Mourning through Protest in Seoul

Debates over Governance, Morality and Legitimacy after the Sewŏl Ferry Disaster

Public guest lecture by Dr. Liora Sarfati (Tel Aviv University).

When the Sewŏl Ferry sank in 2014, leaving 304 dead (among them 250 high school students) and 9 missing passengers, South Korea was shocked and grieving. The mass mourning soon turned into extensive anti-government protests that amalgamated in the winter 2016 to the impeachment of the former president, Park Kun-hye.

While South Korea has often been categorised a homogeneous nation, I suggests that complex relationships between social classes create urban clashes. In the Sewŏl movement multitudes of individuals joined forces to demand justice over government actions that they deemed illegitimate. Mourning the death of so many youth has created a momentum of civic action along enduring debates over governance transparency, morality, and policy.


Liora Sarfati is a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, Department of East Asian Studies. She has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork related to spiritual practices in South Korea since 2005. Her work was published in several journals as well as book chapters in Performance Studies in Motion, and Urban Anthropology Handbook.