A mature protest culture

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A mature protest culture

Canada, the host of July’s G-20 Summit in Toronto, poured more than 1 trillion won ($886 million) into efforts to prevent violent protests. The government even set up a 3-meter-high barbed-wire fence around the conference hall and deployed about 20,000 police officers.

And yet they still weren’t able to cope with protesters wearing masks and setting fire to police cars, banks and stores. Citizens suffered when tear gas was used to control crowds.

In London, the host city of the G-20 meeting last April, one person was killed and many others were injured when a group of ferocious protestors smashed the windows of Britain’s central bank building.

With just three weeks left before the G-20 Summit in Seoul, our government should be on full alert. But if authorities fail to deal effectively with fierce demonstrations that could break out, it will undoubtedly tarnish our national image. All our efforts and aspirations to elevate our country on the global stage, not to mention the tremendous financial cost we will incur, will be for naught.

In this regard, we welcome the Federation of Korean Trade Unions’ decision “not to participate in any form of protest during the G-20 period” because as it says, it “cannot allow a golden opportunity to promote our national image become a catastrophe.”

The union’s support and cooperation, though crucial, will come as a surprise to society, which has witnessed continued division between rival factions.

At the same time, we think it is regrettable that the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions has declared that it will be aggressive in protesting the G-20 meetings in Seoul. The KCTU plans to stage a series of rallies in conjunction with several labor groups overseas and has designated the period from now to Nov. 12, when the summit closes, as the official period of strife.

There will be no problem if their rallies proceed peacefully. But as demonstrated by previous incidents, peaceful rallies can devolve into violent clashes when tainted by a mob mentality.

We do not need to have front pages of foreign newspapers covered with sensational photos of protestors in Korea wielding steel pipes or bamboo spears during the upcoming summit. We hope that the KCTU will not resort to violence this time. If it can engage in a mature and sophisticated culture of protest, it will make a contribution to the enhancement of our national interest.
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