Accommodating protest

South Korean political parties have been characterised by their extreme fluidity, which involves frequent splits, mergers and name changes.

In the absence of stable political parties with which to communicate political agendas and develop a shared identity, civil society organisations often bypassed the mediation of political parties when it came to promoting new agendas or resisting policies.

On the one hand, this had to do with greater tolerance on the part of the police and favourable court rulings that opened up new marching routes previously unavailable to the protesters — a trend not uncommon during times of revolutionary change.

But it also had much to do with the adept handling of the rallies and marches by the organisers.

Week after week, the coalition successfully mobilised millions of South Koreans on the streets of dozens of cities and channelled their anger into a powerful political message.

Eventually, the candlelight protests pushed reluctant lawmakers to cast their vote to impeach the president in the National Assembly, marking one of the most significant events in South Korea’s political history.

"She might have been polite enough to invite me in," said Halbert, with chagrin.

Its role was focused on providing political space for citizens of all walks of life to come and express their views freely.

The weekly candlelight protests were organised by Emergency Action for Park’s Resignation, a coalition of more than 1500 civic organisations.

In the past, large coalitions were often plagued by fierce infighting among competing political groups.

Students, workers, civic organisations, and even opposition political parties and lawmakers took to the streets in protest of government policies.

Observing the pervasiveness of protest in South Korea in 2008, an Al Jazeera reporter came to the conclusion that ‘protest has become part of [South Korean] culture’.

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