Protest reformPolice are considering arresting anyone in a protest or a riot who attempts to break through the police line.
They can do this by stricter application of Article 12 of the riot law.
This is an action that follows a request from the presidential transition team working for the incoming Lee Myung-bak administration that wants reform in dealing with illegal riots.
Such movement comes late but it’s going in the right direction.
For the last 10 years or more, the related law was largely ineffective, leaving people uncomfortable and causing an immense amount of economic loss. Under the new administration there is the opportunity for a return to the dignity of a law which had been habitually diluted.
Until recently, the police provided people the freedom to hold protests, but they were not able to protect citizens from illegal riots.
Police are a symbol of national public power, and they were often attacked by the protesters and public facilities were destroyed.
Of some 11,000 protests held last year, 64 of them were illegal. More than 200 police officers were injured during these protests.
According to the Korea Development Institute, in 2005 a total of 12,300 billion won ($13.12 billion) was spent on social costs from dealing with illegal and violent protests. That’s about 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product.
Habitual traffic jams in central Seoul have become a typical ordeal that the citizens have to navigate almost every weekend.
Since the protest law was revised in 1989, the police have arrested only one person for breaking the police line, and that was in October 2004.
This is because the police prefer an easy way to deal with law offenders and turned a blind eye to them.
But it’s not just the police.
Some citizens also lacked the spirit to report wrongdoings and follow the law.
When the new Lee administration launches next month, demands from many interest groups and organizations will likely be delivered through street protests.
Nationwide anti-FTA protests and conflicts between labor and management are expected.
Protesters should show their commitment to civility by staying within the boundaries of the law and respecting what is legally allowed.
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