Throw away the tents

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Throw away the tents

It all went wrong from the outset. The tents the Democratic Party put up on the then-green grass of Seoul Plaza in the hot summer days look unbearably shabby now to the eyes of passers-by. The worn-out symbols of protests against the government have turned into a nuisance for the main opposition party. With the 100-day anniversary coming a week later, only party officials - not lawmakers - take turns safeguarding the tents. They were erected as part of its outdoor campaign against the National Intelligence Service’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election.

DP Chairman Kim Han-gill, who led the outdoor rally, sleeps in the National Assembly building in Yeouido since going back to the legislature - because the tents still haunt him. His loyalty to the liberal party can be understood. But his many lawmaker peers and aides are having serious trouble living a normal life due to their boss’s radical departure from the norm. Some officials went so far as to complain of stomach disorders caused by irregular sleeping and dining.

All the pains of Kim and others can, of course, be attributed to the eccentric way they practice democracy, as their preceding members did. However, they must be accountable for the illegitimate installation of the tents. All rallies and installations on Seoul Plaza demand a preliminary report to the city government. But the DP received permission only for a weeklong protest at most on the plaza. Since then, all of its rallies have been illegal as they constitute an unlawful occupation of public space. The penalty for violating the law already exceeded 11 million won ($10,368) as of last month.

As the DP’s unlawful occupation continues, the splinter opposition Unified Progressive Party - now under heavy pressure to be dissolved due to its pro-North Korean platforms - rolled up its sleeves to pitch a tent on the plaza in protest of the government’s “crackdown” on democracy before the police sent them packing. The UPP’s complaints sound a bit plausible: “Why do the police allow the DP’s illegal tents but not ours?” All the problems originate from these double standards: fighting for the bigger cause of democracy while neglecting even the basic rules of democracy.

We hope the Democratic Party pulls down its ragged tents as soon as possible. They first made the wrong choice of holding the rallies, and then they made the second error of leaving up the ugly tents, even after Kim declared an end to the rallies. We urge him to throw away any lingering attachment to the tents and get back to business. It takes real courage for a leader to know when to step back.
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