The value of a good public authority

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The value of a good public authority


My experience in the United States changed my driving habits. I now become nervous whenever I see a police officer. I’ve never received a traffic ticket in my life, but I tense up whenever I see a patrol car on highways or local roads. It’s because the police in the United States are powerful.

In Korea, drivers often get into arguments with traffic cops. Not many drivers admit their faults when they are caught for violating a signal or running the speed limit. I, too, resisted the traffic cops. However, if you do the same in the United States, you can get in big trouble. Korean correspondents in Washington share an urban legend: a Korean driver was caught for violating a signal, and he started an argument with the traffic cop just as he would in Korea. Then, the cop peeked into the car and issued seven tickets, including a seat belt violation, a stop-light violation and obstruction of justice. The fines added up to more than $1,000.

In the United States, protesters must follow the rules strictly as well. The police line is not a mere line. It distinguishes what’s lawful and what’s not.

The Occupy Wall Street protest began in New York in the summer of 2011 and stirred American society for 73 days. When the protest spread to Washington, a Korean police executive visited the site and was deeply impressed. There were about 200 protesters, and one police officer was in charge of keeping them in order. But when the protesters approached the police line, he sounded a siren and warned, “If you take one step further from where you are now, your protest will become illegal.”

The demonstrators stepped back at once. The Korean police executive said that it would take as many riot police to push back 200 protesters in Seoul. Americans have trust in public authority, which is strict on both the powerful and the weak.

What divided barbarism and civilization in the Sewol ferry accident was how the captain and crew members acted. The folly Korea’s public authorities staged in the aftermath illustrated the difference between advancement and backwardness. They announced the raid on Geumsuwon, the Salvation Sect compound, four days before the arrest warrant, giving Yoo Byung-eun, the shadowy business tycoon behind the Sewol ferry’s operator, plenty of time to flee. As expected, he is still at large.

The public authority that is weak to the powerful and mighty to the weak is no longer functional. When Korean independence fighters were battling against imperial Japan and democratic activists opposed dictatorship, the public authority was the evil. Therefore, it was right to resist. That’s why many Koreans still speak up against traffic police.

However, the link must be severed there. In a normal democratic nation, public authority is the apparatus that maintains society and protects the people. Public authority that is firm on the strong and stern on the weak is a good that should not be ignored. The national reform plan must include the revival of a good public authority.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 27, Page 30

*The author is the JoongAng Ilbo Washington bureau chief.


Correction and rebuttal statement by the Evangelical Baptist Church

The Korea JoongAng Daily, regarding the reports since April 16, 2014, about the Evangelical Baptist Church (EBC) and Yoo Byung-eun, is publishing the following corrections and an excerpt from the rebuttal statement by the EBC.


Through three past investigations by the prosecution, it has been revealed that Yoo and the EBC, also known as the “Salvation Group” and Guwonpa in Korean, are not related to the Odaeyang mass suicide incident. That was also confirmed by the prosecution in its official statement on May 21. The prosecution’s investigation also found that Yoo had not made an attempt to smuggle himself out of the country or seek political asylum in France. We, therefore, correct the concerned reports.

Yoo retired from his executive management position in 1997. He did not own any shares in the noted companies, nor had he managed operations or used the operating funds for personal reasons. There are no grounds to call him the actual owner and chairman of the company. As such, he did not provide any directives in regards to the overloading of the Sewol ferry or its renovation.

It was verified that the captain and crew members who abandoned ship at the time of the Sewol ferry accident are not members of the EBC. It has also been verified that the EBC does not own any shares of Chonghaejin Marine Company and did not engage in its management.

Rebuttal statement

The EBC’s position is that the museums in the United States and Europe can never authorize an exhibition unless the artistic value of an artist’s works is recognized by the screening committee, irrespective of the amount of money an artist donates. The EBC’s position is that the exhibitions were not a result of Mr. Yoo’s patronage or donation, and Yoo also has not coerced Chonghaejin and its affiliates to purchase his photos.

The EBC states that Yoo did not participate in the foundation of the EBC in 1981, and the church does not offer him the title “pastor.” It also says a significant part of the 240 billion won ($206 million) worth of assets suspected of belonging to the Yoo family are real estate properties owned by the farming associations, which had been established by church members.

The EBC states that there are certain churches in Korea that call the EBC a cult, solely based on differences between their’s and the EBC’s doctrines.

But the EBC does not worship a particular individual as a religious sect leader or preach any doctrine that contradicts the Bible.

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