Sunday, May 03, 2009

분위기가 망쳐졌다

Yesterday was supposed to be the Opening Ceremony of the Hi Seoul Spring Festival. When I say 'supposed', I mean it didn't really 'open'.

The Hi Seoul Festival was supposed to start with a street parade from Cheonggyecheon Plaza to Seoul Plaza. However, when I was trying to make my way out from Jonggak Station, the exit to Cheonggyecheon was sealed off completely by fully-armed riot police. I thought it was some routine crowd control for big event. So I made a big detour and head straight for Seoul Plaza instead. As I walked past Cheonggyecheon Plaza, The whole area was surrounded completely by riot police and out-of-bound to public. I was wondering why hold a festival when people are not allowed in. Anyway, I could not see what was going on inside Cheonggyecheon Plaza.

The situation at Seoul Plaza was quite normal. The area around the stage was out-of-bound until 7pm. After that, crowd started to form around the stage as artistes continued with their rehearsal. The actual opening ceremony was supposed to start at 8pm. The artistes in the line-up include Clon, Dyanmic Duo, 2PM, Jewelry S and MC Mong.

Party masks to be given out free to participants of the Hi Seoul Festival Opening Ceremony. Each mask is unique. It looks like they are hand-painted.

Watching artistes doing their rehearsal from a distance away before the public was allowed to go near the stage.

'Clon', the pioneers of 'Korean Wave' doing their rehearsal.

These children could really dance. Future Hallyu stars in the making.

The female MC, Choi Yeo Jin, is Korea's equivalent to Lin Chiling.

These dancers were teaching the crowd the Hi Seoul Festival's dance moves.

White fabrics are laid across the top of Seoul Plaza to act as some sort of screen on which colour lights can be projected. The theme for this year's Spring Festival is "Hope and Sharing".

At about 15 minutes before eight, anti-Lee Myung Bak demonstrators, waving flags and holding placards, started to enter Seoul Plaza. A high-school girl beside me told her friend, "이명박때문에" (Because of Lee Myung Bak). Apparently, the demonstrators' objective was to take over the stage. They forced their way through the crowd that was formed around the stage. Rehearsal was still ongoing then. The demonstrators started to throw eggs and water bottles at the stage performers as they got closer. A guy beside me told his friend in a resigning tone, "우리 나라예요." (This is my country.)

When the demonstrators finally broke through the crowd and took over the stage, the stage lights dimmed. Not long after, we were told that the Opening Ceremony is cancelled and was advised to leave Seoul Plaza immediately. The police head then came over the air to reiterate that for our safety sake, we are required to leave the place immediately. The crowd dispersed quickly. As we were making our way out, a demonstrator shouted, "대한민국 우리 땅이에요. 나가지 마세요." (Korea is our land. Please do not leave.) Once the crowd had more or less dispersed, the riot police started marching in and surrounded the demonstrators in the plaza.

I am not Korean so I shall not comment about their politics. However, one thing I think is not quite right is that the demonstrators should not have thrown eggs and water bottles at those innocent performers. Harming innocent makes them look bad no matter how noble is their cause. At the same time, I feel quite sorry for the organiser who has put in so much effort to prepare for the festival and to promote Seoul as a tourist destination.

Just in case I give the wrong impression, I must stress that I did not feel that my life was endangered at any moment. There is apparent order in the chaos. Seoulites are so used to such demonstration. No one was alarmed and so was I. So much for the opening ceremony that did not open successfully. It was a pity that I didn't get to see MC Mong, but on the other hand, I got a first-hand experience of Korean-style democracy.


  1. hohooh..i was there too.. came to 청계천 and found out some exits in Gwanghamun were closed with the police.. *hix*
    But lucky i went out and found out what happened ㅋㅋ saw the polices blocking the road, running, and i was in the middle hahaa~ then my friend asked us to leave, cos it looks dangerous..
    So we went out of the crowd and saw in the news that the opening was canceled... *fyuh*
    But it was great feeling in the middle of crowd like that kkkk

    original time stamp: 4 May 2009 09:20

  2. i agree. strangely, i feel great standing amidst the demonstrators and hearing the conversation between the koreans. it is definitely different from what i would get in news. it was a good experience indeed ^^

    original time stamp: 5 May 2009 17:54