How not to retire: South Korean ex-president bedevilled by protests

THE YOUTUBE EFFECT

South Korea’s two major parties have long differed on North Korea policy, with Moon’s Democratic Party supporting engagement, and the ruling People Power Party favouring a harder line.

But, as is the case around the world, the internet has transformed what was once staid policy difference into a misinformation-fuelled debate for many South Koreans.

“This is the Post-truth era, in which social media strengthens confirmation bias by letting people see only what they want to see,” Ryu Woong-jae, a media communications professor at Hanyang University, told AFP.

Protester Choi said he gets all his news from YouTube channels, with donations from his online followers bringing in about 200,000 won (US$150) a month, which helps fund his protests.

Another demonstrator, Ryu Guk-hyun, who has been livestreaming his protests outside Moon’s house for months, said his viewers have even brought him food.

“I was so thankful that I had tears in eyes. They encouraged me to keep it up so I have to do this one-man protest in earnest,” Ryu, who is unemployed, told AFP.

There have been short-term protests outside some South Korean politicians’ residences in the past.

What sets the Moon protests apart is their “sustainability thanks to the profitable business model from YouTube,” said Cho Ki-suk, a political science professor at Ewha University.

“The months-long protest has now become a means to make a living for those camping out,” Cho added.

There are also extreme left-wing YouTube channels that have recently been accused of harassing the wife of President Yoon Suk-yeol as well as the country’s sitting justice minister.

“President Yoon will someday retire too. There should be a legal measure to ban such rallies for his sake,” Cho added.

“KIND OF PRISON”

The constant protests have taken a toll on Moon’s neighbours, who have pleaded with authorities to rein them in.

The protests used to be on a narrow intersection within 100 metres of Moon’s residence, but after one demonstrator was arrested in June after purportedly threatening Moon and his wife, authorities ordered them to stay 300 metres away from his house.

“I do feel sorry for the residents here,” said one female protester surnamed Suh, 59, speaking to AFP in between shouting: “Expel Moon to the North!”

But she said the only way her protest would end would be if Moon was deported. “He doesn’t deserve to live in this country,” she said.

One of Moon’s neighbours, Seo Hea-young, 65, said the former president could not even go outside.

“If I were boxed in like him, I would have gone mad,” she said. “He’s not in jail, but he’s effectively living in a kind of prison.”

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