March 11th marked 1 year since the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Tragedy. As a sign of support and camaraderie with the Japanese people who are still rebuilding their lives, the people of Busan took to the streets on Saturday to protest the use of nuclear energy on their shores.
Armed with flags and placards, music and dance, about 500 people marched from Busan Station to Nampo-dong and back in a loop which largely followed the main road. One lane of traffic was closed with the help of police until protesters reached the shopping district of Nampo-dong where they took over the streets completely drawing huge crowds with their jovial music and lively dance.
The protest itself was broken into four segments. Led by traditional Korean dancers and drummers. Through their stunning performance and stamina (for it is a mighty feat to drum, swing your head and walk in a straight line) they brought the uniqueness of Korean culture to the demonstration.
Following the troop of Korean performers from Ulsan, Dong-A and Busan University’s, were a selection of DJ’s, bands and solo drummers. DJ Kimpro and DJ Sebeom lead the beats with a combination of drum & bass and some popular Korean pop songs of the 80’s. There to encourage protest-through-movement were the Poppin Virus and Killa Monkees street performers. Adorned in white jumpsuits fitting of a nuclear meltdown, the hip-hop dancers keep the beat of those marching and entertained with impressive ‘robotic’ moves and backflips.
Other floats features bands Ska Walkers, Uncle Bob and Genius. Solo drummer Rhylon Durham followed fourth. DJ Hiro, Kimpro and J-U rounded out the festival at the destination point, Busan Station, later that evening.
I’ve been a my fare share of protests but this one struck me as – different. The crowd was a mixture of families with children, young teenagers and university students, cameras and bands. All fitting for a decent protest.
But there were also many businessmen in full black suits and ties who appeared to take the place of the elder hippies with long hair and Birkenstocks that you’d normally expect to see. The vibe was so peaceful and restraint that I got the impression that it was a fundraising walk for kids with M.S. Where was the anger? Where was the outrage? Where was the excessive chanting and loudspeakers?
Maybe it was due to the small crowd, disappointing for the organisers I’m sure, as it was a very well planned march. The police were helpful and as placid as the protesters themselves. There was only one problem I came across which was the fault of an arrogant and reckless lorry driver. He refused to wait for the protesters to finish crossing the road, instead driving straight through the 6 people deep crowd, and a red light. It was very lucky that no one was hurt.
A protester holds a sign demanding Gori nuclear power plant be shutdown. The controversy around Gori, located near Busan, is that it continues to operate despite its age and deterioration.