Where’s the law?The recent demonstrations are no longer about candlelight vigils. Every night in the heart of Seoul, protestors are committing illegal acts.
To the police precinct chief who claims the vigils should follow the law, demonstrators are saying, “But where is the law now?”
Some of those who have taken to the streets have surpassed the limits of reason. They are refusing to be citizens of a country governed by law. Even shop owners in Gwanghwamun, who are suffering in the wake of the protests, and other innocent people can no longer tolerate the politicization of candlelight vigils. People want to ask to President Lee Myung-bak, “Where has the law gone?”
The nature of the demonstrations has changed and so has the way people think. The government’s response should also change.
The people who joined the candlelight vigils that started at the end of April were genuinely worried about their health. Until the end of May, many students and housewives were holding candles. However, since June, all kinds of banners have found their way into the mainstream of the rallies. The banners represent different interest groups who were taking advantage of the feelings of anti-U.S. beef imports.
In particular, there were many groups related to the reforms that the Lee Myung-bak administration put forward. The labor unions of state-run corporations loaded candles onto their trucks and distributed them to people who signed petitions against the privatization of these corporations.
As the nature of the demonstrations changed, people began to stay home. A few, though, became radicalized. After June 10, the number of demonstrators began to shrink rapidly and the demonstrations became violent. The People’s Conference Against Mad Cow Disease that led the demonstrations began to demand that the government renegotiate the terms of U.S. beef imports and threatened the administration saying that they will try to topple the Lee administration if it did not abide by the request. Since then, the government has had to take stern measures against people who mock the law.
The number of demonstrators began to shrink after the president apologized and brought about real results in the supplementary negotiations with the United States.
But then the candlelight vigils became further politicized. A man with a hammer began to appear and masks increased. The main entrance to a hotel was torn apart, journalists were beaten and police who should have protected them were beaten.
The police went to arrest violent leaders, and the prosecutors’ office will hold a meeting to discuss further measures.
Law enforcement by prosecutors and the police depends a lot on the president’s will. The president emphasized on Tuesday at a cabinet meeting that we must sternly respond to “illegal and violent demonstrations.” However, the announcement did not hold much weight. Thus, the demonstrators’ violence reached a peak on Wednesday and Thursday. The police also hesitated. The president’s softness made the demonstrators mock him and the people to lose faith.
Only half a year ago, the people elected President Lee into office. Two months ago, they voted in Grand National Party lawmakers. But now they are wondering if they did the right thing.
They didn’t know the government would be so incapable. Is there any hope for such a government for the remaining four years? Beyond dissatisfaction with U.S. beef imports, people now want the restoration of the law and order.
The government would be wise to take this opportunity and listen.