[Viewpoint]Spaghetti Westerns come to Seoul‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” a 1966 Spaghetti Western directed by Sergio Leone, features three desperados. The movie tells the story of three gunmen, fighting in search of gold hidden by the Confederate Army in the lawless West during the chaotic time of the American Civil War.
In the West, there was no distinction between good, bad and ugly. In a world where guns were more easily accessible than the law, and greed came before justice, there was no good and no bad. A person who protected his life and got the money first at all costs faced best in such a world, whether he was a great shooter, a villain or a con man.
In the movie, the characters named the Good, the Bad and the Ugly are all desperados living in a wild world, but they differ in their style of living. The movie was released in Korea under the title of “Desperados of a Setting Sun,” and the translation was quite clever.
The candlelight vigils to protest the resumption of U.S. beef imports has continued for 50 days, and turned into illegal, violent demonstrations. Streets have been occupied repeatedly, and at night the streets of Seoul have become a lawless world where metal pipes, wooden poles, hammers and sickles appeared among protesters. The riot police’s operation to break up the demonstrators with batons, shields, fire extinguishers and water cannons has turned the downtown of the capital city into a battlefield.
On the lawless streets of Seoul, three kinds of desperados show up.
The first are the Irresponsible. They are the people who are leading the violent rallies at night. They said they have organized protests out of concern for the safety of Koreans’ dinner tables, but they refused to have a scientific discussion on the risk of mad cow disease. They also ignored the additional safeguards that the government had won through more talks with Washington, although the measures cover all their demands. They commit illegalities, repeatedly shouting their new mantra, “renegotiation.”
Peaceful candlelight vigils were replaced by combatant demonstrators who argue for the ouster of the Lee Myung-bak administration and march to the Blue House, leaving the beef safety issue behind. Occupying streets and violent rallies at night are illegal. Their arguments to bring down the democratically and lawfully elected administration is also illegal and unconstitutional.
They are not the legitimate representatives of the people, but they still identify themselves as “the people,” and violate law and order. A lawyer among them even said, “When you demonstrate, you can swing a metal pipe.”
A level of self-righteousness that justifies breaking the law to accomplish their aim is dangerous. They are extremely irresponsible because they do not care if the nation is ruined as long as they hurt the Lee administration.
The second are the Unable. The government, responsible for defending law and order, has failed to do so, ignoring infractions of the law. Even if their concern for food safety is valid, illegal acts are still illegal. The moment the protesters left City Hall Plaza and stepped into the streets, the government should have stopped them. Instead, the government turned a blind eye to their doings, saying that the candlelight vigils were peaceful. Later, the police gave up because the protesters outnumbered them.
There was nothing this administration could do while riot police were attacked by demonstrators and police buses were destroyed by the metal pipes of protesters.
Once broken, it is hard to restore order in a short period of time. After the violence at the rallies reached an extreme, the government made a fuss about sternly punishing those responsible. And yet, what is the limit for acceptable illegality and what is the limit for unacceptable illegality? The law can not be applied with such flexibility. What is unlawful is always unlawful, and what is lawful is always lawful.
The third are the Hopeless. They are the United Democratic Party lawmakers who are standing in the front row of the demonstrators. They attended the rallies in search of an opportunity. Their duty is lawmaking, but they are wandering around outside the National Assembly, concentrating their energy in defending unlawful activities. It is lamentable and hopeless.
The Irresponsible, the Unable and the Hopeless have acted together to create a lawless world in Seoul. If it were a movie, the audience would have enjoyed the desperados’ gun battle, but why do the office workers with no transportation to get home after work and the restaurant owner whose business has been ruined have to deal with this lawless world?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jong-soo