Sunday, 6 July 2008

Dance the Candlegirl! (Anticlimax. . . or I left too early)

Well, I went, and there were lots of people, but nothing too out of sorts, compared to other days. The counter-protest fizzled (relatively speaking), however, I did spot a few dance troupes (or maybe the same one in two places) out starting what I think will explode into the next dance craze.

Ladies and gentlemen, after an intense editing session, I present to you:

The Candlegirl! Get busy learning those steps: it's gonna be tearing all the clubs in Hongdae a new one in no time!

(Update: For the sake of giving credit where it's due, Scott Burgeson, whom I met at the protest, was the one who had the conversations with the "V For Vendetta" masqueraders, and discovered that they didn't know the meaning of their symbolism.)

Update: ROKDrop (thanks for the link love) has more info about the creators of the candlegirl -- move over, JYP! The activists are breathing down your neck! GIKorea also reports that there were no clashes or violence last night, and a pretty unimpressive turnout, compared to June's protests, so I don't feel bad about leaving at about 12:00.

Thanks also, Zenkimchi, and Seoul Eats for the link love.

Update: There's an interesting discussion going on between Gord Sellar and Scott Burgeson, the long-time expat with whom I walked around the protests, and who talked to the "V for Vendetta" protestors, over the actual and intended meaning of their symbolism, and whether we should give them a break for misunderstanding the real (anarchist) meaning of the "V for Vendetta" symbolism, or hold them to account for running so far with a ball like "V for Vendetta" when they didn't realize it was actually a pineapple. Scott suggests that this pulling of random issues and symbols into the fray, when they don't belong there, is crass and distasteful, while Gord (coming into his own in his new position as the K-Blogosphere's top protester apologist) defends their symbolism, saying that they're transmitting the symbols basically in the same context that they were received. See here and here and the comment board on this post for more.


My name is Joy said...

Great video! Seems like the protest is more like a parade...I think this because it reminds of the parades I would see in San Francisco. However hard it is for me to understand why they are so passionate I am somewhat happy to see people using the public space as a place to express themselves.

I think in some places in the world expressing yourself publicly is a challenge..

Anways I am curious about the guy at the end who had the flags on his back, was he just there to antagonize everyone??


Roboseyo said...

I really don't know who he is, or what he's there for -- maybe somebody else can fill me in? The stuff he was saying sounded more like motivational claptrap than political ranting, but he sure was raising some people's hackles. I've seen him around before, usually close to the epicenter of the protests, and always grandstanding in similar ways -- on June 10th he was right at the side of the storage containers, expounding all kinds of whatever you call it -- on topic, but just barely. The people around that time were just kind of looking at each other, either perplexed or entertained. This older gentleman sure was agitated, though, and he looked pretty distinguished to be so worked up -- I wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to be a member of the national assembly or something. He was going on in a pretty anti-american way, himself. I even heard one of the crowd shout, "yankee go home"

Scott said...

Roboseyo, good video! You cranked it out super fast!

That American twit is "Professor" Tim Birdsong of Hangyang University. The first time I saw him he was lecturing Koreans at a vigil about how they need to pick up their own trash (he goes around with long metal pinchers picking up cigarette butts and whatnot). Then the other day I heard him lecturing another Korean at City Hall about how Koreans need to "devote themselves to the welfare of humanity" or some such shit. I asked him what he thought of 2MB and he said, "He's a great leader." Takes balls to say that in front of 30,000 rapid anti-government fanatics. I then asked him what he thought of the beef issue and he pooh-poohed me, saying, "I'm talking about global consciousness, and all you can talk about is beef?" and walked away.

I see him as a kind of latter-day US missionary -- uninterested in anything else except pushing his own righteous agenda. No wonder he raises some people's hackles. Wrong time and place to be to be trying to convert the benighted natives when they're trying to overthrow the government!

(BTW, I sae Basement Jazz in Sydney in 2000 at Big Day Out and they were great.)

Jerry said...

Hi, I was watching that fella for a spell last night. It was funny. For a while he was holding a trash bag and protesting the amount of trash littered by the protesters. He went on about how it was a reflection of the greater problem of the 'immature mind' (he said that word many times) of most humans. Say what you will, he had balls. He didn't hesitate to chastise the Koreans for smoking at a mad cow demonstration. I believe he also went on to question why they weren't protesting N. Korea (throwing in a couple 'immature minds').
One tough looking ajoshe in a wife-beater (slang word for undershirt for non-native English speakers) was huffing and puffing while watching. His better half was pulling on his hand to just ignore it, but he shrugged her off. Strange vibe. The dude was completely motionless and looked ready to snap. The funny white guy was just going on without any survival instinct kicking in. Eventually the Korean guy threw his cigarette in the white guy's trash bag and grabbed his shirt. The white dude, completely unfazed, went on for a few more seconds and then screamed "don't touch me!" The angry Korean guy yelled "Go home" but was eventually escorted away by a group of well-meaning Koreans.
I got bored after that and went to the nearest convenience store where I waited about 10 minutes in line to buy a beer.

Scott said...

If anyone is interested, here is that retard's Web site:

He's probably a secret member of a cult or some such.

"World Peace Plan - Korea"?

Yeah, good luck with that, buddy!

Roboseyo said...

Scott: glad you liked it. Thanks for the company and the "hey look over here"s that helped me gather info for it.

