[Letters] Protest violence never justified
As the situation at Ssangyong Motors worsens, many fear that the protest will turn into the next Yongsan tragedy, where protesters and a police officer died during clashes.
So far public opinion on the righteousness of the workers is divided, with some supporting the workers and others supporting the government. I personally think that the issue of irregular workers and other labor matters always has been a major problem for the Korean economy.
There is no doubt that the situation at Ssangyong should be resolved. Considering this, the South Korean government should be blamed for being so blinded by political disputes and neglecting the lives of citizens.
But I also believe that the actions of the Ssangyong workers cannot also be justified. A society in which no law and order exists is likely to collapse in chaos.
People say that the desperate situation of the workers is giving them no choice but to protest. However, if we chose to ignore law and order just because we feel sympathy for someone, then every person would feel that they could legitimately break the laws.
Let’s take the example of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, who stole food because he was starving. Some have said that because he was desperate, he should not be punished for stealing food. Others say that he should be punished just as every other thief is punished.
If we chose the latter route, the social irregularity will create more victims.
However, if we take the former, then everyone can say “I can use violence, or cause crime because I am poor!” This is the logic of the supporters of the Ssangyong workers, that “the workers are in such a desperate situation, of course they can use violence!”
But no armed force can be justified in a democracy. Ssangyong workers on strike should never compare themselves to the armed demonstrators of the Gwangju Democratic Movement. That was a fight between justice and injustice. Now, the fight is merely between two opposing interests.
Some people will say, “How can you say such a thing, you are so heartless!”
Here is my reasoning: I would have supported the workers, if they had not armed themselves with weapons that can kill people. I would have supported them if they did not politically abuse the situation. I would have supported them if they were not so illogical as to think that the end will always justify the means.
Some media reports have been trying to show how desperate the workers’ situation is. They tell us that there is no food and no water, and show us pictures of the police attacking demonstrators. They say that the Lee Myung-bak Administration is tyrannical.
But what they never show is the workers throwing handmade bombs, people beating up police when they are already on fire, and the fact that there are more people from the outside labor union involved in the protest than actual Ssangyong workers.
If people protesting at Ssangyong want to win the real support of the citizens, they should do it peacefully.
The aggressiveness of Korean workers is already infamous. Research shows that Korea ranks almost last when it comes to cooperation between companies and labor unions.
Of course, the company executives also hold some blame for the situation. However, when Ssangyong workers throw deadly weapons, they are telling the country that they do not want to take any legitimate measures to solving their problems.
Those who support the government in the protest are not always supporters of President Lee Myung-bak. They are merely supporters of social order and law.
Ends can never justify the means, and violence can never be justified as a way to express one’s opinion.
Ssangyong workers are fighting out there because they are fathers and sons of families. Perhaps they should think about what the violence is doing to their families, and end the fighting.
Kang Yoon-seung, Student, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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