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 Korean activists win rights in Seoul for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students, 2011-2012
South Korea was one of the countries to vote in favor of Resolution 17/19 on “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,” which was adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2011. Yet, on a local level, there was still much controversy when the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education drafted a students’ human rights ordinance on 7 September 2011. The ordinance contained articles that specifically addressed the right of LGBT students to not be discriminated against.
Since the Jung Hee Park regime seized power in South Korea through a military coup in 1962, the government’s economic policy had grown more pro-market and anti-union. Because of its large economic success (in terms of large economic measures like GDP) the public sentiment toward his economic policy was supportive enough to sustain it. Many people adhered to Park’s political narrative of a “growth-first ideology” at the cost of sacrificing labor rights.
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.
struggle waged by the KTX Crew Workers’ Branch Union signifies the longest
workers’ rights campaign mobilized by women throughout Korean history. For over
500 days, participants implemented a variety of nonviolent tactics, including
public rallies, marches, sit-ins, tent protests, building occupation, hunger
strikes, classroom lectures, and community outreach efforts.
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.
In 2003, the government of South Korea announced a ban on beef imported from the United States. Prior to the ban, South Korea had been the third largest purchaser of U.S. beef product. The decision to ban the product came after an animal in Washington was discovered to suffer from mad-cow disease. All together, more than fifty countries decided to ban U.S. beef imports after the incident, and consequently, the value of U.S. beef exports declined by $2.4 billion dollars over a three-year period.
In 2007, three South Korean hostages of the Taliban launched a 10-day long hunger strike. Their goal was to unite all 19 of the South Korean hostages in one designated place, as opposed to being detained in different locations. The Taliban, meanwhile, demanded that South Korean forces remove themselves from Afghanistan and also that the Afghani government release all Taliban prisoners.
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.