[EDITORIALS]Police are patsiesHordes of protesters against a Korea-U.S. free trade agreement turned central Seoul and nearby areas into pandemonium for about eight hours Wednesday. Coupled with the pouring monsoon rain, the demonstration made workers on their way home in the evening suffer immense inconvenience. As anticipated, members of the Korean Alliance Against the Korea-U.S. FTA wielded 3-meter bamboo sticks against police and broke police car windows with iron pipes. They threw broken paving blocks at the police and mobilized fire and sand as protest tools.
They broke out of the area where they were supposed to have staged their demonstration, occupied roads and even blocked the Gwanghwamun intersection, where the law bans demonstrators from congregating.
Traffic was rerouted and the streets near Seoul City Hall were little more than parking lots.
While over 20,000 riot police were on hand there, only about 300 traffic police were on hand to try to help motorists. In the name of protesting against the free trade agreement, they they were not shy about showing their anti-U.S. sentiment, crying, “Americans should get out of this country,” and the traditional “Yankee, go home.” When some anti-FTA protesters went to Washington for demonstrations early last month, they never deviated from the legal boundaries. They mobilized peaceful means such as holding candles and pickets, effectively attracting the attention of Americans there.
Why did those people take peaceful measures in the United States while adopting extremely violent and illegal measures here? Do the Korean police look like scarecrows while the U.S. police seem frightening in their eyes?
It is true that the protesters are doing wrong, but the passive attitude of the local police is also open to criticism as well. The police arrested not a single protester at the demonstration site after warning earlier that illegal protesters would be dispersed forcefully or arrested. A police official said, “Arresting protesters on the spot could have aggravated the already bad situation at the time, because the venue was central Seoul and it was raining heavily.” That attitude just encourages demonstrators to ignore the law.
Leaders of the Korean Alliance Against the Korea-U.S. FTA should also take legal responsibility. The government will have to reject permits when the activist group reports its plans for demonstrations in the future. They should pay the price for breaking the law and their promises.