Two quick things about the very large protest (estimated attendance = 200,000) against Mad Cow Disease-laden beef in Korea today:
- In order to stop the candle-wielding protesters from marching all the way to the Blue House (= presidential residence), the police set up a makeshift Great Wall of Containers on the road. Not only are they hilarious to look at, but also they are another sign that Lee Myong-Bak administration just does not get the idea that every action it does is a communication toward the people. Just imagine what kind of message a big freakin' wall on the way to the Blue House sends to the people.
- Many non-Koreans are quick to dismiss this phenomenon as an irrational mass hysteria. However, the Korean previously wrote that while the protesters may be (regrettably) ill-informed about Mad Cow Disease, the act of protest itself is orderly and rational. Live reports from the scene confirms the Korean. (Article in Korean.)
Especially focus on the news at 9:25 p.m. and 9:55 p.m. At 9:25 p.m., some of the protesters began to build a foam stairs alongside the containers, chanting "Climb over the containers and march to Blue House." However, they were stopped by a larger crowd, who chanted "nonviolence."
At 9:55 p.m., one man was seen trying to burn a blocking police bus by lighting a fire at its fuel tank, but was quickly stopped by the police. Remarkable thing was when the gas leaked out of the bus, protesters yelled "put out the candles" to prevent any fire.
These are examples of why the Korean believes that the protesters are not an unthinking mob. They are, in fact, anything but mindless; for such a large group, they are singularly focused on sending a clear message in a non-violent way.
This, in turn, means that the moment the protest heads towards a different message (broader anti-Americanism, for example,) or turns violent, majority of those people will simply go home. The so-called leaders of the protest actually do not lead anything; rather, it's more appropriate to say they are riding the wave of public opinion. All they can do is maneuver their own direction; they cannot manipulate the direction of the wave.