As I am looking through the major news sites of South Korea, the only headlines I can see say, “Lee hails strong alliance with U.S.” or “Samsung gains upper hand in patent violation suit.” The two most important stories of the weekend are technology and free trade agreements with the western world. Why is it that only The Korean Herald could manage to include a story (let alone make it one of the top stories) about the now global movement of Occupy Wall Street? The site offered brief information about the worldwide protests, mostly focusing on Rome, Italy where events turned violent. As for Seoul, the information was minimal and I had to search elsewhere for more details.
On Global Voices, it said that upwards of 300 people gathered in front of the Financial Supervisory Service on Yeoido, the city’s financial center in the pouring rain and cold with signs that read: “Tax the Rich 1%, Welfare for the 99%.”
My question still remains, why is this not national news in Korea? It is all over the Twitterverse though, a comforting and slightly reassuring thought. But when really looking through the Tweets, the ones in Korea stressed the peacefulness of the protests, not so much why they were protesting in the first place.
According to the OECD Employment Outlook, the income safety net for South Korean workers is relatively limited compared to other OECD countries because of the shorter period that job losers can receive unemployment insurance benefits and “the fact that around 35 percent of employees are not registered for unemployment insurance.” The report also stated that unskilled workers and youth are still the most negatively affected groups. While this is true for most OECD countries, it is especially bad in South Korea where even before the crisis, “the employment rate for youth – especially less-educated youth – had been declining and was substantially below the OECD average.”
So when the Koreans (or the Italians or the Germans or the Puerto Ricans or the…) organize and strategize protests through Facebook and Twitter in order to demonstrate their own #OccupySeoul, maybe we should all think again about why they are doing so, instead of assuming its to follow a trend.