Who are Seoul’s citizens?The police have decided to ban a planned rally commemorating the June 10, 1987 pro-democracy movement organized by opposition parties and civic groups scheduled for Wednesday at Seoul Plaza and Cheonggye Stream in central Seoul.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government also denied the groups’ request, saying that it doesn’t fulfill the plaza’s original purpose.
The police explained that the Seoul government had given priority to events such as an exhibition of Korean War photos, whose organizers had been the first to file a request for use of the space.
However, everybody can assume that the essence of the issue does not simply have to do with the order in which the reports were filed.
This is probably why some left-leaning civic groups argue that the Seoul municipal ordinance should be revised so that anyone can use the plaza if notice is filed, with the claim that “Seoul Plaza belongs to the citizens.”
Currently, only those obtaining approval from the city government can use the plaza.
Who are the “citizens” named by the civic groups?
Are they the people who destroyed police buses with hoes and steel bars and attacked riot police in their buses the day after the people’s funeral of former President Roh Moo-hyun was held?
Are they the people who last month broke into the Hi Seoul Festival, occupied the stage and lit insecticide devices and throw them at the police?
The current law bans public assemblies or demonstrations that are seen as posing a direct threat to public order via damage to public facilities, fire and violence.
The hosts of these gatherings and demonstrations are responsible for keeping the peace.
But the residents of Seoul have been suffering the ill effects of violent nighttime demonstrations that have at times turned central Seoul into a lawless and chaotic land since the plaza opened in May 2004.
If these citizens had been engaged in staging peaceful rallies, there would be no problem. But that is not what has been happening in the city center.
The police’s banning public assemblies with the potential to develop into violent protests may infringe on the basic rights promised by the Constitution.
However, those who commit acts of violence against the police should give serious consideration to how much damage they are imposing on their fellow citizens.
Seoul Plaza belongs to all of the citizens of Seoul.
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