After apologies, actionThe candlelight vigils have changed for the worse and events have been unfolding at a greater pace since last week. President Lee Myung-bak admits to mistakes in the U.S. beef import deal and has started a shake-up of his administration. An additional round of negotiations with Washington has produced tangible results and public opinion is changing accordingly.
The public was sympathetic to the candlelight vigils, but now people are beginning to withdraw and adopt a more a neutral stance.
But some protesters have turned to violence, as minority groups that act collectively tend to become aggressive. The person who used a hammer last weekend showed a typical form of violent protest. This college student came to the rally prepared with a hammer, knife and a length of rope. His behavior cannot be explained in terms of freedom of speech or the right to protest.
Some netizens spread a rumor that the man with the hammer was in fact hired by the police to make protests look violent. Some 100 protesters lay down at the Gwanghwamun intersection in central Seoul, blocking the roads in protest, swearing at drivers who complained.
A small number of people have committed illegal acts in the name of public opinion, even though these protesters are not supported by a majority of the Korean people. The law must strictly judge these illegal acts. The administration was powerless in front of enraged people because it failed to understand the people’s demands, as the president admitted.
However, public law enforcement has only temporarily lost its authority and will regain its power soon. As the majority of the people accept that positive changes are beginning to take place, the government must quickly restore its capacity to establish law and order.
The law is an institution aimed to protect people’s rights and freedoms. The law also represents social norms that the majority must abide by. The government is entrusted with public power to protect the law. It is worrisome that if constitutionalism is not asserted firmly now, the selfish actions of a minority group will damage the rights and interests of the majority.
The Lee Myung-bak administration has set “establishing strict law and order” as a direction in state affairs. As the administration is making a new start, it should prove that it is determined to establish law and order. That is what the general public wants after his expression of regrets and apologies.