Losing Face

PhotographerArgus Paul Estabrook
Prize2nd Place in Editorial / Political
Entry Description

When the people of South Korea discovered the bizarre news that President Park Geun-Hye kept secret council with Choi Soon-Sil, the daughter of a shamanistic cult who used their relationship to commit acts of extortion, a series of continuous protests erupted in Seoul. The anti-president protests began in October 2016 and were held every Saturday until March 2017, when the Constitutional Court announced it would uphold the National Assembly’s impeachment vote. As a Korean-American based in Seoul, I felt the need to capture the emotions and energy surrounding these historic protests against the now ex-President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.


In South Korean society, losing face is the worst thing that can happen to a person. The damage of having one’s identity lost to shame is so ruinous, that it can completely destroy a person’s social standing and authority. And that is exactly what happened to the 11th President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. In late October 2016, Park's relationship with a shadowy advisor from a shaman-esque cult was revealed to extend to acts of extortion and influence peddling. South Koreans were shocked by the revelations. Demanding a government free from corruption and unknown influences, protesters began staging mass demonstrations every consecutive weekend in Seoul. Flooding the streets while they marched towards the presidential grounds, protesters filled the night air chanting in unison, “Come down and go to jail!” Effigies and satirical street art continuously sprang up around the capital, especially so in Gwanghwamun Square. Measuring public opinion approximately one month after the protests began, Gallup Korea revealed her approval rating sank to a mere 4%, the lowest for any sitting president in South Korean history. On December 9, 2016, the National Assembly voted to impeach her in an overwhelming 234-56 vote. On March 10, 2017, she was formally removed from office after the Constitutional Court announced its unanimous ruling to uphold the impeachment. This is what it looks like when the South Korean President loses face.

About Photographer

I’m an emerging photographer currently based in Seoul, South Korea. As a Korean-American who grew up in a rural area of Virginia, I have a unique perspective of Korean identity and its relationship to both global and regional communities. I studied photography as an undergraduate, but set it aside during my MFA program at James Madison University to concentrate on intermedia. After moving to South Korea I rediscovered photography, using it as a means to document and share my experiences. In 2016, I mentored under David Alan Harvey to further study photographic philosophy and authorship. My photography has been published in Burn Magazine and LensCulture. It has also been awarded by the Magnum Photography Awards, Sony World Photography Awards, LensCulture, PDN, IPOTY, IPA, MIFA, TIFA, as well as selected for inclusion at the 2017 Aperture Summer Open: On Freedom. More of my work @ www.arguspaul.com