[EDITORIAL] Violence Demands a Tough Response

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[EDITORIAL] Violence Demands a Tough Response

Over the weekend, more than 1,000 Daewoo Motor union members and university students staged a violent rally in central Seoul, hurling Molotov cocktails.

The workers demonstrated at Pagoda Park to protest the company's layoffs before they moved to Dongguk University, where they staged an illegal rally. The police stuck to the principle of "no tear gas" and had trouble quashing the riot. Traffic in the vicinity was gridlocked until late in the afternoon.

Molotov cocktails appeared on February 20 at a rally denouncing the forced breakup of the earlier Daewoo Motor sit-in at Bupyeong Station. Participants threw hundreds of Molotov cocktails and brandished iron pipes against the police. According to the police, this year alone 1,200 Molotov cocktails were hurled, already many more than last year's mark of 746.

Despite such a situation, the police leadership is sticking to the principle of not using tear gas. With the launch of the current administration, police put forth a "measure for inducing a new demonstration culture," deploying policewomen on the riot control line and banning the use of tear gas.

These measures received a favorable response at the outset and it were effective to a certain degree. It goes without saying that it would be ideal if the use of tear gas were unnecessary at this point because peaceful demonstration behavior has taken root.

But on the contrary, demonstrations are getting more violent. Demonstrations in which Molotov cocktails were used decreased to two cases in 1998 from 172 in 1997, but are again on the rise with seven cases each in 1999 and 2000. Furthermore, the plans of the labor sector are worrisome this year. Labor is planning a large-scale rally on Wednesday at Seoul Station Plaza with the goal of mobilizing 10,000 persons, and it is projected that rallies, large and small, will follow over the issue of layoffs.

If demonstrators break through the riot control line and brandish Molotov cocktails, the police response should change as well. If the top priority in quelling a demonstration is to keep law and order, it is not time for the police to say proudly that they do not using tear gas.

The police have the obligation to crack down on illegal actions and violence with tough measures. The way to correct demonstrators' behavior is to use justified public force against illegal, violent actions.

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