Finally, I arrived. Jumped off from Hongik University station and randomly wander around with my longtime friend who has been staying in Seoul for many years now. He originally came from Tokyo but decided to migrate for some reason.
The sun was about to set. It was cloudy and humid. “Are you hungry?” he asked. I gestured that I was full. “Let me show you around,” he said, we walked a lot and we ended up eating anyway a live octopus’s tentacles on the side street after visiting the protest site of family members of more than a hundred high school students who passed away from a sea tragedy a couple of years ago. “We don’t understand why the Korean government doesn’t allow us to conduct an independent investigation of the tragedy,” said the man in his sixties who explained to me in clear English why they continue to occupy a public place adjacent to the government building and above the central metro. “We ask why?” he firmly expressed his frustration in agitated voice after telling us the irresponsibility of the government in taking the case of the said tragedy.
The city looks vibrant. People are proactive but despite all this, there’s oppression everywhere. Somewhere in the Anhyeon Pochan district street vendors were evicted by the police two weeks ago. Activists say that the district has a growing number of new apartments and condominiums prompting the city authorities to evict small-scale shops installed along the streets.
That night we paid solidarity with the protesting street vendors who were evicted. The protest was supported by a network of independent musicians who sang along with the evicted vendors. “So, why is it again are you visiting Gwangju Biennale?” asked my friend who is now a little sleepy. I was not able to answer quickly but I told him I am glad to see him again and very thankful for introducing me the city in a different way. To conclude, it was a long night I ended up sleeping in an activist-occupied room on the top of a condominium which I don’t remember where.