[OUTLOOK]It’s no secret: We need law & orderGerman writer Anton Schnack’s prose was in a Korean literature textbook when I was a high school student.
The title was “What saddens us.” I can vividly remember one part about the lingering sound of a violon, a low-pitched string instrument, could make us sad on a rainy day.
These days, I am afraid to say, the news is what saddens us.
Whenever I watch policemen who are covered with blood because they were attacked by protesters wielding bamboo sticks and metal pipes, I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry that I have to live in this country and pay taxes to it.
Other than Korea, are there any countries in which policemen or soldiers get beaten by demonstrators? Are there any other places where the authorities keep quiet about it?
Last year, almost 10,000 policemen were beaten by protesters and seriously injured. Some had their arms broken, others their heads and some had slipped disks.
A policeman even went blind when his eye was stabbed with a bamboo stick.
Many of the riot policemen who were injured in the clash are being taken care of at the National Police Hospital.
In one bed was a 20-year-old riot policeman named Ko ― he had slipped disks. He had been at the farmers’ protest in Yeouido, where three police cars were burned. Protesters surrounded him, beat him with metal pipes and trampled on him.
In Changwon, protesters beat a police sergeant in front of a GM Daewoo plant. The officer said, “Union workers dragged out riot policemen, stripped them of their helmets and started beating them. I couldn’t let the young policemen get beaten up, so I stripped the mask off of a worker. The worker hit me on the face and my glasses fell to the ground.”
He added, “As I bent down to pick them up, several workers rushed over and beat me up. I was dragged along the sidewalk for about five meters (16 feet) and my clothes were ripped up.”
The authorities, however, do not talk about these incidents in public. Why do they want to keep them a secret?
One rumor has it this way: Late last year, one farmer died at a violent protest and the chief of police was forced out, even with one year left in his tenure.
Since then, the police have been careful not to talk about policemen beaten by protesters.
At the scene of protests, when demonstrators beat junior policemen with metal pipes, senior policemen shout over, “It’s better this way!” By this, they mean that protesters beating policemen is better than the other way around.
If this rumor is true, the government is responsible for allowing an increasing number of policemen to be beaten by protesters.
In the United States, if protesters leave the designated area, trespass on the police line, or step down to car roads from pedestrian sidewalks, police take this as a challenge to public power, and they respond with strong action.
If a protester uses violence against police officers, the police are allowed to kill the perpetrator.
It’s the same in Japan. If a demonstrator there attacks the police, the person is arrested for interfering in police work.
There is a famous story about how Prime Minister Magaret Thatcher stopped a violent protest.
Because union workers were breaking laws during their protest, she sent a company of mounted policemen to disperse the protesters. Several of the protesters were injured.
Later, union leaders visited the prime minister and confronted her about the incident.
Ms. Thatcher said that it was a mistake. The next time protesters broke laws, she would send tanks, she said, not a company of mounted policemen.
But she also explained that democracy would disappear if somebody broke the law and got away with it because nothing was done to stop them.
Democracy is based on laws. When laws are not abided by in a democratic society, its citizens suffer.
Our police are not what they used to be.
Corruption among the police force has disappeared and they are more competent, committed and devoted than ever. The violent crime and narcotic squads are world-class.
But unless the government and citizens respect the police, how can it alone cope with these problems? We need to boost the morale of the police.
If we cannot raise the policemen’s salaries, at least we need to show more respect for them. We need to give them compliments and encouragement for their hard work. This is a quick way to make our country a safer place.
* The writer is a pastor of Durae Church and the chairman of the New Right Union.
by Kim Jin-hong