[EDITORIALS]Maintaining public order

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[EDITORIALS]Maintaining public order

A man in his 30s, who removed a police barricade used to maintain public order, was indicted on charges of violating the Assembly and Demonstration Act. It is the first time that someone has been indicted on charges of violating a police line, an act that was made punishable when the law was revised in 1999.
Under a situation in which public authority is powerless everywhere, we welcome it as a rare instance of strict law enforcement. In the past 10 years, voices calling for the enhancement of freedom of expression and human rights have grown louder in our society, while the value of public safety and order ― essential for any community ― has been underrated.
In 2000, some 5,000 people were arrested on charges of obstructing the execution of public duties, but the number rose to nearly 8,000 last year. Recently, there were the tragedies of two policemen being killed by a suspect and a prison guard being beaten to death by an inmate.
These are absurdities caused by the reality in which police officers refrain from arming themselves with guns in order to avoid being dragged into a controversy over human rights violations and excessive force, and prison guards face the threat of legal action from inmates.
Law enforcement officials must take concrete action to restore their authority. Democracy is maintained by law and order, not by laissez faire, and law and order are maintained by the just exercise of public power.
In a democratic society, freedom of expression and human rights are the most essential and inviolable values. But the act of threatening the public order and violating the law should not go unpunished. Even in the United States, authorized demonstrators enjoy their freedom, but if they cross the line, they are strictly punished.
In large-scale demonstrations, people who cross police barricades are arrested immediately and a summary court is sometimes installed at a rally site so that judges can issue arrest warrants on the spot.
There is a social consensus that maintaining public safety and order is important. In Korea, police lines are more often ignored in large-scale rallies. The larger the rally, the more strictly enforced the police barriers should be.
There shouldn’t be hostile or insulting activities against the lawful enforcement of power by the police.
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