Right decision on Yongsan

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Right decision on Yongsan

All nine protestors accused of causing a fire during a clash between evictees and police at a redevelopment site in Yongsan were found guilty. Five civilians and a police officer were killed, and the nine face two to six years in prison.

A local Seoul District Court upheld the charges, concluding that the Molotov cocktails thrown by the demonstrators caused the fire and that the SWAT team was right to move in to disperse the scene for the sake of the safety of passersby and the occupants of the building.

We believe the court ruling mirrors the voice of the majority of the public. “No matter how desperate the situation is, the action of seizing the building and threatening the police with dangerous materials goes against the law and order of our society,” the ruling read.

It found that the dispatch of SWAT officers to the scene was necessary, given the fact that the conflict area was close to roads next to the Han River. It added that no motive can justify the means of violence.

Many militant protestors fought violently and for as long as they could against the police to get what they wanted, but the ruling sends a clear message that their strategy will no longer work.

We now need to muster our wisdom to wrap up the case on reasonable grounds. Families of the victims and the related city authorities must now agree on more practical terms. No outside force should interfere.

Seoul city officials say the city and the families of the victims have concluded terms for funeral costs and are nearing an agreement on financial compensation. We hope the two sides will reach a mutual agreement.

We also must build a social system to prevent such a tragedy from recurring. Mediating and relief channels must be set up so that evictees of development sites and construction contractors can agree on terms without the need for the police to take action.

Authorities should also review other ways for large-size relocation or redevelopment projects. Daejeon, for instance, has been conducting a relief program for impoverished areas subject to redevelopment since 2006.

It has spent 98.8 billion won ($83.4 million) to build recreational centers and study areas to raise the living standards there to make the communities a better place to live in instead of opting to wipe them out.
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