[FOUNTAIN]Police force's imageThe legal speed limit in urban areas in Germany is 50 kilometers per hour. But many Germans, who generally respect traffic regulations, drive at about 55 kilometers per hour. The police do not seem to mind when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 5 kilometers an hour or so, and it appears that traffic surveillance cameras ignore cars traveling at 10 percent over the limit.
But there are situations where all cars on German roads drive at 50 kilometers an hour. That is when there is a patrol car in sight traveling at that speed. In Germany, even a man with guts would not dare to overtake a patrol car.
That is not to say that German police are horrifying figures to ordinary citizens. Ten years ago, for example, a Korean man was stopped by a German policeman while driving at night, speeding well over the limit.
The policeman, about to give him a speeding ticket, asked the Korean whether he had been drinking, and the man replied honestly that he had. The policeman asked the driver to sit in the passenger seat and said he would drive the man home. He did, gave the car key back to the drunk and disappeared with another policeman who had followed the Korean's car.
That story is true, although amazing to Koreans, who live in a country where drunken driving has reached epidemic proportions and is the subject of a massive crackdown.
What do Germans think about their police? Don't be shocked. Out of all public organizations, they trust the police the most, according to the results of a survey by the World Economic Forum.
The survey showed that 86 percent of German citizens respected the police. Seventy percent respected the army, 59 percent the courts, 51 percent the government in general and 49 percent the media. The Bundestag, the legislature, was respected by 48 percent of Germans; clergymen, interestingly, were respected by only 39 percent of the population.
What about the Korean police?
There are a few policemen amidst us who help the needy without making much fuss. But to most Korean citizens, police are still people to stay away from. They are seen more as oppressors than as helpers.
But there is no need to worry. Half a century ago, police in Germany, symbolized by the Gestapo, were also objects of fear to many citizens. Police in Korea, also, can be rehabilitated.
The writer is the Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yoo Jae-sik