[EDITORIALS]The luxury of protestIt promises to be a noisy weekend. Han-chongryun, the radical student group, and other activists plan rallies in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, and in the campus district of Sinchon today. There is nothing wrong with groups making public displays of their views through preannounced and approved rallies. There is bound to be a noisy and bustling side to democracy. But with so many rallies springing up at the same time and with so many justifications, one wonders if they are really appropriate at this troubled time. Do we have the luxury of dissension?
Hanchongryun, an outlaw group with pro-Pyeongyang leanings, last night began a three-day series of events at Yonsei University and Sinchon. The main event, the launch of another class of members, drew attention, especially with the current debate about whether the group ought to be legalized. Police said they would send in 10,000 officers to block the events. The minister of government administration and home affairs, Kim Doo-gwan, has said the government will not act against the meeting. So already the authorities are in conflict. That encourages the students, and the university is left to worry about possible damage to its facilities.
Gwanghwamun tonight is also expected to be the epicenter of a tremor. Religious-group members and environmentalists, moving with “three steps and a bow,” will show their opposition to the Saemangeum tideland reclamation project. Hanchongryun members and others plan an “anti-war festival” to commemorate the first anniversary of the deaths of two schoolgirls struck by a U.S. military vehicle. Then there is a group of Red Devils who want to cheer the soccer match between Korea and Japan. There is also a report that candlelight protesters will surround the U.S. embassy.
The economy gives increasing concern. Interest groups do all they can to get what they want by force, and the government seems powerless to resolve conflicts. It is time to think about how much longer we can put up with mass rallies in Gwanghwamun. Radical demonstrations and clashes with police only inconvenience the public. It is time to show maturity in public demonstrations.