Connect to share and comment

Need a protest? Call Park Chan-sung.

South Korean protester loves setting things on fire. He also loves getting people to notice.

SEOUL — Like most people, Park Chan-sung goes about his daily life when North Korea conducts nuclear tests or fires up missiles: He starts making effigies of Kim Jong-il and posters with anti-North Korea slogans, calls the media and sets his props on fire.

Park is what you would call a professional protester.

The irony with Park begins with his name. “Chan-sung” in Korean means “agree,” but Park spends most of his time protesting against something. He has made it his job to represent the conservative voice of South Korea and has solidified his image as a protester who literally plays with fire.

Park is well aware that he has a reputation for taking things to the extreme. He leads a group called “The Anti-North Korea, Anti-Kim People’s Council,” which in many cases acts as an umbrella for other right-wing groups.

But the 49-year-old explains everything he does is for a reason. He believes conservative voices are underrepresented in South Korea so the best thing to do is to make noise. Park says liberals dominate the local media, and that the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration is too soft on issues.

“It’s like trying to make a flower bloom from asphalt,” he says, describing how difficult it is for conservatives to get noticed.

Unlike the activist posture Park takes on when in the streets, his speech is calm and orderly, interspersed with occasional explosions of laughter. Sitting at a coffee table covered with newspaper clippings, Park describes himself as the “commander of conservatives” in the country, a remark hard to disagree with.

For many, he is the public face of South Korean reaction to the North Korean threats. But in a country without a strong protest tradition and where the North's aggression is often seen as bluster, Park's is often a lone voice, and his protests a pretense at widespread outrage that in fact doesn't permeate most of the culture.

Park, who has bushy eyebrows and a permanent look of determination on his face, is in charge of organizing some of the most colorful and grand-scale protests staged by conservatives, who view North Korea as an absolute enemy and hail the United States as a brother nation. Park once orchestrated a protest calling for a stronger Korea-U.S. alliance that brought together more than 200,000 people.