On the morning of 16 April 2014, as the MV Sewol was traveling its usual route, from Incheon, South Korea to Jeju, South Korea, the ferry capsized, killing 304 of the 476 passengers onboard - most of whom were high school students on a class field trip. As the boat was sinking, Captain Lee Joon-seok and his crew told passengers to stay seated, while they fled the scene and were among the first to be rescued by the Korean Coast Guard.
South Koreans protest against the mishandling of the deaths of two Korean students caused by U.S. Army, 2002-2004
The U.S. Armed Forces had been stationed in South Korea since the end of Korean War in 1954. More than 26,000 soldiers resided in six camps. Heavily dependent on the U.S. military support, the Korean army had an symmetrical relationship with the U.S. The two countries agreed that the U.S. military would assume the Wartime Operational Control (WOC) until 2015. Moreover, the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) validated extraterritorial jurisdiction for the U.S. soldiers stationed in Korea.
The Dong Il Textile was one of the leading Korean companies whose products were exported to foreign countries during 1970s. At the time, the Korean economy was heavily dependent on the profits gained from exportation of low-industrial cheap products (mostly apparel and chemical products). Dong Il was deemed by the people to be one of those exemplary firms in this context, because it succeeded in “efficiently” producing cheap and mass textile products. Such “efficiency” was possible only because it exploited an abundant supply of cheap labor.
In South Korea, President Rhee Syngman of the Liberal Party won the March 1960 election with 88.7% of the votes. This implausible result was the result of election fraud: the day of the election the Liberal Party had stuffed ballots, switched ballots, and removed opposition ballots. On the eve of balloting, the police had also fired upon a group of Democratic Party supporters, killing eight. South Koreans in the city of Masan protested against the fraudulent election.
U.S. officials nonviolently intervene in South Korea to protect leading dissident Kim Dae Jung, 1985
South Korea experienced political turmoil in the decades following the Korean War under the rule of several autocratic leaders who severely limited political freedom in society. As S. Korea was a crucial ally against the expansion of communism, the U.S. government was wary of being openly critical of the corrupt S. Korean government. However, the U.S. no longer could ignore the violation of human rights in South Korea when Kim Dae Jung, a leading pro-democracy dissident, sought U.S. assistance in his return from exile to Korea in 1985.
The massive South Korean nonviolent campaign against the tradition of authoritarian regimes happened only seven years after the notorious Kwangju Massacre of 1980—governmental mass violence that was intended to shut down completely the movements for social justice.
From 1980 to 1983 the government tried to “cleanse” the society of activists, purging or arresting thousands of public officials, politicians, professors, teachers, pastors, journalists, and students. Activists not arrested went quiet or continued their activities in low profile or secretive ways.
When the United States proposed an expansion of its military base in the Pyeongtaek region of South Korea in 2001, it threatened to be the third time that the people of the region were to be displaced from their land. The people who lived in Pyeongtaek, primarily farmers, were first evicted when the Japanese occupied the region in World War II. Then they were forcibly displaced a second time in 1952, when the United States built its military base, Camp Humphreys.