[EDITORIALS]Minors and rallies

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[EDITORIALS]Minors and rallies

We welcome the decision by the Health and Welfare Ministry to draft a bill to prohibit protesters from forcibly bringing minors under 18 years old to rallies and protests that are expected to be violent. The ministry bill, if it is approved in the National Assembly, would be enacted in the first part of next year. We expect that exploiting children as a shield against riot police by protesters who want to advance their interests would be blocked with the law’s introduction.
Recently, it is increasingly apparent that children and youth who are not mature enough to decide for themselves appear at protests and rallies. For example, residents of Buan, North Jeolla province, who oppose the government’s plan to build a nuclear waste disposal facility in their territory kept their children out of school for a long time and forced the children to take part in their rallies. Similar scenes were observed in candlelight rallies protesting last year’s deaths of two Korean girls crushed under a U.S. armored vehicle and protests against the construction of trash burning facilities in some areas.
If the bill is put into effect, adults who have brought minors against their will to rallies where such incidents as mass violence or fire-setting take place, or those who bring them to rallies during school time or after sunset, will be subject to up to a one-year prison term or three million won ($2,600) in fines.
Some analysts, however, complain that this is the first law of its kind in the world and that it would be difficult to find out whether minors were forcibly brought to rallies. It was also suggested that the law may infringe upon minors’ constitutional rights to freedom of assembly and association. They say the bill, even if it is enacted, will likely prove to be a dead letter.
Still, we demand that the law be enacted so that the bad practices of bringing minors to protest scenes can be ended. Of course, the bill needs to be refined before it is finalized to make it more realistic. Police and the prosecution should work hard to make the law effective as well.
Minors do not belong to adults. We should not allow anyone to exploit them.
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