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Sociology: People


Ji-Eun Ahn

Ji-Eun Ahn
Ji-Eun Ahn
Edinburgh UK
Research Interests
Social movements, Protest, Political Sociology, Democracy, Civil Society and Democratization, Qualitative research , East Asian Studies

PhD Topic

How Do Candlelight Vigils Become Routinized in South Korea? Repertoires and Cycles of Contention in Post-Democratic South Korea 

Candlelight vigils, outdoor assemblies of people lighting candles after sunset in the way of a peace demonstration or a memorial ceremony, have emerged as the predominant repertoire of collective actions in South Korea since 2002. Interestingly, the candlelight vigil, officially called ‘Candlelight Cultural Festival (Chotbulmunhwaje)’, was a strategic product of the structural restriction imposed by the ‘Assembly and Demonstration Act, 1962 (Jipoewa siwie gwanhan beomnyul)' prohibiting assemblies and demonstrations after sunset. In other words, a night assembly could be allowed only by combining two repertoires: one, a candlelight vigil, a symbol of nonviolence and peace, and second, a cultural festival permitted even after sunset. A series of such public mobilisations, involving the participation of large sections of the population, has established the Candlelight Vigil as a substantial form of public protest in South Korea since the early 2000s. Beginning with ‘Memorial Candlelight Vigil for Two Girl Victims of a US Armoured Vehicle’ in 2002, the Candlelight Vigil has become a salient social phenomenon per se through dynamic evolution, reflecting and engendering a structural transformation of Korean politics.

Sidney Tarrow (1995: 92) argues that innovations in collective action are often “diffused, tested, and refined”, and eventually become what he calls “modular” within “cycles of protest”. In this sense, it is sufficient to say that a candlelight vigil, which had merely been one type of assembly, transformed into the Candlelight Vigil — a set of repertoires manifesting the advent of a new protest wave in South Korea. Through the case study of four Candlelight Vigils in 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2016-2017, this study examines to what extent each Candlelight Vigil affects one another and thereby, how it has evolved as a repertoire of contention in South Korea since the 2000s. In doing so, I will argue that Candlelight Vigil brings the public back into “democracy after democratization” (Choi, 2005) by generating public discourses and reinforcing the collective identity of being political subjects.


Dr Hugo Gorringe 

Dr Youngmi Kim


2012                  M.A. Sociology, Korea University, Seoul, Korea

2009                  B.A. Sociology, Korea University, Seoul, Korea

In Progress(2018-) Ph.D. Sociology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK 


Book Reviews

Ahn, Ji Eun. (2020) “Book Review: Why Social Movements Matter: An Introduction”. Sociological Research Online 25(1): 159-161

Academic Presentations

Ahn, Ji Eun. “Political opportunity structures and a cycle of protests: the Candlelight Vigils in South Korea”.Joint East Asian Studies Conference, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 2019

Ahn, Ji Eun. “How do Candlelight Vigils Matter in South Korea? The New Protest Wave of Citizens’ in the Era of Post-Democracy”. Annual Sociology Postgraduate Student-Staff Conference, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 2018

Ahn, Ji Eun. “The Hope Bus: ‘Humans Come First!’”. The BSA annual conference, Aston University, Birmingham, UK. 2016

Ahn, Ji Eun. “Why did they light a candle?: A Case Study of ‘Candlelight Vigil against US Beef Import’ in 2008 in Korea”. The BSA annual conference, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. 2015

Ahn, Ji Eun. “Chaebol Throws a Ball: Neoliberal Transformation in Korean Baseball League”. The BSA annual conference, The University of Leeds, Leeds, UK. 2014

Ahn, Ji Eun. Cho, Dae Yop. “Dynamics of Collective Action Frames: Focusing on 2008 Candlelight Vigil against US Beef Import in Korea”. A Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting for the Korean Sociological Association, Kyungnam University, Masan, Korea. 2012.