[EDITORIALS]No kid gloves for riotersClashes have occurred between the government and anti-American civic groups and citizens living in Pyeongtaek, the future home of U.S. Forces Korea. When the Defense Ministry tried to prevent citizens from farming the areas set aside for the base expansion by sealing off the canals in the rice fields, the farmers responded by throwing flaming bales of rice shoots. It’s regrettable that a national project that has been approved by the people is being interrupted in such a manner.
The real reason that such clashes occurred was the intervention of anti-American organizations that are trying to force out the U.S. forces that are stationed on the peninsula. These groups are turning a blind eye to our security situation. They don’t care that two huge armies are perched in a face-off on the inter-Korean border. Nor does it help to point out Korea’s tense geopolitical location ― being stuck between China and Japan ― which could erupt into an open conflict at any time. Like parrots, they repeat what the North preaches: Namely, that peace will come only after the withdrawal of U.S. forces or that the country’s reunification is being prevented by the United States.
Some of them changed their place of residence to Pyeongtaek after the area was chosen to house the relocated military installations, in order to more easily stir up trouble in the town. Villages are being plastered with anti-American slogans and pictures. They have brainwashed citizens with ridiculous arguments that the relocation of the military installations is part of a plan to foster a war, which will obliterate Pyeongtaek when it happens. As a result, many citizens, especially old people, are being turned against the relocation, defense ministry officials say.
The relocation project is an important issue directly linked to the security of our country. It therefore must be conducted as planned, whatever the circumstances. Nevertheless, looking at the government’s response, there is something that makes us uneasy.
We understand that the authorities need to be careful to avoid having someone get hurt when demonstrations are broken up, but it’s hard to deny that the government has dealt softly with illegal activities such as violent protests. The fact that there were no judicial dealings before the clash on March 15 proves this point.
Public power should not be this weak. The government needs to make anti-American organizations and citizens who engage in illegal activities realize that that kind of behavior will not be tolerated.