Bracing for the worst
The public fears another round of mayhem from today’s planned anti-government rally in downtown Seoul.
The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) head has gone so far as to sound the alarm that today’s massive demonstration could paralyze not only the capital but the entire country.
The rally on Nov. 14 ended up in violent clashes between protesters and policemen, with 113 officers injured and 50 police vehicles smashed by pipe-wielding protesters.
A farmer is still unconscious after being hit by a water cannon fired by police. Rally organizers promised a peaceful protest to deliver their message against government policies. They said they will do their utmost to prevent violent clashes.
But we cannot let our guard down since militant organizations use the streets for political purposes all the time. KCTU head Han Sang-gyun, who has taken refuge at the Jogye Temple in central Seoul to escape arrest for orchestrating the violent rally in November, has already warned that Saturday’s protest could turn dirty.
The organizer therefore has the responsibility to enforce order so that the protest can progress in a peaceful way.
By respecting the court approval of the event, security should also be reinforced to prevent violence. Protesters should be aware that they could be held accountable for undermining public safety and order, as well as the public’s constitutional rights of the pursuit of happiness and freedom of expression, if they let the rally get out of hand.
Police must guarantee the right of peaceful protest to our citizens but also try to discourage any violent developments. Police came under fire for inflaming the demonstrators last month through their defensive response.
The opposition should stop using street rallies as a means of political attack and raise their voices clearly against violence. We hope today’s rally could be a watershed to change the violence-ridden street rally tradition of our society.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 5, Page 30