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Korean celebrities speak out against President Park 

Entertainers, both politically left-leaning and otherwise, call for Park’s resignation, to enthusiastic support from public

Korean celebrities are actively joining in the protest against President Park Geun-hye, who is currently embroiled in a scandal for allegedly leaking state documents and funneling funds from businesses.

Some have taken to the streets to attend mass rallies, while others are voicing their support on social media.

Among these are entertainers who have long been outspoken against the conservative administration. But stars who have previously remained politically neutral -- such as actress Kim Yoo-jung, former K-pop group Kara member Han Seung-yeon and singer-actor Lee Joon -- have also begun speaking up.

The fifth anti-Park rally on Saturday saw a host of celebrities protesting at Gwanghwamun Square in Central Seoul.

Singer Yang Hee-eun sings “Morning Dew” at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza at the fifth rally against President Park Geun-hye on Saturday, Nov. 26. (Yonhap)
Singer Yang Hee-eun sings “Morning Dew” at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza at the fifth rally against President Park Geun-hye on Saturday, Nov. 26. (Yonhap)

Singer Yang Hee-eun, considered an icon of Korean folk music, participated from 8 p.m. and sang her hit songs, including “Morning Dew” and “Evergreen Tree” to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, who sang along with her.

The legendary 64-year-old songstress has a history of friction with the authorities. “Morning Dew,” a track on her 1971 debut album, was banned without specific cause in 1975 by the government at the time, led by President Park Jung-hee, the incumbent president’s father. Speculations suggested that the song’s lyrics, which describe a newly rising sun over a graveyard, could be interpreted as symbolizing a new era of leadership.

Since then, “Morning Dew” has become an anthem symbolic of resistance. Korean singers have reportedly been threatened in the past for publicly performing the song. 

Actor Cha In-pyo was also spotted in Gwanghwamun Saturday.

“The people have united and are voicing one opinion (the resignation of President Park). But it’s frustrating that nothing is changing. One thing that’s for sure is that the abnormal cannot overcome what’s normal. Abnormal incidents have taken over, but we cannot let them destroy our lives,” he told Yonhap News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Famously outspoken liberal comedian Kim Je-dong, who has been actively attending the Gwanghwamun rallies, was spotted in Daegu, President Park’s hometown, on Saturday.

Kim called for Park’s criminal prosecution in front of some 30,000 protesters in the city’s downtown Jungang-ro.

“The Korean constitution states that the president is immune to criminal prosecution except in cases of rebellion or treason,” he said. Kim argued that Park’s leaking of confidential state information to her unauthorized confidante Choi Soon-sil is tantamount to the stipulated crimes. 

Singer Yang Hee-eun sings “Morning Dew” at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza at the fifth rally against President Park Geun-hye on Saturday, Nov. 26. (Yonhap)
Singer Yang Hee-eun sings “Morning Dew” at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Plaza at the fifth rally against President Park Geun-hye on Saturday, Nov. 26. (Yonhap)

The 42-year-old comedian was formerly one of the country’s most sought-after TV hosts, receiving the top prize at the KBS Entertainment Awards in 2006. His onscreen career has seen a sharp decline since then, which various anonymous media personnel suggest is the result of political censorship for his left-leaning views, though producers and broadcasting networks subsequently denied the accusations.

Kim is now in his sixth year of giving onstage “talk concerts,” where he chats live with the audience on issues ranging from personal relationships and life goals to politics. 

Other celebrities who have been spotted at past weekend rallies include rockers Lee Seung-hwan and Jeon In-kwon, comedienne Kim Mi-hwa and actor couple Lee Ki-woo and Lee Chung-ah.

Online, news anchor Son Min-ah, singer Solbi and actress Kim Kyu-ri, rapper Cheetah, writer Heo Ji-woong, actors Yoo Ah-in and Shin Hyun-joon, actresses Nam Bo-rah and Kim Hyo-jin, singer Kim Dong-wan and many more also supported the movement via social media.

Last week, actor Jung Woo-sung yelled “Park Geun-hye, come forward!” at a meeting with fans, parodying a line from his recent movie, “Asura: The City of Madness,” a thriller about corrupt governmental powers.

Public sentiment seems supportive of the vocal entertainers. “We appreciate your courage and hope you do not receive any disadvantages for your convictions,” read one comment on actor Yoo Ah-in’s Instagram post, which depicted American activist Nina Simone saying, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

Other comments read, “Thank you for using your influence to contribute to a better world.”

Some commenters even chastised celebrities who uploaded photos of parties or gatherings -- including K-pop group Big Bang’s Seungri, who posted a photo of a home party with fellow YG Entertainment stars -- on Nov. 11. “Now is not a time for partying,” a comment said.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)





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