Career police for riot suppressionWe welcome the National Human Rights Commission’s recommendation that riot police and other types of police drafted by the government be replaced by professional police officers, as the police draft should be scrapped one day.
First of all, the police draft violates its original goal of conducting counterespionage operations against North Korea; drafted police are now used to support our regular police force in suppressing violent riots.
The commission cited this discrepancy to justify its recommendation. Some people, however, have voiced concern that abolition of the police draft will not only lead to more violence in public rallies but will also require a higher budget to maintain.
The current draft for riot police has been an expedient way to find needed manpower among young people to be conscripted for military service. In other words, the state has arbitrarily shifted its oversight of national defense to the suppression of riots.
This usually ends up exacerbating the violence within police ranks - in the form of beatings and harsh treatment of junior members - which is one result of frequent mobilization to squelch protests. As such, the commission has come up with a solution to avert customary abuse of human rights among the riot police.
In foreign countries, career police officers are in charge of controlling violent demonstrations. This is seen in France, Germany and Japan, all of which employ professional riot police. The National Police Agency had planned to abolish the draft by 2013 by incrementally reducing the number of drafted police by 20 percent each year beginning in 2008, with the force to be eventually replaced by career police. The number of drafted police has been slashed to 23,000 from 40,000, but the plan has since stalled.
Of course, the new system will require more money. Some say that an additional 100 billion won ($89 million) will be needed to recruit 10,000 career police to replace drafted ones. And the government may face trouble in effectively curbing radical protests. Eventually, however, the issue is about our protest culture, which will be manageable as long as members of the new professional riot police force strictly apply the law to violent protesters. It’s not a question of using our youth as a shield against riots.
The National Police Agency has a plan to keep as many as 25,000 drafted police until 2015. We hope that the government will find a more efficient way to deal with riots rather than demanding a sacrifice from our innocent youth.