Citizen Politics in Digital Ages: Focusing on the Candlelight Rallies in 2016-17 South Korea

Panel Code

In the winter of 2016-17, South Korea and the World observed a series of events that had never been before. After the news that a close friend of the president Park had intervened in a number of political decisions and taken advantages of it while having no official position in government was aired, South Korean citizens started to pour into the streets and demand the resignation of the president in every weekend nights, with a candlelight in hands. The weekly demonstrations lasted all winter and more than millions of people participated in them, but no serious violence took place, although there was no national headquarters that leaded the demonstrations. Most of the citizens participated voluntarily with the help of advanced information technologies such as SNS and the Internet. Finally, the Korean National Assembly, overwhelmed by the demand of the millions of people, passed the motion of the impeachment of the president and the Constitutional Court upheld the decision with unanimity.
We propose a panel that studies this series of events in Korea and their implications on modern representative democracy. It has been argued that the ties between the civil society and the national politics are getting weakened and that the citizens are difficult to organize themselves and put pressure to the political elites because of their collective action problem. We believe that the Korean case suggests that it may not be the case. We believe that the Korean case can give new insights and suggest potential for the citizen politics in digital ages. That is, advanced information technology can help citizens to overcome their collective action problem and revitalize citizen politics in modern representative democracy. “How were the series of events unfolded?” “What motivated the citizens to participate in the protests?” “How did the citizens overcome the collective action problem and succeed in organizing themselves?” “What role did the advanced information technology play in the process?” “How can we make a balance between the revitalized civil society and the established political elites?” These are the key questions that will be discussed by the four papers in our proposed panel.