Greased Shipping Containers

This entry is part 9 of 14 in the series Beef Protests '08

Why do people keep saying Lee Myung Bak won with a “landslide” or “overwhelming” majority? (Example here, but I’ve seen it time and time again all over the Korexpat blogosphere.) Is Wikipedia’s entry on Lee wrong?

Lee won the presidential election in December 2007 with 48.7% of the vote…


Voter turnout was one of the lowest ever for a presidential election in South Korea.

Or is is a “landslide victory” now less than a majority of an apathetic voter turnout? I mean, even the examples in Canada (for example, which has a consistently multiparty election system) only include cases where overwhelming majorities went to one party.
(Okay, okay, I know, apathetic or not, a landslide is a majority of participating voters, but Lee didn’t even have that, did he?)

I don’t get it. Again, it reminds me of Matt’s comment the other day:

What I don’t understand are people (I’m thinking of Marmot’s Hole commenters) who claim that one of the reasons for these protests is the very unscrupulous reporting by the Korean media (such as PD Diary). They then go on to show how illogical the protesters are by using examples provided by the… Korean media. Is it just me, or does that seem just as illogical as they say the protesters are?

No, Matt, it’s not just you.

By the way, he has another excellent post up today, with amazing images. The man is a powerhouse of research. Look at those images! I can’t help but steal one and put it here, because I love it so. Matt titled the post, “Lee Myung Bak’s ne design for Namdaemun,” which is the gate that was burned down recently and was felt — afterward, at least, to be a symbol of Korean history.


New Namdaemun “Gate”

The remainder of the images (which you can see by clicking through the link on the picture above, or the link just above it) are just as fascinating, but this one speaks volumes to those know that greased, sand-filled shipping containers like these have been used to block the streets and prevent protesters from getting to Cheongwadae, the Korean “Blue House.”


greased shipping containers

That the gate was designed to control access to Hanyang (now Seoul) by citizens and foreigners alike was not lost on whoever designed this Photoshopped image. Lee might not be replacing the national monument with greased shipping containers in literal reality, but his administration has a similar attitude to the views of the common folk as the people who erected the wall around the capital in ages past. Or, that’s my reading of the image.

That, and the fact that it was, after all, due to the way the city was run on Lee’s watch that Namdaemun was so easy to access, and ended up being burnt down, as I argued here.

Mark my words, the image of a greased shipping container is a powerful one. Globalization, economics, and political power all rolled up into one, as the very thing used to block the movement of protesters. This image will be popping up again, and not just in Korea. It’s too pointed and powerful not to get used again, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t chosen for that very purpose.

(I can’t find references to other greased shipping containers used this way previously, by the way. Surprising. Anyone know different?)

UPDATE: And this is worth reading too, about Korea’s Protest 2.0 (or newly “postmodern” protest culture). One of the websites Lime reads raised several thousand dollars overnight a few weeks ago just to feed protesters kimbab (sushi rolls) so they wouldn’t have to leave the scene of the protest. I was blown away. It goes to show you that not everyone who is staying home is a right-wing supporter of Lee, as so many seem to like to imply.

Here’s hoping that people mobilize that way when the next elections come.

Series Navigation<< Why Oh Why Can’t We Have a Non-Schitzophenic Media?Catholics 1, Riot Cops 0 >>

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