[EDITORIALS]We need quieter protestsWhile members of the Gyeonggi-Incheon chapter of the Korea Cargo Transportation Workers Union staged a rally outside the government building in Gwacheon a few days ago, citizens and civic groups met and demanded that public rallies not be permitted to create disturbances. Gwacheon citizens asked the government to regulate the use of loudspeakers, gongs and cymbals at public rallies. They complained that the high noise level at such rallies not only disturbs daily life, but also greatly disrupts classes at a nearby school. Similar situations are created at other popular rally points such as Yeouido, Sejongno and Jongno in Seoul.
As the rights of demonstrators are protected, the rights of ordinary citizens should be protected. Gwacheon residents and students have the right to be free from noise and to enjoy a pleasant life and normal school classes. Demonstrators must refrain from using instruments that create excessive noise. If residents feel stress from rally noise and their children’s school classes are disturbed, something is wrong. It amounts to violating other people’s rights in the name of freedom of demonstrators. The exercise of rights should be accompanied by self-restraint. One should not disturb public order and the common interest.
Although the dissatisfaction of residents living near rally sites is growing, the government has failed to work out a coordinated solution, even after three years. The Environment Ministry insists that its jurisdiction is limited to controlling the noise levels of street vendors and of daily life; the National Police Agency says that regulating noise levels under the Assembly and Demonstration Act could violate the basic rights of protesters.
There is a court ruling that the noise level at public rallies should be under 80 decibels. That ruling should be honored. Residents should not be made to suffer from noise disturbances. The Environment Ministry must promulgate regulations governing noise levels at rallies, and the police should enforce them strictly. If we cannot implement these simple measures, how can we say that the government protects the people and their property?