Destroying altar was wrongConservative organizations vandalized a makeshift altar for the deceased former President Roh Moo-hyun in front of Deoksu Palace early yesterday morning. Several members from a unit of the National Action Campaign for Freedom and Democracy in Korea and an association of veteran soldiers tore down a tent and took away the portrait of the former president.
It is understandable that they felt helpless and angry since public law enforcement had wielded no power, and illegal acts had not been restrained in the area.
However, using violence cannot be sanctioned under any circumstances.
According to police statistics, the number of mourners who visited the altar had dropped to 40 to 80 people per day.
For the mourners’ sake, the Jung District Office had tolerated the fact that the altar was set up without proper permission.
But recently it sent a letter asking that the altar be removed because the office believed that the purpose of the altar had been achieved. Democrat Baek Won-woo, who acts on behalf of the family of the former president, also requested, in a roundabout way, that makeshift altars across the country be demolished. He said that since a ceremony was to be held in temples across the nation 49 days after the former president’s death, it seemed about the time to remove the altars.
The family of the former president reportedly said that the deceased would not have been pleased to see social conflict being created over how to mourn him.
One wonders why some want to preserve the altars, ignoring the family’s wishes, when few people still visit them.
However, the police, not private organizations, should combat illegal acts. Suh Jung-kap, the head of the National Action Campaign for Freedom and Democracy in Korea, said that he and his organization had to do something when illegal equipment turned public space into a lawless zone.
However, by using violence, they also broke the law, contradicting themselves. They no longer have the moral ground to criticize rival civic organizations that stage violent rallies.
According to the Samsung Economic Research Institute, among the 30 member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Korea is the fourth-worst country in terms of costs for social conflict.
President Lee Myung-bak recently emphasized policies that would benefit low-income earners and support social unity. The move shows that the president believes social integration is a very important goal. Vandalizing the altar was not the right way to help affairs of the state.
Abiding by the law is. Violence gives rise to more violence, intensifying conflict and hatred. We cannot and must not repeat the chaos that we experienced after our country was liberalized. If one believes that the law is remote while violence is a viable option, law and order cannot be restored and social integration cannot be achieved.