Police impotenceCentral Seoul became a lawless zone again last weekend. For more than two months, public law enforcement has been missing every weekend but the government doesn’t respond.
Ministers related to public security deliver empty warnings that the law will be enforced strictly and those who are responsible will be punished in accordance with criminal law.
Two riot policemen were dragged by protesters, beaten up and put through a “people’s trial.” But the police can’t even investigate the case two days after it happened. The country is in chaos. We judge that special measures are needed to handle candlelight protesters who have become violent.
From Saturday night to early Sunday morning, some 1,500 protesters occupied central Seoul. The slogans against beef imports from the United States have long disappeared. Few ordinary citizens participated and most were full-time protesters from civic or social organizations that have little to do with beef imports. On that day, some 10,000 policemen, more than seven times the number of protesters, were stationed at the scene. But the police became a laughingstock. Two riot policemen who were trying to shepherd protesters onto pedestrian lanes were nabbed.
The policemen were beaten for 20 minutes. Their colleagues were not aware of the incident until the two officers were delivered back to the police. The policemen had been stripped of their shirts and shoes. But the other policemen simply looked on, without making any attempt to arrest the hooligans. How can citizens trust the police when they can’t even protect themselves?
The government last week replaced the chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency as a punishment for failing to respond to the candlelight vigils properly. The new chief, Kim Seok-gi, yesterday displayed firm determination, saying that there is no country in the world in which hundreds of policemen get injured from violent protests and that he would handle matters in accordance with the law.
We hope that the new chief will do his best to establish public law enforcement authority and discipline in the police ranks. A person who just watches when central Seoul becomes a lawless zone can’t take charge of public security. Their task is simple: The police must respond in accordance with law and order. We hope that the police will henceforth do its best.