Monday, August 25, 2008

I Must! I Must! So I Can Read Photo Captions!

Here's one of those pictures that reminds me I need to work on my Korean. In the center is former Korean President Noh Mu Hyun; just to the right of him in the picture is the brilliant director Lee Chang Dong, one of my favorite filmmakers and one of the best in the world today. (I strongly recommend his harrowing second film, Peppermint Candy, though all of them are worth seeing.) Lee served as Minister of Culture during Noh's term of office, which goes some way to explain why he's there. But beyond that I'm lost, though I'm proud of myself for recognizing Lee in the picture even before I spelled out the caption.

It looks like the administration of current President Lee Myung Bak is continuing to try to intimidate dissenters. It's an advantage governments have over movements for social justice -- they don't have to work in plain sight. Whatever can be said against the candlelight vigils of the past summer, they had no real secrets. That may be why Lee and his supporters had to invent paranoid fantasies about North Korean funding and such. Regardless, Lee could retaliate by picking off his opponents when they didn't have the safety of numbers, by having them arrested and otherwise harassed one by one. The protests took place where they could be seen; the arrests, the trials, will happen with much less publicity. One flaw of the protests would seem to be that they didn't anticipate such tactics, or at least didn't plan how to respond to them.

Meanwhile, Lee's approval ratings have gone up slightly, probably in large part as a result of South Korea's strong showing at Beijing. Whether this rise will survive little problems like the declining currency, Koreans' discontent with law enforcement, and other worries about the economy, will have to be seen.