[EDITORIALS]Protests harm othersThe police allowed a weekend rally of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions to be held in central Seoul, four days after it had banned the rally. There were few changes other than that the venue was changed from the Gwanghwamun area to the Seoul City Hall Square and the scale of the rally decreased a little. It is hard to see why the police changed their stance. One wonders what standards the police use to allow or forbid a rally and whether or not they care about inconvenience to citizens.
Ten thousand truckers’ union workers plan to march in three car lanes from University Street to Jongno 5th Street. Four thousand workers in the public union are scheduled to walk in two car lanes from Seoul Station to Seoul City Hall Square. When protesters walk in two out of three lanes, traffic will be chaotic. Little has changed since the police forbade the trade union rally. It will be hard for citizens to go out of town over the weekend due to this protest. If they do, they will be stuck on the streets for hours and become upset, ruining their weekend. The other day, a citizen drove his car toward a group of protesters, feeling frustrated and upset about a rally that blocked the road.
Freedom of assembly should be respected only on the condition of not harming others. A citizen’s right to pursue happiness is an important value. Freedom of assembly is allowed only when the assembly does not violate the law. However, protesters frequently violate the law in many ways, such as getting out of their designated lanes, ignoring signals at intersections, crossing the road where there is no crosswalk and protesting for longer than the designated period of time. The police have never made proper responses to such illegal acts.
In advanced countries, a march in car lanes is allowed. But an American professor who attended a seminar held in Korea said if protesters rally for longer than they are allowed or do things other than they are allowed to do, the U.S. police will arrest them on the spot.
The police should not allow rallies that affect traffic flow. That is the law. According to regulations in Tokyo city, a rally that threatens public safety is not allowed. The chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said in an inspection by the National Assembly that he would examine ways to prohibit protests in certain parts of major streets, such as in Jongno and in front of City Hall. We hope that his words will become actions.