Before I start, I’m going to put it out there that I’m 17 years old. I am 17 years old and I live in South Korea. All of these circumstances make it very unnatural for me to go out and protest for my rights.
So the women’s march. I don’t live in America, but that certainly does not mean that I could just watch Trump brazenly exploit our rights and get away with it. And since Korea has been having a huge round of protests regarding our own president’s familial scandal, we didn’t exactly have time to look further out west. However, now that she’s under trial for impeachment, it gave us some time to go out into the streets as millions of other women and men did all over the world, and I went there too.
It was not as big as the crowds in the U.S., I admit, but it was something. About 2000 of us marched the streets of Gangnam shouting for women’s rights.
Now, I did tell my parents where I was going, but I conveniently left out the fact that I was actually going to protest. I knew my mother wouldn’t fancy the idea of me going to such an event had she known. The reason I knew that is because I went to the protest in Gwanghuamun Square when the presidential scandal broke out and I was grounded for about 3 months. (I am technically still grounded, as a matter of fact).
I did sit down and talk to my mother about it and her logic wasn’t unreasonable. It was merely disheartening. She didn’t want me to be politically active in that manner for several reasons.
First, like all parents, she was concerned about my safety. For this reason, I take full responsibility and will say that I was being impulsive and I probably scared my mother, who lived through the Park Jung-hee regime where protestors were practically slaughtered. Despite the fact that times have changed, I understand her point of view. She, as my guardian, has the duty to protect me as long as I’m underage, and therefore I am obliged to follow her guidance.
The second reason was what I disagreed with. She said that the establishment is not going to budge even if you go out into the cold streets in January, braving the freezing winter air. The establishment is sitting in their penthouse suites, sipping sommelier-selected wine from France. It’s not going to change unless the establishment moves and true progressives take place. She told me that she did not vote for the last election and she will not vote in the upcoming election because to her, they are all just the same — greedy, dirty politicians.
I do agree with her that the establishment does not budge very easily ― and this seems to be a universal concept across the world. But I don’t think that means we should just give up. There needs to be some kind of force that holds them accountable, no matter how minuscule it may seem to be.
And also, there seems to be this universal hatred against public figures/institutions in general: politicians are unpopular, the media is untrustworthy, and conglomerate multinational corporations and big banks are thieves. And there is a good amount of truth in that but it seems to me that a lot of people don’t even know what they’re yelling about. Whenever I bring up the subject of government and politics, the instant reaction from people is to cringe. And when I ask them what they think is the major problem in government, they usually round everyone up as corrupt, greedy, bunch of gold-diggers. Although that partially is true, that certainly isn’t the issue in totality. And that kind of hasty generalization feeds the defeatist attitude of citizens in this modern era of democracy and lets people like Trump get away with his brazen cabinet picks, his obvious conflicts of interests, and so much more.
Now, I could go to my mother right now and rant about everything I said, but that would honestly just mean that I would get my internet access taken away and I don’t want to lose my eye into the world.
There has been many talks recently about lowering the voters’ age, increasing teens’ participation in civic duties. Young people are, for the most part, very progressive, and we are increasingly becoming more and more educated. But we are provided with neither the systematic approval nor the societal platform. We ought to think about that deeper.