Occupy Wall Street, the four-week-old protest movement against the excesses of corporate America, has now taken root 7,000 miles away in Seoul, South Korea.
According to reports, a group of Korean activists, in tandem with about thirty civic groups, plan to demonstrate in the streets of Seoul this weekend to protest against the wealth gap in the country.
“Angry Americans are occupying Wall Street, the origin of the world’s financial capital, and we believe the protest is targeting the nerve center of greedy U.S. capitalism,” the groups planning the protest said in a statement.
“Many people in Korea have fallen victim to rampant speculation by domestic financial institutions out to bag huge windfalls in short periods of time.”
The Korea Finance Consumer Association (KOFICA), a prominent consumer rights organization, will play a prominent role in the protests and expects at least 1,000 to show up for the rally.
We will join the global movement and gather the voices of desperate Koreans, the group said in a release.
Cho Bong-gu, chairman of KOFICA, said: “government authorities should build up the financial system for those in the low-income bracket, not for greedy financial corporations. Citizens have to lead this movement,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
According to South Korean newspaper, Joongang Daily, labor unions and student groups are also expected to participate.
Of particular focus for the activists will be Yeouido, the Korean capital’s principal business and financial district and home of the nation’s stock exchange.
Baek Sung-jin, secretary general at the KOFICA, has already called for a reform of Korea’s financial sector and probes into corruption in the banking industry.
“My office gets about 100 complaints a day related to the savings bank scandal,” Cho Bong-gu said at a press conference. “The owner of a snack cart reported to us that someone withdrew 12.1 billion won [$10.4 million] in loans at Jeil Savings Bank under his name. The Financial Supervisory Service, which is [extremely ineffective], was supposed to thoroughly regulate financial institutions but it showed them a high degree of leniency in order to serve its own interests. Instead of calling on the government to reform financial institutions, we figured the reform should start from the financial regulators.”
Public demonstrations are quite common in Korea, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In recent months, Seoul has witnessed farmers protesting the country’s free trade pact with the U.S.; prostitutes objecting to police crackdowns; and students agitating for lower tuition.
Although the Korean economy is relatively healthy, concerns are rising after 16 savings banks were suspended by government regulators following the revelation of illegal practices, mismanagement, among other issues.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.