[EDITORIALS]Step Down, Commissioner Lee

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[EDITORIALS]Step Down, Commissioner Lee

The controversy over the responsibility of Lee Moo-young, the commissioner general of the National Police Agency, for the violent police action against demonstrators from the Daewoo Motor Company labor union is growing. After the incident, public opinion called for Mr. Lee to resign to take responsibility for the clash. But a series of events, including the involvement of Mr. Lee's chief secretary in preparing a statement by the alumni association of the Korea National Police Academy, made things even worse.

It is clear the police used an unacceptable level of force to put down the demonstration, but the union federation and the police have different opinions on who is responsible. It is hard to make a fair judgement on whether the union went too far in demanding the commissioner's resignation or whether the police are whitewashing the incident by firing junior officials.

The events surrounding the statement of concern by the police academy's alumni group are disappointing. Collective action by leaders of the police, especially when not related to their duties, should never be tolerated. Furthermore, it was not wise for young police officials in responsible posts to release the statement supporting their boss in the midst of rising public criticism. Although Mr. Lee denied knowing about the statement in advance, many believe that such an excuse makes no sense considering the way the police are organized and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Also, the involvement of Mr. Lee's secretary in the group action by the police officials has been revealed. And if he was indeed unaware of the incident in advance, Mr. Lee should feel ashamed for not knowing about the collective action of men under his command. A situation in which graduates of the national police academy are in conflict with others inside the police organization is a serious matter.

That the police were shaken even for a short moment is unfortunate for the nation. Therefore, it is time to make a national decision on whether the police head should step down from his post or not. From the old days there has been a rule that a leader who has lost the confidence and respect of his staff cannot regain them. Apart from the matter of responsibility, Mr. Lee must step down to defuse the social atmosphere surrounding police violence and to restore people's confidence in the revival of police as the guardian of the people.
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