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I Resist!

Lee Gil-jun

A picture of Lee Gil-jun's declaration of his conscientious objection at a press conference, in July, 2008.  Photo : http://cafe.daum.net/resistjunA picture of Lee Gil-jun's declaration of his conscientious objection at a press conference, in July, 2008. Photo : http://cafe.daum.net/resistjunI, a conscripted policeman on active service, declare a conscientious objection to the military, and refuse to rejoin my unit. It was definitely not an easy decision. It was difficult for me to imagine all the pain and suffering it would bring, especially what my parents would have to go through. But here I am, still screaming resistance. It all sounds quite serious. But I’m not doing this to serve a greater cause. I’m just going through a process of finding myself, and trying to have a voice in my own life.

Yes. Resistance, to me, is a way to lead my life with my own subjectivity. Listening to your inner voice, having the values you believe to be right, adding colors to enrich your life and co-existing with others in harmony are all things that would be meaningful to just about anyone. And in the process, if something should suppress your life, you face it and resist it. That, I believe, is the way to live your life with passion. So now, I shed my old self, the one who has adapted to the ways of suppression, and move on to find myself through resistance.

This past February, I enrolled in the army as a conscripted policeman. I understand the many criticisms about this decision, especially regarding the actions I'm taking now. Although I oppose the idea of compulsory military service, if I had to serve my own society, I wanted to do something that is truly meaningful to society and myself. After giving it much thought, the path I chose was to join the conscripted police. But it turned out to be far different from what I had expected. Some people might criticize me and say I'm not being responsible for my own decision, but I don't think that takes away my right to object to unjust orders.

During my service as a riot police officer, I realized that we can be put into unwanted situations by the authorities at any time. Over the last few months, I saw the candlelight protests in the eyes of a policeman, and these thoughts ran through my head. The things people were saying with candles in their hands ― "Renegotiate the terms of US beef import!!!s", "No privatization of state-owned corporations and public health insurance", "No more education system that drives fierce competition in schools." ― all sounded to me like one voice. As if they were saying that the authorities can threaten our lives at any given moment, and they want to stand up to it.

At the candlelight protests, various voices came together for a common goal. There were many different sights, but the overall atmosphere was not one of grave strife but more like a festival of people. It was a festival for themselves and for the good of society. But the life-threatening authorities showed no efforts to communicate. Instead they forced young men in police uniforms into a situation where they would have to fight against fellow citizens. Should we have quelled the citizens as if they were our enemy because we’re such evil people? All of us just wanted to serve our society and our families for 2 years. None of us came into this to attack ordinary people demonstrating in the streets. The authorities would tell us to keep in mind that the protesters are not our enemies, but it was in complete hypocrisy. In reality, they wanted us to treat them as our enemies and always be ready for a violent crackdown at any moment.

When faced with an unseen force, such as orders given by the system, an individual becomes completely powerless. As I confronted the citizens with my shield, as I committed acts of violence or helped continue the violence, I couldn’t dare think to go against the orders. All I could do was to take in all the pain I was faced with. This goes for all the riot policemen out there. We take out our anger on the protesters, our so-called “enemies”, and we justify our actions and hide our hurt while those in power that got us here in the first place is nowhere to be seen.

As days went by, I felt my sense of humanity burning to ashes. As I was brought into repression operations, as I guarded the streets indefinitely, and even when I heard people’s complaints and ridicules, it was awful accepting the fact that I had to follow orders without being able to say anything. I could bear the straining working hours and the physical pain, but it got worse when I thought about what I was doing, questioning what exactly it was that I was trying to protect. No one actually speaks of such matters, but is it okay for barely 20 year old young men to act as tools of violent repression if it’s for the sake of social “order” and “safety”? Who is to guarantee its legitimacy?

During this difficult time, I tried to escape from reality in any possible way, but at some point it hit me that running away was no longer the answer. As long as I stayed on that side of the protests, I would always be contributing to suppression, and that would just be an act of abandoning all the things I had seen. It was especially import!!!ant for me to listen to my inner voice and to express a definite resistance to what was oppressing me in order to live out what’s left of my life with my own subjectivity. I was also apprehensive that I would become a shallow hypocrite if I continue to conform to orders that I felt were unjust and neglect all my hurt feelings.

The only way to heal my wounds, as an offender and a victim, and to get my life back on track, was resistance. Looking back, I feel that I have lived a life of compromise, never resisting the things that suppressed my life. I saw this opportunity as a turning point in my life. This path might be painful and difficult, but it’s also somewhat fun discovering the person I want to be.

I don't consider myself to be a scapegoat or a martyr in this troubled political situation, as many around me have feared. Nor do I want to be the hero of my time. I don't want any part in political games or take advantage of this situation in any way. I'm just staying true to my desires to lead an ordinary life of peace and harmony with others, and I want to be able to live with myself.

I don't want to declare my struggle to be one of so much seriousness. I believe the process of resistance should be fun. With suppression come many harsh conditions, but confronting them and finding your own voice in the process shouldn't necessarily be taken so seriously. I will continue with my efforts, but I have a small wish that more people will begin to resist any form of suppression that may be in their lives.

Through my actions, I feel that I am beginning to take control of my life and I hope that the current system of forced, repeated violence can come to an end. Isn’t it time to put an end to thousands of young men having to stay up another tormenting night, who could be getting hurt just as I’ve been?

Finally, I want to thank all those who have listened to my story, who supported me and are still with me now. I especially want to thank my parents who made a difficult choice in supporting me and withstanding pain for this unworthy son, who understand me and are always on my side. I just want to say that I love you.·

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