Performance art meets social protest in South Korea

Fri Oct 21, 2011 10:09am EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - A lone woman, dressed as a silver-colored alien, stood near South Korea's Foreign Ministry on Friday, holding up near life-size styrofoam models of President Lee Myung-bak and other prominent politicians -- each sporting a large tongue.

The protest against alleged backroom deals and secret communications with the United States over a free trade pact is just the latest protest by "One-man", a group staging colorful solo protests along teeming Seoul streets.

"It is another extension of artistic expression. We are trying to create a combination of demonstrations and performances and of course to use the power of the web as much as we can," said Lim Ok-sang, a 61-year old artist who is one of the still tiny group's founders.

Protests are far from unusual in South Korea, a nation where strong workers unions and student movements have staged often violent rallies. At times, protesters have thrown Molotov cocktails and even taken their own lives.

But Lim and his colleagues realized that recent protests had attracted scant attention from the Korean mainstream media and little empathy from bystanders, with both groups jaded by decades of noisy, abusive picketing.

They want to change that -- and it's not just their own causes they'll stand up for.

Anyone who has an issue they want to see taken to the streets, but no time, can call on the one-man protesters to take care of it by leaving their opinions on Twitter or Facebook.

One recent protest featured an artist performing a wobbly handstand to express how hard life would be with a minimum hourly wage of 4,320 won ($3.80). Another, in support of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, featured a man in front of the Seoul stock exchange holding a new U.S. dollar with a hole where George Washington's face should be.   Continued...

<p>A pedestrian (R) looks at artist Yang Eun-joo, 32, holding a solo protest denouncing the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement talks in central Seoul October 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak</p>