Morality and Legitimacy in the Sewŏl Protest in South Korea
Sarfati discusses three Seoul cases related to protest and commemoration after a recent tragic disaster that demonstrate the centrality of morality and legitimacy to people’s resentment of the perceived immorality of the government. The protests following Sewŏl Ferry’s sinking and the subsequent impeachment illustrate how democratic governance handles public dissent in urban environments. Aware of the legal system’s power, the Sewŏl protesters limited their dissent to legal actions, hoping to change existing laws. They influenced the protest culture and created political changes in the ruling élite. The ethnography shows how the former president failed in a key task of governance, that is, ‘to establish and nurture the connection with citizens’ values, needs and expectations, the strength of which depends upon the observable quality of the link between political responsibility and trust and authority in the exercise of power’ (Introduction: Disconnected Governance and the Crisis of Legitimacy. In: Pardo I, Prato G.B. (ed) Citizenship and the Legitimacy of Governance: Anthropology in the Mediterranean Region, Farnham: Ashgate (now published by Routledge), Pardo and Prato 2011, 1).
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