Insurgent Counterpublics: An Origin of 2016-2017 South Korean Presidential Impeachment Mobilizations

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Veda Hyunjin KIM, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
This study introduces a meaningful origin of a large-scale mobilization pressuring for the presidential impeachment in 2017 in South Korea. One of the earliest analysis (Nan Kim 2017) on the presidential impeachment mobilization focuses on roles of symbols, which catalyzed building greater solidarity amongst activists and lay-citizens, originating from a shipsink tragedy of Sewol in 2014. In fact, many social movement literatures have profiled episodes based on ‘factors’, failing to provide composite temporal-spatial perspective. I aim to overcome the extant limitation of the scholarship with logic of social sequence, which is a relatively novel network analysis technique, and present not only an episode but also ‘stream’ of contention. I have collected substantive amount of library, interview, and survey data to develop a sequentially emergent network structure taking account of three key actors (i.e., ‘lay-citizens’, liminal counterpublic group, and rank-in-file labor unionists). Indeed, a seed of wide-range solidarity in South Korean civil society had already formed in 2008-2011 and continued to play a key role in the subsequent stream of contention. I approach this history with refined conceptualization of ‘counterpublics’, which is an emergent entity containing multiple identities. A liminal counterpublic group was formed in 2011 when Hope Bus campaigns were organized by activists from various civil society sectors (temporary workers’, peace, environment, LGBTQ, and artistic movements) and this group provided movement infrastructures for ensuing mobilizations even until now in 2017. Furthermore, the notion of solidarity building and artistic tactics expanded through emerging network structure to other entities including Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which had been deemed to be ‘compromising’ to Hegemony ever since the late-1990s. Indeed KCTU turned to play a central role in a large-scale mobilization in 2015 encompassing wide-ranged voices of civil society, and the theme of this campaign repeated in the 2016-2017 presidential impeachment mobilization.