Just doing his job

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Just doing his job

What happens to Kim Seok-ki, the newly appointed National Police Commissioner-general, can serve as a litmus test on how mature our society has become.

Kim should not withdraw unless there is a good reason, nor should he cling to office. His post doesn’t belong to the president but to the sane reason of Korean society.

Opposition parties, anti-government civic organizations and others have condemned recent police actions at a redevelopment site in Yongsan, central Seoul, which ended in six deaths.

They blame Kim, the commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police, for issuing a hasty order to disperse demonstrators. They claim the police started the fire that killed five protesters and a police officer, calling it a direct result of the commissioner’s orders.

Prosecutors are still investigating the cause of the blaze, but they have tentatively concluded that Molotov cocktails in the protesters’ watchtower ignited the inferno.

TV footage shows the police using water hoses, not fire, to break up the protest. The makeshift bombs were used by the protesters.

The actions of the police should not be regarded as illegal acts but in the context of reasoned judgements made during a crisis.

The riot took place on city streets where demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, acid and bricks. The riot was not only violent, it was well-planned. Police feared the situation could have gotten out of hand if it hadn’t been quickly brought under control.

Under the findings so far, Kim has no reason to be the fall guy. He merely gave the green light to the consensus among on-site commanders that a SWAT team had to be mobilized. He was not abusing his position; he was doing his job.

But the death of five protesters has hit a sensitive cord here. Other countries don’t blame their police officers for actions taken that result in casualties. If our country wants to join the ranks of advanced countries, we have to be more reasonable and not jump to conclusions so quickly. The president should stand by principles and the ruling party should support them as well.

The opposition parties and civilian bodies should also learn to agree with each other, not because of political logic, but because we are one community.

Under the so-called law of public sentiment, someone may have to take responsibility for the deaths. Even so, the incumbent police chief should answer for it, not the incoming one.
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