Stopping squatter violence

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Stopping squatter violence

The prosecution’s investigation into the blaze and manslaughter in Yongsan has revealed that the National Alliance of Squatters aggravated the situation. In order to prevent future violent incidents in urban redevelopment sites, steps must be taken to block the NAS’s future movements.

The organization was launched in 1994 and has since led violent protests at construction sites. It has resorted to extreme measures, even developing and producing homemade guns and flamethrowers.

An investigation of the recent incident in Yongsan has revealed that the NAS orchestrated the protests from the beginning. The organization planned to occupy the building via a main road and taught area business proprietors how to build a watchtower.

It accumulated dangerous materials that could kill people - like Molotov cocktails, paint thinner, hydrochloric acid and barrels of gas - for protests and taught tenants how to use them.

Urban redevelopment will inevitably expand as time goes by. Tenants who have to move will naturally feel disadvantaged. Therefore, if the NAS or a similar organization instigates future protests, they will find support at any time. Such violence will cause insecurity in society, which, when combined with the current economic crisis, could lead to even more chaos. The government must be on alert.

The government must be strict in its response to the NAS. The NAS president, who directed the occupation of the Yongsan building, has been wanted for six years. But after the incident, he held a meeting with a political party chairman in a ceremony to burn incense in memory of the victims. This is hard to believe. The key figure in the protest has been neglected, which shows how lax law-enforcement bodies have been.

Institutions must be reformed to prevent extreme organizations like the NAS from operating again. When urban areas are redeveloped, compensation is offered to land owners. But tenants, particularly those who have small businesses, don’t get enough compensation.

Shopkeepers pay hefty sums to operate in good locations, but the premiums are not compensated by law. This has often been a cause of conflict when redevelopment takes place. The law must be revised to raise compensation premiums for outgoing shop tenants. An institute to mediate conflicts must be formed as well. When institutional, protective measures are prepared, there will be no room for forces that instigate violence.
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