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Posted by on Mar 5, 2013 in Korean Culture | 0 comments

Korean Independence Movement Day dogged protest at an Oakland, Calif., grocery store

Korean Independence Movement Day dogged protest at an Oakland, Calif., grocery store

Oakland’s Koreatown/Northgate neighborhood, nicknamed KoNo, and its 40-year-old Koreana Plaza grocery were the curiously chosen stage for an anti–dog meat protest Friday, March 1. It was organized by In Defense of Animals, an animal-rights group based in nearby Marin County and behind past protests, usually in front of South Korean diplomatic stations across the U.S. and world.

The target for the group’s protest are public policy and consumer trends in Korea, not in Oakland.

This Independence Movement Day we are asking Korean Americans to rise against the brutal dog meat trade,” the event post on In Defense of Animals’ Facebook page said. “There is no excuse for dog abuse!

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In Defense of Animals protestors and their canine co-horts stand in front of Koreana Plaza on March 1. Notice the lily-white protestors in front of the store.  (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

Korean Independence Movement Day is also called the March 1 Movement Day, or 삼일절 Sam-il Jeol in Korean. Sam-il Jeol celebrates the efforts of Korea’s revolutionary patriots who publicly signed and then declared their independence from Japanese colonial rule on March 1, 1919.

Sam-il Jeol is not only Korea’s equivalent to the U.S. independence declaration of early July 1776 but also Korea’s analog to the “Boston Massacre” of American protesters by British soldiers in March 1770.

More than 7,000 Koreans were killed by Japanese occupation forces in protests and riots that popped up all over the country after Korean Declaration of Independence was published. Like the tragedy in Boston sparked the American revolution five years later, Sam-il Jeol was the beginning of active Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula.

Thousands of miles east and nearly a century later, March 1, 2013 was an unseasonably warm day in Oakland, Calif., home to the only official Koreatown in Northern California. It was a beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors, walking dogs and getting a little sunshine on your skin.

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This unassuming Korean grocery store in Oakland’s Koreatown neighborhood became the scene of an Korean Independence Day protest on March 1, 2013, calling for the complete criminalization of dog meat in South Korea. (Tammy Quackenbush photo)

The Oakland protest started shortly before noon and wrapped up promptly at 1 p.m. The protest included a dog parade that began in front of Koreana Plaza at about 11:45 a.m. They walked about a half-mile through Koreatown to William Street then back up to 24th Street, returning to Koreana Plaza.

When I showed up at Koreana around noon, there seemed to be more reporters with still and video cameras than protesters with dogs standing or laying by their sides. The demonstrators were passing out tracts advertising In Defense of Animals’ South Korean Dog and Cat Campaign.

This show of dissent in front of Koreana Plaza was truly a WTF moment for me. Why stage and anti–dog meat protest in front of a Korean grocery store that has nothing to do with the marketing of dog meat in Korea? Koreana doesn’t sell it, and the owners have never publicly spoken on the issue.

I do understand nexus for such protests in front of consulates. However, staging this in front of a Korean-American grocery store smacks of crass publicity. Is this supposed to encourage the goodwill of the Bay Area’s Korean-Americans by co-opting a day Koreans worldwide celebrate the courage of their ancestors in the face of Japanese occupation?

I’m also disturbed by the visuals of well-off white folks parading along Oakland’s streets on a Friday afternoon, lecturing Korean and African-Americans (Oakland is a predominately African-American city) about their own food choices or the food choices of people over 5000 miles away.

My piece of advise for groups like this. If you live outside of Korea and you want to help keep Korea’s dogs and cats off the dinner table, limit your protests to Korean embassies, consulates and other official Korean government agencies. Leave the grocery store street theater and parades for the Korean animal rights protestors in Korea itself.

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