[EDITORIALS]Panel must retract decisionCriticism and protests against the panel formed to honor democracy activists is increasing. The body, known as the Commission for Democratization Movement Activists' Honor Restoration and Compensation, recently recognized 46 former students of Dongeui University in Busan as democracy activists. The National Police Agency stands firmly against the decision. Other well-informed persons contend that the decision, which is tantamount to praising those who have committed manslaughter and other acts of violence, threatens the rule of law.
The former students had protested alleged fraud in the university's admission procedure in 1989, occupying the school library, where they held five riot police officers hostage. Seven policemen were killed and 11 other officers suffered serious burns when the students hurled Molotov cocktails at a contingent of advancing police. The students received guilty verdicts and were sentenced to up to life in prison.
The commission said, "They simply threw the Molotov cocktails as other protesters usually did then. We cannot deny its connection with the democratization movement simply because many people died during the course of their actions." Causing so many deaths by throwing firebombs inside a building cannot be rationalized under any circumstances. The law governing the commission says the democratization movement is about "activities that contributed to restore democratic order and enhanced the people's freedom and rights by protesting against authoritarian rules." The students' actions do not meet this definition.
We have to consider police morale. The panel decided on the matter quickly without asking the police for neither testimony nor evidence. Furthermore, if a few people can reverse a Supreme Court verdict, we are not a society under rule of law. Recognition of democratization activities requires a national consensus. Without clear qualifications for commission members and criteria for a democracy movement, decisions made by several people on what happened more than 10 years ago will not gain the people's approval. Making hasty payments to persons involved in the democratization movement can bring dishonor to them. The panel should void its misleading decision.