Full responsibility

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Full responsibility

The Supreme Court issued a ruling last Friday on a lawsuit filed by the government against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions dealing with a protest.

“As police cars were damaged during the illegal protest, the relevant people associated with the action should provide full compensation,” it said, returning the case to the Seoul Central District Court.

The Supreme Court annulled the original decision that the trade union group should provide compensation for 60 percent of the damage. The principles of “no mercy” and “full responsibility,” it insinuated, should be applied to those who broke the law.

The lawsuit deals with an incident in June 2007, when some members from the union organization occupied a road and damaged 11 police cars in Yeouido.

Although the government claimed damages exceeding more than 24 million won ($20,643) against the leaders of the protest, the court of appeals ruled that the union group should take responsibility for 60 percent of the damage, as they strived to maintain public order and prevent protesters from resorting to violent means.

Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court ruled that “no liability for compensation should be reduced even though the [union] cooperated in preserving order.”

Forty-four violent protests occurred this year alone. Although the number is half of the total from last year (89 cases), violent clashes are becoming more common. The number of police officers injured by protesters wielding bamboo spears and slingshots exceeded more than 200.

According to the Korea Development Institute, social loss caused by illegal protests is huge. In particular, if any legal or illegal rally occurs in central Seoul, socioeconomic expenses exceed 43.7 billion won for each legal case and 77.6 billion won for each illegal case. The Korea Economic Research Institute released data that showed that direct costs exceeded more than 1.57 trillion won and indirect costs amounted to nearly 2.7 trillion won during last year’s candlelight rallies.

The police lodged a total of nine complaints against the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, the Korean Federation of Construction Industry Trade Unions and Ssangyong’s labor union for damage amounting to 3.22 billion won. They are insisting that these labor unions should bear financial as well as criminal liability. We hope that the Supreme Court’s ruling will reconfirm the principle that there are always consequences and costs tied to illegal actions. In addition, it is high time that rallies should be overhauled across the board.

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