"People used to hide their thoughts, but recently, some are voicing demands for civil rights in regards to the notorious state security agents who have been acting tyrannically," the South Pyongan-based source said.

"Recently at Pyongsong Market, some vendors protested against a market Ministry of People's Security official, asking him why he thought he was the only human among them, and why he doesnt follow the law. It first started with a single individual, who was quickly joined by other fellow merchants in the market, who began hurling abuse at the officer together."

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

 
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