Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Addiction to chaos

While it's been almost a month since I last updated this blog, the street protests against U.S. beef haven't stopped yet. Actually, they seem far from being over. The rallies are still being held every night into the dawn, with an increasingly diverse spectrum of people joining in.

I believe people's freedom to express their opinions is sacred and should be respected. I know how depressing a society can become when such rights are denied - I guess a prime example is Singapore, which pretty much prohibits any kind of public demonstrations. But watching the protests here, I can't help but feel something's wrong.

This week, a group of labor unions, led by those representing Korea's flagship carmaker Hyundai, announced that they'll go on a strike, and oddly, their demands include the withrawal of the beef agreement with the U.S. The labor union of Hyundai goes on a strike almost every year any way, and it seems like they just conveniently took on the beef issue this year, because that's what everyone's talking about these days - so much so that even a Catholic group took to the street.

In the beginning, the protests were prompted by genuine concerns about health, but it's quite hard to understand what's keeping the protesters on the street now. The president has appologized publicly twice, and the government managed to deliver what people wanted through additional negotiotions with the U.S. I thought that would've been enough to calm people down, but apparently it wasn't. Ironically, the first shipment of U.S. beef that went on sale this week sold out in less than a day, according to the media.

Maybe people just don't like the president any more - the same guy they voted for just months ago - like in a bad marriage. The Wall Street Journal did a story on this, saying the root of the protests is disappointment in the president, although they started because of U.S. beef. I'm not a big fan of the president myself , and I wouldn't have voted for him, but it seems a bit too soon to judge him now, especially given how people elected him with such overwhelming support.

To me, it seems more like people came to know what it tastes like to get what they want by demanding it, and they are getting addicted to the taste, not knowing when enough is enough. After all, the current protests have long lost their legitimacy, by allowing irrelevant self-interests to get in the way.