A disgraceful party

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A disgraceful party

On Saturday, a group of conservative extremists pulled off an eating binge at Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul, right next to the bereaved families of victims of the April 16 ferry sinking who are involved in a hunger strike demanding a thorough investigation of the disaster. The 100 people in attendance are members of the Ilgan Best (Ilbe), an online community of conservatives. They sang and ate pizza and fried chicken to mock the hunger strike the victims’ families have been staging since they lost their children in the ferry sinking. A special Sewol ferry law has not been approved yet due to their opposition to some aspects of it.

One blogger built a dog house and put dog food at the site where the group held their rude ceremony with a banner reading “This is where those who are worse than dogs have their food.” The partisan wrangling over the Sewol ferry law has spilled over into society, sending extremists to carry out insensitive acts.

Sponsors said their performance had the simple message of demanding that Gwanghwamum Plaza, which has turned into a stage for political protest, be returned to citizens. They claimed they were well-behaved and cleaned up the area afterwards.

But whatever the intention might have been, their eating binge right next to the people who have been shunning food for weeks or months over the loss of their family members was cruel beyond comprehension. The families also had an altar for the victims at the site for Chuseok, the Korean thanksgiving. The distasteful sight not only upset the families, but also common citizens.

The disagreements within society are leading to extreme and emotional tirades instead of healthy reasoning and debate. Some of the Ilbe members are digging up old regional Gyeongsang-Jeolla animosity and confrontations by calling people from Jeolla names. Anti-Ilbe sites have also sprouted since their demonstration. Some have developed online scanners to check whether the visitor is a member of Ilbe or not.

Everyone is entitled to express their opinion in a democratic society. But that does not mean they should be cruel. To safeguard society, decency and respect toward others must be upheld regardless of differences in opinions and beliefs.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 30

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