By Kim Se-jeong
Amnesty International Korea said Monday that it will hold a virtual protest to denounce repressive President Park Geun-hye administration on Feb. 24, a day before the third anniversary of her inauguration.
The human rights NGO came with the idea of using a holographic image as police rejected its plan to hold a demonstration near Cheong Wa Dae, the Presidential palace in central Seoul.
"Our message to the government is to allow freedom of peaceful assembly near Cheong Wa Dae, where rallies have been strictly banned since the Sewol ferry disaster," said Byun Jeong-pil, the group's campaign team manager. "We wanted to gather physically to make our message heard. But it's impossible and this is our alternative."
The holographic images of people holding pickets and chanting slogans will be played at Gwanghwamun Square starting at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 24, and Amnesty welcomes citizens' participation in its making.
Byun said she only needed 20 volunteers, but has already received more than 150 applicants. "But, we keep collecting citizens' voice messages."
Those wanting to add their own voice messages can do so by visiting www.amnesty.or.kr/12425/.
On Jan. 27, the police refused the group's request to stage a protest near Cheong Wa Dae, citing obstruction to local traffic. The police did so despite a court ruling last October which ordered them to stop banning gatherings there.
This will be Korea's first hologram protest. The first one worldwide happened in Spain last April after the country passed a law banning protests near government office buildings.
The Park administration has taken stern ― sometimes violent ― measures against rallies which they call illegal. The police have used water cannons, pepper spray and bus barricades against protesters. One protester is still lying in a coma after being sprayed by water cannons during a November protest.
Maina Kiai, the United Nations special rapporteur on the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, expressed his concerns during his visit to Korea last week.
"Water cannons can inflict great bodily harm as the case of Mr. Baek Nam-gi tragically illustrates," Kiai said during a press conference on Friday at the end of his fact-finding mission. "The use of water cannons and bus barricades is almost guaranteed to increase tensions between police and protesters, who may see this as an unprovoked attack."
The special envoy also criticized the Korean government and courts for citing security and public convenience as excuses for restricting these rights. "I acknowledge these challenges (of security and convenience), but they should not be an excuse for unduly limiting rights."
He said freedom of assembly should be respected because "they are among the best tools to address social conflict. They allow underrepresented groups to amplify their voices; they give dispossessed people a channel for engagement and a stake in society."