Mobilizing for Democracy Again: Rising New Political Activism in East Asia

Chungse Jung, SUNY Cortland

Why does claiming democracy come back to a central issue in social movements of East Asia in the 2010s? Between 2014 and 2017, the East Asian countries/regions experienced one of the most revolutionary moments in their history of democracy. Unlike the Arab Spring, mobilization for democracy such as the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan in 2014, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014, and South Korea’s Candlelight Protests in 2016-17 occurred in the process of democratic regression after their democratic consolidation. By comparing the cause, process, and outcome of the movements, we could find several key juxtapositions of these protest waves. The protests were triggered primarily not by transnational issues, but by domestic political decision and corruption. The most shared claim at the protest events, “realizing democracy,” was consistent across the regions. Younger generation occupied the scenes of protests. I take such parallels, but critically assess, asking what it takes to draw them and what work they do in the East Asia of the 2010s? On the world-historical perspective, I examine rising political activism in East Asia could occur in periods of capitalism-in-crisis and democracy-in-crisis and argue the new political activism links to economic and geopolitical instability in the region.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 198. Movements & Revolutions