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Given the apparent lack of focus and leadership in the demonstrations, and their diverse participation, analysts say the passion stems from Koreans´ penchant for group experience, originating not only in the pro-democracy protests of 1987, but also in the carnivallike street atmosphere of the 2002 Soccer World Cup.

“The positive point is that these demonstrations are ‘do it yourself´ politics: They feel the government cannot do it, so people are trying to make it themselves,” said Lim Jie-hyun, a professor at Hanyang University who studies Korean nationalism. “But I am worried that this kind of demonstration violates basic principles of democracy: There is no democratic process in DIY politics.”

Some question whether Korea is casting aside democratic mores in favor of confrontational politics and street theater.

“There is a popular disappointment with the new president and I suspect that of the people out there, some have a clear political agenda and others were ones who did not bother to vote and now are suddenly fired up with a cause,” said Mike Breen, author of “The Koreans.”

“They have a shallow idea of the social contract of democracy.”

Mr. Lee won December´s presidential election by the largest margin in Korean history, but the voter turnout was the second-lowest ever.

His Grand National Party also won subsequent National Assembly elections, granting him a powerful mandate, but now his approval ratings are less than 20 percent and his entire Cabinet has offered its resignation.