[EDITORIALS]Shhhhhh...street rallies noisyMembers of the Daegu subway union who led a rally were booked without detention by the police for making noise louder than the legally permitted level. The leaders of the union are charged with generating a higher noise than legally permitted with loudspeakers at a rally by member unions of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions last November. This is the first time that charges have been filed under the new Assembly and Demonstration Act revised last September. The law forbids noise that could cause serious harm to others through the use of loudspeakers. The legal level of noise is 80 decibels during the day and 70 decibels at night. For residential areas and school districts, the limits are 65 and 60 decibels respectively. Should one emit noise louder than this level and ignore police orders to stop using loudspeakers, one could be sentenced to 6 months in prison or fined up to 500,000 won ($476).
Since the 1980s, street rallies have become a common part of Korean life, and many people have had to suffer the noise emitted from such rallies. Residents near these rally sites have complained their daily lives are disrupted by ear-splitting loudspeakers, gongs and drums often used by protesters. Nearby schools have had to conduct classes with windows shut even during the summer because of the noise from the rallies. When an individual or a group makes a statement, it should not annoy others. There is no other civilized country in the world that has such determined protesters who are willing to use any means possible to voice their opinion as we do. Civic group protests that ignore noise restrictions are selfish and do not acknowledge the rights of others to live in a reasonably quiet environment.
If the street protesters won’t restrain themselves, then legal restraints are inevitable. With the first application of the noise level law, street ralliers should voluntarily refrain from using loudspeakers.
The police shouldn’t hesitate to apply the law when the noise of a street rally passes the legal limit. At the same time, the police should regulate and penalize any group action that purposely disrupts the traffic around the city according to the law.
The strict application of laws is unavoidable to prevent illegal and violent street rallies and to encourage a more “sound” and effective street rally culture.