[Letters] The annoyances of night rallies

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[Letters] The annoyances of night rallies

You can see a lot of policemen when you pass by major places such as the Seoul City Hall. They were sent to maintain order at various rallies and to prevent possible violent protests. When any group reports a planned rally to the police, policemen, who otherwise would be mobilized to prevent crimes, are dispatched to the rally site in order to guarantee peaceful demonstrations.

In particular, police are on full alert as important state events, such as the June local elections and the G-20 Summit in November, are scheduled to take place this year. Police have no choice but to go to those events because the nation’s image can be tainted if any illegal, violent protests occur in the course of the events.

The Constitutional Court ruled last September that a ban on outdoor rallies after sunset was unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court articulated that the relevant law should be revised in accordance with the court’s ruling by June 30, 2010. Subsequently, the regulation will be repealed unless the revision is made by June 30.

The ruling Grand National Party submitted the revision bill to the Public Administration and Security Committee of the National Assembly on Feb. 16. The revision bill states that outdoor rallies are not permitted after 10 p.m. and until 6 a.m. the next day. The rally ban regulation currently states that outdoor rallies are not permitted before sunrise or after sunset. But the National Assembly has never deliberated on the bill properly in the complex web of real politics.

Unless the National Assembly votes on the revision bill by the end of April, many political observers think that it would be almost impossible to make the necessary change by June 30 owing to the June local elections and their aftermath in the political arena.

The freedom of assembly is an essential and important basic civil right that contributes to the public opinion-forming process. Therefore, the right should be guaranteed in a maximum level. But that does not mean that the freedom of assembly should be guaranteed indiscreetly or unlimitedly.

If the National Assembly fails to revise the rally ban regulation in time, numerous interest groups may wage outdoor rallies at night. Nighttime rallies are much more difficult than daytime ones for the police to maintain order or to prevent unexpected violent incidents. Because of this, police must mobilize more forces to address nighttime rallies. That will lead to a depletion of police manpower that could otherwise can be assigned to prevent crimes.

In addition, residents and merchants in the vicinity of rally sites will suffer annoyance caused by nighttime outdoor demonstrations, even though their privacy should be protected in the nighttime more than the daytime. Who can compensate for material and mental damages the residents and merchants will suffer? Students who are studying for tests and patients who need to rest during the nighttime can be severely inflicted by nighttime outdoor rallies.

I want to ask agitators who demand unlimited permission for any outdoor rally, “What will you do if some groups stage boisterous rallies in front of your house overnight?”

Kim Ki-hong,

police officer at the National Police Agency
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