Identity As a Variable for Violent Protests - a Case Study of Korean Student Movements in Democratized Korea -

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: 418
Distributed Paper
Yoshiyuki AOKI , The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Literature of collective violence has argued that violent protests decrease in the democratic countries.  However, Korean student movements chose forms of violent action, such as Molotov cocktails, even after the political democratization in 1987. Why did student movements continue to employ violent actions in democratized Korea?

     Existing studies on Korean student movements have pointed out that the influence of North Korean Chuch’e ideology, which is the North Korean state ideology of self-reliance which justifies violent revolution, as the cause. Yet, as ideology is an inflexible notion, ideology oriented studies failed to determine the process in choosing violent actions in protest.  In order to overcome this limitation, this paper applies collective identity, through narratives, symbols, and rituals it manifests, as a variable.

     Identity is viewed as a key variable in social movement studies. However, with the exception of Charles Tilly's work, there is no research that examines the reciprocal relationships between collective violence and identity construction. In his seminal work on collective violence, Tilly argued that the construction of exclusive collective identity severs the inter-movements networks which results in polarization of a group, and finally accounts for the collective violence. This paper applies Tilly’s perspective --identity-polarization nexus-- to explain the choice of violent action forms by Korean student movements.

     This paper conducts discourse analysis in three levels. At the first level, the statements and memoirs of the activists establishing new student organizations will be analyzed to reveal if inclusive/exclusive collective identity accompanies polarization of student movements. And the second level, the statements on violent and non-violent events exercised by these student organizations analyzed will be dissected to confirm if the exclusive identity activates the violent actions. Finally, this paper compares collective identity of student movements under the authoritarian regime and the democratic regime to analyze its historical continuance and distinction.