Just compensation

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Just compensation

Compensate police 100 percent for injuries from assaults during rallies and protests.

This in essence was the Supreme Court’s ruling yesterday during an appeals hearing over the government’s request for compensation from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. The ruling was similar to one the Supreme Court handed down last December, when it said that those who damage police cars during protests must provide 100 percent compensation.

The rulings say that people who damage police cars or hurt police officers will be held fully accountable for their actions from a monetary standpoint.

In other words, these are relatively strict rulings that apply the concept of “no tolerance” to illegal actions and violence.

The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held a rally in July 2007 near Seoul World Cup Stadium denouncing the large-scale release of temporary employees. During the protest, some union members assaulted police officers at the scene, punching and kicking them. Twelve restraining officers ended up being hospitalized with everything from broken jaws and torn ligaments to neck injuries. The government filed for compensation of 25.18 million won ($21,714) from the confederation. The Seoul court ordered the umbrella union to compensate the whole amount during the first trial. But a second trial later reduced that to 60 percent under the justification of “fair division of damages.” This stimulated a “quantitative equity” debate and provided the confederation with a pretext to claim that the police force was 40 percent responsible. By agreeing with the first ruling and holding the confederation responsible for all of the damage, the Supreme Court has made the limitations of responsibility clear and therefore in effect killed the debate. It is a ruling that simultaneously makes sense and reflects the situation of current times.

Korea experienced 510 protests of all sizes last year. The number was less than the 577 protests in 2008, a year that saw many candlelight vigils. But the protests are growing more and more violent. More than 200 police officers were injured with steel pipes, wooden sticks and slingshots last year at protests. This is an increase of 136 officers over the 71 injured the year before. The phenomenon leads to great socioeconomic costs, too.

Police force policy is to press criminal charges against illegal protestors and add a financial burden on top of that. The force is currently in the process of filing law suits claiming 3.2 billion won in damages against metal labor unions and construction labor unions. We look forward to more “no tolerance” rulings to end the cycle of chronic violent protests.

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