[EDITORIALS]Better control of rallies neededThroughout the country, rallies of all sizes are taking place one after another. As these proliferate, civic groups are filing notifications of their gatherings years in advance; competition among activists to secure good locations has grown fierce. Such nonsense is grounded in the loopholes of the current Assembly and Demonstration Act.
Recently, a political party’s chapter in Busan filed applications with the police to stage rallies downtown over the next 10 years. Police reportedly told the party that it would allow rallies for the next three years, the time limit for police document storage.
A group of Gwacheon residents who have suffered from noisy rallies filed an application to block the area in front of the government complex from being used for rallies on weekends and holidays until the end of October.
The Gyeonggi province chapter of the teachers union and users of the national library are fighting each other to use the area in front of the provincial education office in Suwon for their respective rallies.
Under the current law, outdoor gatherings and demonstrations are banned within 100 meters of the Blue House, the National Assembly building and courthouses as well as diplomatic missions and residences. Thus, it is possible to hold a rally in front of the U.S. military base or training fields. The Hanchongryun students’ raid and rally at the firing range of the U.S. forces on Aug. 7 took place after they filed an application for a rally near there. The right to assemble and demonstrate is a constitutionally guaranteed means of expression. Therefore, legitimate rallies and protests must be respected as much as possible. But the law must not allow them in any location. If an unfortunate incident happens during a rally near a military firing range, who will be responsible?
The law must be revised so that violations of places and purposes are made punishable and the period of filing a notification is limited. The locations where rallies are permitted must be specified more clearly. The government must also prepare measures to protect the public from the side effects of mass gatherings, such as noise.