That Tim guy. . . he was interesting for about as long as the clip I played, and entertaining (in regards to the reaction of the people around him) for a little longer. . . but I agree that he shows surprisingly low survival instincts. . . I wonder how often he's been decked.

His website is. . . more of the same, I guess.

quote from a video on his site:

"The collective mind of Korea, by far, in my opinion, is the most developed collective mind on the planet. It cannot be wasted."

Yeah. Good luck, prof. birdsong. Hope he doesn't piss off the wrong mob, and have his ranting become a swansong instead. (haw haw haw)

gordsellar said...

Wow... that guy is... special. Is that Hanyang he works at? I'm kind of glad I turned a job down there, if it meant working with him. (No offense to other sane Hanyangers.) I have to wonder if it wasn't him who was the mad commenter traipsing around the Korean blogosphere commenting, "Korea, put the trash in the trashbin!" or whatever that was. Brrrr.

I'm not so surprised that the protesters didn't know so much about V for Vendetta -- having done a weeks-long analysis of the graphic novel and movie with one of my classes (a Pop Culture class, I think it was), I discovered that most of them, even after seeing the movie, didn't have the foggiest clue he was an "anarchist."

They'd mentally slotted him into a kind of "anti-dictator" category, and thus into the "good guy" side of things, and that was as far as it went for the film. When we looked closely at the graphic novel, which has a lot more criticism of the thorough corruption that exists throughout V's society (oppressor and oppressed being often roles played by the same people), and looked more at the texts and other stuff that are, in the graphic novel, explicitly (bang you over the head with it explicitly) referenced, and which a reasonably aware Westerner would get right away, they started to get it, but then they were confused, because "anarchists are bad" and V was, er, mostly not bad.

So the cultural reception of V here seems to have been more as an anti-dictator vigilante superhero, and not so much as an anarchist... which is understandable, given the way a lot of the explicit references to anarchism are stripped from the film.

(And as far as I can find online, there's no translation of the graphic novel available in Korean. Maybe some of those who're so critical should work on a translation, if they want people to know the whole story of V?)

This is, by the way, rather par for the course in terms of the Korean reception of foreign pop culture tropes, but especially in genre (sf/fantasy) films. Most Koreans I know, even those who've read The Lord of the Rings, think of the elves primarily as cuties, not as tragic figures fleeing Middle Earth. They think of the dwarves as gruff and hilarious cutie-pies, too, not as vaguely inhuman greedy nuts who're on the edge of extincting themselves, but good to have on your side in a battle. And so it goes...

So anyway, whatever else we may wish to pick on, I don't know quite how fair it is to criticize people for using a symbol in the sense they (understandably) received it in from the film version, which is the only version realistically available to most of them. (Unless there is a Korean translation of the graphic novel, but as I say, I haven't found one yet. And I'm not surprised, given the political content.)

And by the way, I'm thinking seriously about this because I'm writing precisely about this in an article that's due... uh... oh my. At the end of the week!

Roboseyo said...

Yeah, Gord, maybe I was being a little hard on them . . . maybe the Anarchy sign that was inverted on their flag doesn't have enough cultural presence here to be known, and their intentions were not violent or anarchist -- it was certainly a very dramatic sight to see them filing through the crowd. . . but it was kind of hard to miss the whole blowing up of the parliament buildings thing at the end of the movie V for Vendetta, as well as the pervasive use of violence to express one's political view, so I'm not going to let them off the hook entirely, either. (Been a while since I read the graphic novel. . . may have to get it back from my buddy and go through it again now.)

Scott said...

I have seen the anarchy sign often in Korea, including at some demos years ago. And if you search "무정부주의 + V" you get hundred of hits in Korean:

They mention the word anarchism and V in reviews in Cine 21, the leading film mag here, in Yonhap News, in heaps of newspapers, blogs, etc. I remember when the film came out, the reviews in English also made prominent mention of the anarchism theme.

Gord, you are essentially excusing ethnocentric misappropriations of foreign culture here in Korea. I have a right to call them on their BS, just as they have a right to do to me if I grossly ignore the codes and context of Korean culture. I think you are essentially being patronizing, in fact, by excusing such behavior.

If they are too lazy to read a few reviews of an important movie for their "movement," and think that going to a massive anti-government demonstration is cosplay and means nothing, then screw them! They are retards!

kimbonya said...

> to Scott

I think protesting to an ill-government has more in common with anarchism than you may say they're retards.

The words 무정부주의자 is often used in Korean old novels which depict heroic resistance against Japanese rule.

To Korean young protesters, 2MB has something to do with Japanese, dictator, compulsory government, corruption, Bush and etc.

Your comments are understandable only you're mad because they use a symbol that approve violence.

If it's not..I'm wasting my time.

Scott said...

Kimbonya, when I first saw their inverted anarchy signed I was happy and excited, then deflated when I found out that they were just doing radical-chic cosplay. I don't think anarchism is bad at all!

gordsellar said...


The words 무정부주의자 is often used in Korean old novels which depict heroic resistance against Japanese rule.

I'm curious whether you know if was it a term that was transliterated from whatever the Japanese were calling anti-authority resisters and so on? "Anarchists" had a bad reputation in Europe similar to what you describe, and maybe the term got imported, along with its popularized nuance.

The discussion with Scott continued (among other places) over here, if you're curious: