Han must surrender

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Han must surrender

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency decided to put off a plan to raid Jogye Temple to arrest Han Sang-gyun, leader of the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who has been taking refuge in the temple for nearly a month. On Wednesday, Venerable Jaseung, head of the general administrative office of the Jogye Order, the largest sect of Korean Buddhism, said, “If the police execute an arrest warrant for him, it would only deepen conflict, not ease it.” The high priest plans to resolve the case before noon today. He also called on the police and KCTU to restrain from provocative actions.

The police delayed the execution of an arrest warrant for Han for 24 days fearing a public backlash if they raided a religious facility. In fact, policemen attempted to enter the main hall of the temple to drag Han out because he refused to appear.

The dispatching of police forces to the temple marks the first time since 2002, when law enforcement officers forcibly arrested members of the Korean Power Plant Industry Union, who took refuge in the temple to avoid being arrested. In massive protests over the mad cow disease scare in 2008, Lee Seok-haeng, Han’s predecessor, also hid in the Buddhist temple, but was arrested by the police after 100 days. Venerable Dobeob, a high priest of the temple and current chairman of a reconciliation committee, serves as a mediator between the union and police.

The KCTU holds the government accountable for the crisis. But Han must take responsibility for the standoff between his radical group and the police. The union leader promised Buddhist worshippers of the temple that he would surrender to the police if a second large rally ended peacefully on Dec. 5. The protest ended peacefully. Yet he flip-flopped on a pledge to appear before the police, attacking the Buddhist worshippers as “proxies of the government.”

Han claims he will emerge from the temple if the government promises a dialogue. That’s nonsense. Before he was elected chairman of the union in its first-ever direct election, Han made a campaign promise to kick off a general strike after defining any dialogue with the government as “kowtowing.” From the outset, he had no intention to start a conversation with the government to bridge their gaps on government-led labor reforms, as clearly seen in his abstention from a tripartite committee on labor reforms. It is ludicrous for him to talk about dialogue. Han must surrender himself to the police as he promised.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 10, Page 34

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