[EDITORIALS]Naught gained by violenceWhat we had feared would happen has come to pass. More than 600 Korean farmers were arrested by Hong Kong police Saturday for marching the streets of Hong Kong late into the night in an violence-ridden rally to protest the Hong Kong World Trade Organization ministerial meeting. The Hong Kong police says it will press criminal charges against several of the Korean farmers.
Before the ministerial meeting, in an unprecedented case, Hong Kong authorities distributed their guidelines on rallies to the Korean media as part of preventive measures. Local police also strongly warned Korean protesters that any illegal actions would be disciplined strictly according to Hong Kong law. The Korean farmers in Hong Kong had ample warning from the local authorities and had publicly vowed to conduct their rallies in an orderly manner within the boundaries of Hong Kong law. They have no excuse for having incited illegal and violent rallies. The farmers could have expressed their opinion in a peaceful rally instead of swinging wooden planks and iron crowbars at foreign police officers.
This Hong Kong incident has most unfortunately established the image of Korean farmers as the personification of violent protesters. The image of radical rallies during the Busan Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum was reenacted on an international level in Hong Kong. The local media have used words such as “riots” and “lawlessness” to describe the Korean protesters. Hong Kong locals, who had applauded the peaceful demonstrations the Korean farmers initially held, are now calling them “ugly Koreans.” The Korean community in Hong Kong has expressed their worry that the favorable image of Korea built on the rising popularity of Korean pop stars in Hong Kong could now come undone overnight.
The WTO ministerial meeting, regardless of the Korean farmers’ protests, was the stage of intense negotiations in which representatives of the participating member countries prolonged their deadlines. Nothing was gained through the illegal and violent rallies. Instead of reinforcing the negotiation powers of our representatives, the rallies only compromised their image. The farmers should realize the cold reality that violent protests, though reluctantly tolerated in Korea, are absolutely futile on the international stage. No one can stop the flood of globalization with pigheaded violent demonstrations. Instead, it is time to use our brains to find ways to save our agricultural industry in face of the onward rush of globalization.