Candlelit protesters for Nobel Peace Prize?

By Yi Whan-woo

Organizers of candlelit rallies that led to the removal of Park Geun-hye from presidency are being touted as potential nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Some lawmakers say a group comprised of over 1,500 civic organizations deserves the prize for holding the political rallies, which proceeded peacefully at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on 20 occasions between Oct. 29 and March 11.

The eligible candidates for the prestigious prize include individuals or organizations nominated by qualified individuals, such as parliamentary members and governments.

Some diplomatic sources said that it is too late to submit the nomination bid for this year, citing that Jan. 31 was the deadline.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee will finalize a short list of the qualified nominees by the end of March, according to the Nobel Prize’s official website. The nominations postmarked and received after Jan. 31 will be included in the following year’s discussion. This year’s winner will be chosen in October.

Several members of a group aimed at promoting the Gwanghwamun rallies as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee said they will go for the 2018 prize.

“We will push to win the prize, hopefully in 2018, after making preparations in a thorough manner,” said a member, Monday, asking not to be named.

On Sunday, Rep. Chun Jung-bae of the second largest opposition People’s Party offered to recommend the organizer of the mass protests at Gwanghwanun Square as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate. He did not elaborate the time and other details for nomination.

Chun, also a former co-chairman of the party, cited that a joint group of 1,500 progressive civic organizations nationwide attracted a combined number of 16 million protesters in the past 20 rallies.

“We should recommend the group as a prize nominee on behalf of every citizen who participated in the candlelit rallies,” Chun said in a statement. “The rallies were unprecedented considering it was non-violent although they were stern in asking Park to be impeached. In that regard, the rallies contributed to the development of international democracy while representing the will for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

People’s Party floor leader Park Jie-won echoed a similar view in his recent Facebook comment.

“The candlelit rallies are worthy enough to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,” he wrote. “Let’s recommend them to become Korea’s second Nobel Peace Prize winner after the late President Kim Dae-jung.”

Chung Ho-sun, the president of Korea Nobel Foundation, said his foundation submitted a 2017 nomination bid for a statue of a girl symbolizing the candlelit rallies and ideological unity. He said such statues also qualify as a prize candidate.

Titled “Corea Pieta with Peace Candle,” the statue is inspired by a statue symbolizing “comfort women,” according to Chung. It holds a candle on one hand and the Taegukgi, the Korean national flag which conservatives used in their separate rallies against Park’s impeachment.

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