[Viewpoint]The necessity of angerThe whole world will soon be caught up with the excitement of the Olympic Games and the uproar of the candlelight vigils will also be forgotten sooner or later. However, there is a photograph that I cannot erase from my memory. I will never forget that image for the rest of my life.
Early on the morning of June 27 in Seoul, two young police officers were set upon by a frenzied crowd on the street. Someone took off their shirts and ganged up on them. As a young police officer hung his head low, somebody threw a stone at him. The mob eventually handed over the officers to a police contingent on duty near the scene of violence as if they were prisoners of war. The policemen looked at them with shocked expressions. On June 28, a photograph of the two half-naked police officers ran on the front pages of the morning newspapers. This will go down in modern Korean history as one of many shocking incidents of modern history.
There was a similar photograph 17 years ago. The victim back then was the prime minister. The Democratic Justice Party, United Democratic Party and the Unified New Democratic Party merged in January 1990. The birth of a giant governing party blew a negative wind through the nation. From April 1991, university students collided violently with police forces. A riot policeman, who lost control when he saw fellow police officers injured by gasoline bombs and steel pipes wielded by demonstrators, swung a steel pipe, killing a student of Myongji University, Kang Kyung-dae. The wave of protest rallies spread through the whole nation like a fire. A few university students attempted to set fire to themselves in protest and violent demonstrators wielded steel pipes and fire bombs. At the end of May, then- President Roh Tae-woo reshuffled his cabinet and the prime minister and announced that he would give up the idea of introducing a parliamentary system by revising the constitution. The fire of protest rallies, however, was not extinguished, and the turbulent situation rose to a boiling point.
The incident broke out on the evening of June 3. The newly-appointed prime minister, Chung Won-shik, went to Hankuk University of Foreign Studies to give the last lecture of the course he started before his inauguration. Around 300 students surrounded him and attacked for the reason that he oppressed the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union when he was minister of education. The students strangled the prime minister, punched him in the face and kicked him. Some even poured a bowl of flour over the his head. The prime minister was dragged about for about 30 minutes before he escaped and caught a taxi to the safety of his official residence.
A rightly furious President Roh Tae-woo watched the incident on the evening news that night. The president called his minister of education Yoon Hyoung-sup, and said, “How can university students abuse their teacher like that?” Cabinet ministers and advisers who heard about the president’s anger held an emergency meeting at a presidential safe house in Samcheong-dong late that night. From the cabinet, the ministers of domestic affairs, judicial affairs and government information service participated; from the Blue House, senior presidential secretaries in charge of state affairs and administration participated; and from the Prime Minister’s Office, the chief secretary and the chief of administration.
The immoral acts of university students changed the course of Korean history. The students who led the violence ended up in court and the group that led protest rallies gave up the plan to stage nation-wide anti-government rallies.
Derided for being “as easy as water,” former President Roh Tae-woo still knew when to get tough and show anger when he had to. However, the “Bulldozer” President Lee Myung-bak doesn’t even seem to know how to get angry. In a civilized society, some kind of indignant, forceful measure should have been taken when the mob stripped those police officers of their uniforms, and the photo was carried in newspapers. The president should have held a special press conference at the place where he was vacationing and announce that he would restore law and order and revitalize the demoralized police. The prime minister should have held an emergency meeting with the ministers of judicial affairs, public administration and security, the Prosecutor General and Police Commissioner. Young police officers broke their arms and legs and the legal system was thrown away like a scrap of paper, because those officeholders abandoned their duties whenever there were violent protest rallies.
In a democratic country, the uniforms of civil servants are like their skin. Taking off the uniform of police officers is like tearing off the country’s skin. Ripping off police uniform and ganging up on officers is an immoral act against the country. It is like pouring flour on the spirit of the nation.
The government authorities took no action. Did anyone, the ministers of judicial affairs, public administration and security, Prosecutor General or Police Commissioner, let out their pent-up anger against those who stripped the police?
Does the president have no time to visit the police hospital, even though he had time to go to a mourner’s house to express his condolences?
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin