A slap to Oh, council O.K.’s Seoul Plaza rallies

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A slap to Oh, council O.K.’s Seoul Plaza rallies

The Seoul Metropolitan Council yesterday put into effect a revised bill that allows people to hold rallies at Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall without obtaining permission from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which goes largely against Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s position to keep the old regulation.

Previously, only cultural events were allowed to take place at the plaza, with the permission of Oh.

In a press conference yesterday at the city council, Heo Kwang-tae, head of the council, stressed that implementing the revised bill is necessary.

“The old regulation restricted the use of the plaza to leisure and cultural activities and required prior permission,” Heo said, “and that infringes on freedom of assembly, which is guaranteed by the Constitution.

“The change will expand the use of plaza for the people,” he said.

The revised bill goes into effect immediately and anyone interested in holding activities - including rallies and demonstrations that praise or condemn government policies - can make a reservation up to 60 days ahead of the event.

The city council’s decision comes several days after Oh refused to adopt the revised ordinance. Under the law governing metropolitan governments, if a mayor or a governor rejects an ordinance passed by a council, the council chairman can overrule the mayor or governor to put the law into effect.

“Some argue that Seoul Plaza will turn into a noisy venue, out of control, but such ways of thinking originated from people of a biased mind-set, which insults the sense of democracy of the citizens,” Heo said.

Oh said on Sept. 19 that the city would file a lawsuit, asking the Supreme Court to nullify the council’s decision to allow people to hold rallies and other events at the Seoul Plaza, saying it is highly likely that the plaza would be overtaken by violent rallies.

Kim Myung-soo, a city councilor, said he hoped the city government wouldn’t take the issue to the Supreme Court, but if it does, the council would form a legal task force team to prepare a lawsuit, he said.

The political tug-of-war between the mayor and the council began after the opposition Democratic Party took control of the council by winning 79 of 106 seats in the June 2 local elections.

Oh belongs to the ruling Grand National Party and DP councilors vow to block Oh’s projects.

The city council approved the latest amended ordinance on Seoul Plaza rallies on Sept. 10, after accepting Oh’s request for a second vote after the council originally approved the change because the revised ordinance conflicted with an existing city ordinance, which states that the use of public facilities - roads and parks - requires prior permission from the city government.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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