[EDITORIALS]Police Took Korea Back in TimeThe police have been driven into a corner because of the violence it used recently to put down a riot by labor union members of Daewoo Motor's Bupyeong factory in Inchon. Arguing that it was an abuse of government power that is unacceptable in a democratic country, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and civic groups are calling on the government to pay compensation, take strong measures against the police officials who were involved in the incident and demand that they apologize to the union.
Watching the videotape of the riot, which was provided by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, raises doubts as to whether the police at the scene are really Korean policemen. They beat brutally the union members across the head and stomach and trampled people beneath their feet. The place turned into chaos with the protesters faces and bodies bloodied. Some of them lie in the street after being kicked in the stomachs. The scene contains such brutal violence that it is hard to understand why the police dealt with the situation in such a way.
At that time, some 400 union members were on their way to the labor union office. The court had actually approved their application to enter the union office. In other words, their entrance to the company was legal.
Encountering the riot police on the way, a lawyer for the trade union asked them to withdraw over a loud speaker, informing them of the decision made by the court. However, the police ignored the request. The seriousness of the problem is even more acute because at that moment the police, who are supposed to keep law and order, had violated the law by violently suppressing the legal activities of union members.
Although they have acknowledged their faults, they insists at the same time that the union members started the confrontation. They argue that around 10 riot police were dragged to a corner by the protesters, deprived of their weapons, helmets and other anti-riot equipment total of around 100 items, and beaten up till just before the police moved in. They say that the union members tested their patience first by spitting and swearing at them.
This use of excessive force while suppressing demonstrators is a holdover from the authoritative administrations of the past. Also, government power that loses its reason is not true government power. Especially, the riot police's use of unreasonable violence at the scene of demonstrations is another form of crime and we should see this as a collapse of the public order. Thus, the government should thoroughly educate and discipline the police and improve the operational capabilities of commanding officers so that the accident such as this will never happen again.
Also, it is very important for the government to be consistent in practicing its principles. Officials should not discharge their duties depending on their mood or on their personal tastes. How can they use such violence after they employed policewomen's "smile tactic" in putting down a riot only a short while ago! It makes us wonder rather this incident is part of the hard-line policies the police assumed after firebombs reappeared in demonstrators' arsenals.
One thing noted in the course of this incident is the police claim that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has edited the film to contain only the action by the police, leaving out what the union members did. If it is true, the act of fabrication poses a serious problem. It should also be clarified to the satisfaction of the people. It is not desirable that the public power goes violent, but it should not be jeopardized or invalidated.