Revise the law before G-20

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Revise the law before G-20

A revised law on assemblies and demonstrations remains idle in the National Assembly. The Constitutional Court last year ruled that Article 10, which banned nighttime rallies, violated the constitutional right to free assembly and recommended that legislators revise the law by June 30.

As a result, demonstrators have been free to storm the streets late at night during the legislative hiatus. The right to a quiet night’s sleep remains at risk because legislators disregarded the court deadline and order before their recess.

In its ruling on the constitutionality of the ban on nighttime rallies, the Constitutional Court decided that the freedom of assembly should be guaranteed, while agreeing that a certain restriction should be imposed at night. It opposed the 1962 provision that prohibits all outdoor rallies from sunrise to sunset and ordered the National Assembly to devise more reasonable constraints on the time and space.

Yet the main opposition Democratic Party wants the ban fully lifted, disregarding the Constitutional Court’s order for a revision. It argues that revision is unnecessary because the Constitutional Court has already ruled the article unconstitutional, making nighttime rallies legal. It said that there had been no serious police reports of incidents from nighttime assemblies since the court ruling last year.

But its argument is as irresponsible as locking the stable door after the horse has bolted out. How will the legislative body explain if the legal vacuum costs citizens their rights?

Seoul will be hosting the Group of 20 Summit next month. Most of the public hopes that a successful event will help boost the country’s image and status. But major economic forums such as these are bound to draw protestors and rioters. Many famous activists and nongovernmental organizations from overseas are scheduling trips to Seoul. Local antigovernment and civilian bodies are likely to join the ruckus.

It would be best for a revised law to be endorsed this month before the G-20 Summit. The opposition parties argue that there is no need to hurry as the government has already enacted a special law to toughen security near the meeting area. But we need an extensive law to regulate violent protests across the nation.

It is fortunate that no major incidents have occurred since the lapse of the old law. Civilian annoyance with violent protests and restraint by activist groups have helped maintain order.

But we cannot rely on civilian restraint forever. There is no time to lose on revising the demonstration law. The ruling and opposition parties must find a middle ground from which to revise and re-enact the ban on nighttime assemblies.

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