Violent protests unjustifiedConservative civic organizations are holding fiery and controversial protests in front of the headquarters of a dissident civilians’ rights group in Jongno District, downtown Seoul, chastising its decision to send a letter questioning the veracity of a government-led investigative report into the sinking of the Cheonan.
The organizations claim that the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, or PSPD, advocated for the North Korean regime and stirred societal unrest. People chanted “Stop supporting North Korea!” and vowed to continue holding rallies in front of the building until the PSPD withdraws its stance and the letter it sent to the United Nations Security Council as well as apologize for its actions.
The PSPD’s maverick action of doubting the results of a government-led, multinational investigation into the sinking of the ship is worthy of criticism at home. At the UN forum, South Korean diplomats are now wrangling with North Korean delegates to seek international condemnation against the provocative attack on the Cheonan on March 26.
Against this backdrop, a move to undermine the government’s diplomatic efforts on security issues by advocating for a state suspected of a military attack is tantamount to betraying the country. But conservative bodies taking emotional and collective aim at the liberal group seems equally immature. Our Constitution, after all, guarantees freedom of speech.
Many people are worried about growing sympathy for North Koreans, even though the country is suspected of torpedoing a ship on a peaceful patrol mission and killing 46 young sailors. But militant protests armed with illegal fire bombs cannot gain public support. The conservative bodies threatened to use Molotov cocktails, clashed with the police and lashed out with inflammatory outbursts. Such violent means only undermine justice and the motives behind the protests.
Protests typically result in sympathy and support from the public - when manifested within legal boundaries through peaceful and rational means. The organizations behind the protests must use more common sense and regain their composure to make the renegade action group acknowledge its faults. Resorting to violence will only bring disgrace to the entire conservative population.
The public loses its patience when protests turn violent. We must learn from the clashes that eclipsed the overall peaceful candlelight vigil protests against American beef imports in 2008. The liberal press also must refrain from fanning ideological conflict by attacking the government and conservative media.