OK. Then, who were those hope bus riders? It started from artists like poets, novelists, painters, children’s story writers, documentary directors, photographers, musicians, dancers etc. who has natural skill to be empathic to others’ experiences. Then, other labor activists and, finally, ordinary citizens joined them. Starting from Seoul, the capital of Korea that sits near the northwestern boundary, they would be moving by a chartered bus named “hope” (this is why this blog is titled “hope bus ride”) and take some others in their way down to the city in southeastern edge, Busan. Usually it takes about 5 1/2 hours to get to Busan from Seoul on highway but, this time, it would take a little longer than that since they would have to stop by other cities to get people on in between.
Of course this would have been just a happening or event, though a deeply meaningful one in sociological terms, to outsiders if it had not been for the help of Hanjin executives and the police. In this case, to the contrary, the whole thing became a historic drama signifying allegiance between ordinary citizens and workers on strike against a resourceful employer, a tie that would have been possible only when they looked through the web of complex social strata and identified themselves being in the same situation; both being marginalized by powerful establishments under the name of market economy and liberalization. So, what did the company do?
Well, they called in more security contractors. Although the intention is not clear, it is possible they intended to dismiss the strikers and pull the lady on crane #85 down before the hope bus riders got the shipyard. At the same time, the contractors were trying to barricade the whole shipyard by stacking iron containers in front of the entrance gate. This would be considered as a last-ditch effort to block easy access of outsiders, like hope bus riders, and contain whole strikers within thick walls of shipyard, an effort to minimize public exposure of whole event in Youngdo shipyard. It was even said that they welded the iron containers in front of entrance gate. Though we are living in 21st century now, some part of the world must be still sitting in 20th century, right?
However, this brought about counter effects actually: what planned to be just a busful of empathic riders grew to be thick throng of citizens from all over Korea; ordinary citizens, students, laid-off workers, temporary workers, housewives, even some politicians from opposition parties joined the ride. Front gate was blocked first by containers and then a group of security contractors lined in front of the containers with symbolic yellow helmets on. There was no option but to climb up the containers and brick walls for the hope bus riders to get in the Youngdo shipyard and join workers on strike. Obviously, there were confrontations between riders who tried to get in/workers who tried to help riders get in and security contractors who were hired to block them from getting in although it didn’t take long before the work-rider tag team were able to drive security contractors away and get in the shipyard.