Chan Kil joined the Occupy movement because he has seen this situation before.
Kil was born to a farming family in Daegoo, South Korea. They usually did just fine; harvesting their rice fields and growing vegetables in a greenhouse over winter. But, after years of living under martial law, they fled for their lives to the U.S.
The family arrived 1988, when he was only 13. He was too young to work at the time, but not too young to remember why they left.
South Korea was governed by a serious of harsh dictatorships and strictly enforced martial law during the1980’s, while Kil was growing up. It was a tumultuous few decades, with several government coups and political assassinations, following Korea’s civil war and U.S. intervention in the country. He remembers particularly the Gwangju Democratization Movement and subsequent massacres.
His eyes glazed over as voice got low as he spoke of his experiences.
“The whole city was united in protest,” he said. “People were losing their families and their children. I couldn’t even count the bodies; there were corpses everywhere.”
Kil’s cousin, a college student at the time, participated in the populous protests against the government. He was subsequently detained by police for his actions and never heard from again.
“[The army] went neighborhood to neighborhood, door to door, busting in, looking for college students who were protesting,” he said. “They came in and killed everybody who protested. Many of them were not even protestors, but they had laws like NDAA, so they were detained anyway until they admitted it.”
Kil said he tried to ignore the similarities he was noticing between modern America and the Korea of his childhood, but once he heard about the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), there was no more pushing it aside.
The NDAA is a $662 billion “defense” spending bill. This year, however, it also contained clauses (1021, 1022, 1026, 1027, 1028) authorizing indefinite detention of American Citizens and other such precedents.
Kil said that, because of the current legislation, he fears what already happened in his homeland will reoccur in the U.S.
“[America today] is very much like where I came from,” he said. “They already passed [the NDAA] and they [could] detain you, torture you until you admit that you are a terrorist.”
He joined Occupy Salt Lake City specifically because of the 2011 NDAA.
“I just feel like I want to runaway from here again,” he said. “I just don’t know what to do now. If they don’t let us fight for [our rights] I’ll probably have to move to another country.”
Kil said he dreamt last night. It was a nightmare.
He dreamt that he was asleep like normal, but that someone crept up and poured gasoline all over his tent, then set it on fire. He woke up startled as if he was about to die. The stress of his fears was taking its toll.
“I heard about the NDAA and it made me scared,” he said. “That’s why I had that dream.”
The similarities of what happened in Korea, and all over Asia, to what is currently going on in America alarms him. He was never one for politics, but could not stand aside any longer.
“I don’t want this to happen again,” he said. “NDAA is the worst thing for me. I am afraid for myself and want to fight for my freedoms.”
Kil joined the movement on Oct. 6, 2011 and has been trying to inform people ever since.
“Maybe if I fight for them, I have a chance to fight for everyone’s freedoms, not just mine,” he said. “I would rather die than not have my freedom.”
– Serious Note