Seoul, Korea—Hyun Woong LEE
A group of Korean social activists gathered to develop potential policies that can support Hong Kong protesters in response to South Korean government’s passive stance towards the Hong Kong protest issues.
The core members—Hong Kong-Korea Civic Alliance for Democracy (HKKCAD), Lawyers for Democratic Society, Korean House for International Solidarity, and Yongsan Nanum House—organized online seminars to discuss ideal international human rights policies and possible measures to implement them in Korea.
The group said that once a competent foundation of the policy is composed, they will seek for approvals from the civil society and South Korean National Assembly, eventually.
The seminar differs from previous actions as the organizations are trying a more consolidated and organized measures to support Hong Kong protesters.
“I hope to unite the relevant organizations to leverage a greater support for Hong Kong protest and human rights issues,” said Sang-hyun, a participant of the seminar who is also the co-representor of Hong Kong-Korea Civic Alliance for Democracy. “There are various organizations in Korea acting independently. If they unite to support for a single bill, it will receive more attention and be more likely to be legislated.”
Yet, the legislation of human rights bill regarding Hong Kong protest in Korea does not seem easy.
South Korean government has been taking a passive stance kept on Hong Kong issue. It has not announced a specific stand point regarding Hong Kong, only briefly mentioning that “high self-governance of Hong Kong is important under the one country two system,” when Beijing passed the National Security Law.
South Korea also abstained when 27 countries including the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia announced a joint declaration asking for a reconsideration of enacting National Security Law in the 44th United Nations Human Rights Council held last June.
“I believe Korea has its own special ways to support Hong Kong protest,” said Sang-hyun acknowledging the limitations of South Korean government in the international relations. “South Korean government is not powerful enough to introduce policies that directly support Hong Kong, but that is why we can address less aggressive policies with genuine intention of promoting democracy.”
One of such measures is promoting communication among civil societies in different countries including Hong Kong according to Hong Kong-Korea Civic Alliance for Democracy. The organization is also hoping to ease the refugee application procedure in Korea to accept more Hong Kong citizens who wish to leave Hong Kong.
Other civil organizations also think that the South Korean government can do more.
“I think our movements in Korea should not stop in supporting the HK citizens, our goal is to move the Korean government,” said Do-hyung Park, a student activist co-representing The Declaration of Global Citizen in Korea—a non-governmental organization supporting peace and democracy around the world.
“This is an internal problem as well,” said Park. “The South Korean public called for solidarity with Hong Kong protesters, but the government failed to respond.”
Both large- and small-scale protests and campaigns were held in different places in South Korea over the year.
The Hong Kong issue first came to notice last November, when university students, including Park, established the Lennon Walls, which are walls posted with multi-colored post-it notes that became the fixture of Hong Kong protest, at Seoul National University. The movement went viral, and other universities soon participated.
Student movements grew larger as social activists joined Park. On November 23, 2019, about 250 protesters gathered at the Chinese Embassy at Seoul to denounce Beijing’s engagement in Hong Kong protest.
Other small-scale actions such as movie screening sessions, art exhibitions, press conferences, and one-man protest were also held at least once a month to inform the public of events happening in Hong Kong.
Sang-hyun thinks that one of the major driving forces of those passionate Korean activists to support Hong Kong protest is South Korea’s historic experience of pro-democracy movement.
South Korea also went through a long period of political turmoil in the past, and many citizens participated in pro-democracy movements. Mass protests in the 1980s eventually ended the Fifth Republic of the South Korean military government. Most recently, citizens organized peaceful candlelight rallies, calling for the impeachment of the 18th president of South Korea, Geun-hye Park.
Samie, another co-reprsenter of Hong Kong-Korea Civic Alliance for Democracy, hopes that the successful history of South Korean democratization could also become a motivation for Hong Kong protesters.
“Korean protesters in the 60s and 80s must have been doubtful as well,” said. “However, uncertainty did not intimidate them, and they established a democratic South Korean government eventually.”
“There are simply too many variations, so I wish the protesters in Hong Kong will not lose hope just because the current situation seems hopeless,” he added.