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Screen projector protests criticizing Korean President cause stir in LA Koreatown

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A controversy is sparking over protest phrases criticizing South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration that are being projected onto the walls of a high-rise building every night in Los Angeles Koreatown.

On the evening of June 12, an 11-story office building near Vermont Avenue and 6th Street displayed a large screen projector image of the phrases “Kim Keon Hee #Dior bag #bribery #stock price manipulation.” Kim Keon Hee is the first lady of South Korea.

Other messages condemning the Yoon administration, such as “Impeach Yoon Suk Yeol” and “Detain Kim Keon Hee,” have been displayed every day for more than five months.

A projector image is displayed on a building at Vermont Avenue and 6th Street in Los Angeles Koreatown on June 12.

 

After months of it, this has been frowned upon by some. A 70-year-old Koreatown resident, Lucia Jung said, “How would Americans think of South Korea when they see this? I don’t know why they have to do this here, which is so far away from Korea. It’s an international embarrassment. I don’t even know if this is actually authorized.”

The Korea Daily checked and found that the group behind it is a progressive Korean-American organization, LA Candlelight Action.

The organization is headed by Olivia Kim and has about 80 members in Koreatown. It has been campaigning against the current South Korean government and the release of contaminated water from Fukushima, Japan.

LA Candlelight Action is an offshoot of South Korea’s progressive civic organization Candlelight Action. It formalized as an organization with a founding meeting last November.

Rev. Shinhwa Park, one of the group’s leading members, said at the ’88th Candlelight March’ event in South Korea on May 4, “We are shooting projector of Yoon Suk Yeol’s impeachment images at great risk to the walls of buildings in the center of LA.”

“Starting with Olivia Kim’s solo protest on October 25, 2022, in front of the main entrance of the LA Consulate General, she and dozens of others held one hundred protests against Yoon Suk Yeol until last Saturday (April 27),” Park said.

“As an overseas Korean, along with the people of my homeland who have protected the democracy, I will keep the candles burning until the prosecutor’s dictatorship ends,” Park added.

In addition to the beam projector protest, some have complained about the LA Candlelight Action’s protests held every Saturday in front of the LA Consulate General on Wilshire Boulevard.

In April, 86 nearby residents and business owners submitted a petition to the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council (WCKNC), citing public safety concerns at the protest site.

The petition cited that loud speakers and pickets distract drivers, causing car accidents, and protesters come down into bus lanes during protests making it dangerous.

Jeongsoo Hong, a Koreatown resident who often travels to and from the protest site, said, “They are blocking the narrow streets and obstructing the passage for residents. Also, the hanging banners on the street trees without permission are dangerous because they make it difficult for drivers to see the front.”

According to some residents, street fights broke out between protesters and residents on Saturday, June 8, resulting in some protesters being handcuffed by police.

“Residents have complained that the protesters are posing a threat to public safety on Wilshire Boulevard which has a lot of foot traffic,” said WCKNC Community Organization Representative Samuel Suh, adding, “There have also been many comments, whether they are conservatives or progressives, that it is unpleasant to see the president of South Korea being caricatured and portrayed negatively in front of the consulate.”

On the other hand, Kim, the leader of the LA Candlelight Action, told the Korea Daily that she was not aware of any complaints about the protest.

Kim said, “There can be some disturbances when a protest runs into opposing groups, but we’ve been doing well enough that we’ve even received greetings from the police saying, ‘Thank you for holding a peaceful protest.’ Most of the time, 8 or 9 out of 10 people passing by, encouraging us and saying we are doing a good job. The protests will continue until President Yoon is impeached.”

BY SUAH JANG   [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]