S-Space Graduate School of International Studies (국제대학원) Dept. of International Studies (국제학과) Theses (Master's Degree_국제학과)
촛불집회의 불씨? - 2016년 이화여자대학교 학생 시위의 사례 연구를 중심으로 : Igniting the candlelight demonstrations? - A case study on the Ewha Womans University students protest of 2016
- Tessa Otto
- Erik Mobrand; 안종철
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 대학원
- 학위논문 (석사) -- 서울대학교 대학원 : 국제대학원 국제학과(한국학전공), 2020. 8. Erik Mobrand
- This thesis examines the protests at the Ewha Womans University that took place between July and October 2016 right before the Candlelight demonstrations against the former president Park Geun-hye began. This student movement is not only important because during its conduction the corruption scandal of Choi Sun-sil was exposed through her daughters illegal admission to Ewha Womans University. Rather, this case study tries to overcome the shortcomings of the current research on the Candlelight demonstrations by pointing out the importance of placing them into a broader frame of ongoing social movements. Like one cannot understand the 1980s democratization movement in Korea without taking the 5·18 Kwangju Uprising into consideration, it is an oversimplification to simply take the disposure of Choi Sun-sils tablet as the starting point of the Candlelight movement. It is highly doubtful that solely for the reason of the scandal provided by the tablet, demonstrations could have been conducted for such a longer period of time in such a peaceful manner. Rather, the scandal between Choi and Park was the last bit of fire that was needed to trigger a large-scale movement that was already underway in Korea for quite some time. The incompetence of the Park administration and the problems of the political, social and economic system have already been visible for quite a few times, which sparked controversy among the broad public (e.g. the handling of the Sewol ferry accident in 2014, the blacklist scandal, a controversy concerning historical textbooks, the installation of the THAAD, etc.), and the corruption scandal concerning not only Choi and Park (e.g. in form of illegal funding, but most importantly, the sharing of confidential state documents and the interference of Choi with governmental affairs), but also the illegal entrance of Chois daughter Cheong Yu-ra to the Ewha Womens University, as well as big conglomerates, became the final trigger. Short, only the disclosure of the tablet without the previous issues and concerns raised against the Park government, would not have been enough to spark nation-wide protests. For that reason this thesis took a look specifically at the 86days long demonstrations of Ewha students by look at the protests from a social movement theoretical point of view. Statements of the students, professors, and the president of Ewha Womans University, as well as a wide range of other materials (e.g. pictures, videos, blogs, comments, etc.) have been used to take a look at the main actors, the framing process and the protest culture repertoire. In addition, 5 interviews have been conducted to take the voices of the people directly involved into account.
This research shows that the movement started as a spontaneous protest against LiFE project, which the university authorities aimed to push through without consulting with neither the students nor professors. They simultaneously asked for entering into a dialogue with them, but the university authorities declined and instead called the police. After the former president of Ewha Womans University called the police to bring an end to the sit-in, the goal of the protest changed to bringing around the resignation of the president, which, in the eyes of the students, lost her qualification to further represent their university.
During those 86 days students displayed several new features of a distinct protest culture. From the beginning they emphasized the spontaneity of their protests. Further, it was stressed that they were by no means affiliated with any other actor or institution, nor did they want to pursue any other greater political goal except for solving the problems connected with Ewha Womans University. They also mobilized under the protection of anonymity and formed an alliance of friends/companion, which was managed on a basis of equality and the principle of slow democracy, giving each opinion and voice an equal platform to be heard, if this opinion was coherent with the principle of non-interference from the outside. Although through cutting of any voices that aimed for moving forward to criticize the not only the immediate problems at their university, but also the structural problems of the Korean social, economic and political system, the movement limited itself, this exclusion was necessary to prevent yet another suppression of the protests or risking a distortion of its goals. This fear manifested itself in the safety first principle.
This thesis clearly indicates the change that not only the demonstration experienced, but also the students themselves. While criticizing the non-democratic management of school affairs, as well as the undemocratic and non-sophisticated behavior of school authorities, the student on the other hand, put the democratic principle into practice. Hence, they practiced what they asked the university for: direct democracy, adequate consultation and dialogue with and between different actors and equality.
All these features can be observed more or less in the way the Candlelight demonstrations were conducted. This thesis calls for a broader look at the background these demonstrations took place to understand them properly. It would be misleading to see the Candlelight demonstrations apart from previous smaller social movements, like social movements connected to the 4·19 Sewol Ferry tragedy or the here displayed Ewha Womans University students movement. Therefore this thesis aims to lay the foundation for conducting further research in form of case studies.