[EDITORIALS]Soft on violence

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[EDITORIALS]Soft on violence

Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook spoke up against violent protests over the transfer of the U.S. military base to Pyeongtaek.
“Every citizen is entitled to have a different opinion and can express it. However, they should express their opinions in a legal and peaceful manner,” she said.
Her remarks were timely because massive protests are planned for this weekend in Pyeongtaek and Seoul.
However, she does not sound clear and determined enough.
“A clash like last time should not take place again,” she said, failing to present a determined stance againt illegal and violent protests.
She then took a step backwards by saying that she understood the pains of villagers and that she would listen to reasonable complaints.
If the government has failed to make sufficient efforts at having a dialogue with the villagers, it should certainly show its regrets. However, the lack of such efforts does not implicitly sanction violent protests.
If people are allowed to use violence and wield bamboo sticks because they have complaints, violent protests will occur everywhere and social order will collapse.
Does Ms. Han mean to say she does not care about citizens’ worries and fears?
It is hard to understand the government’s way of dealing with the Pan South Korea Solution Committee Against U.S. Base Expansion in Pyeongtaek.
The committee said that its weekend rallies would be in the memory of the Gwangju massacre, in which the citizens fought against riot policemen in 1980.
However, the incumbent government is not a military one and soldiers these days do not randomly fire guns at unarmed citizens. The committee’s announcement is a shallow tactic to stir people’s sentiment while blinding them.
These people are not protesting against the transfer itself. They want the withdrawal of the U.S. military from Korea. The most urgent task is to separate these protesters from villagers.
A poll showed that 81 percent of Korean citizens are against violent protests in Pyeongtaek. Why then do the government and the prime minister present an indecisive stance? Ms. Han must take a determined stand on violent protests, unless she is satisfied only with her title, the nation’s first female prime minister.

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