End the violence

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End the violence

Today is the 21st anniversary of the start of the June 1987 Democratization Movement, but the political mood here is hardly festive. June 10 was when all Koreans came together to bring peace and democracy to this country. But 21 years later, the people who will convene in downtown Seoul to commemorate the day are set to clash with each other as they are divided.

The so-called anti-mad cow committee, comprised of hundreds of civic groups opposing the resumption of U.S. beef imports, will hold a massive candlelight rally, while conservative groups including the National League of New Right will hold another demonstration to urge people to comply with the laws and seek ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. The conservative groups say they are taking to the street to show there are people who disagree with the latest rounds of demonstrations.

How have we come to this? The latest feud reminds us of the chaotic times when all Koreans were divided into either the left or right wing after the country was set free from Japanese occupation. Now concerns are rising faster than ever over the possibility of violence between the two groups.

In particular, people wielding steel pipes and wooden bats were spotted for the first time in years, and since the rallies first began more than a month ago, raising fears that the so-far-peaceful protests may turn violent. As organizers have feared, there is no guarantee that a wide variety of groups and several thousands of people, once gathered in the same place in front of Seoul City Hall, would not succumb to violence once the situation heats up. Nevertheless, we should avoid violence at any cost since it will only fan and spread social disputes, turning the latest rallies into a seemingly unending mud fight. That is why people need a mature and cool-headed mindset.

The government should also take a firmer stance on the latest crisis. The police, while guaranteeing the freedom of peaceful demonstration, should also take a firm hand against violence. Candlelight vigils embroiled in violence can never follow the spirit of the June 10 movement and should not be called the second June 10 rally.
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