A brave heartClad in full formal uniform, Hong Seung-hwan, an officer from the Dongdaemun police district office, staged a single-person protest outside the head office of the National Police Agency. The scene of a police officer holding a solidarity picket against his own command is a sad criticism of the Korean police authority being swayed by the powers that be in the Blue House.
Hong used his day off to peacefully protest the police’s decision to accept a court’s recommendation for an out-of-court settlement in a lawsuit filed by the police for damages to police equipment during a violent clash in a rally about the Sewol ferry tragedy in April 2015. The bench advised the police to close the case without demanding financial compensation. Hong claimed that the legitimacy of law enforcement has been undermined by compromising with illegal protesters on no legal grounds or principle.
Why did the elite officer, who was once student body president of the National Police Academy and known for a solidarity protest outside the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office demanding prosecutorial reform six years ago, have to return to protest?
Police authorities have been making a series of moves to win points with the progressive powers that be in the Blue House. An internal human rights committee advised the police authority to drop its damage suits over the 2009 clash with dismissed SsangYong Motor workers and the 2015 rally by farmers that caused one death among the protesters. Officers agree that the police should apologize for the death of Baek Nam-gi, who fell after being hit by water cannons in a protest, but nevertheless must not tolerate the damages caused to officers policing the rally or police assets.
The law enforcement authority cannot be upheld if it bends according to the ruling power. “The presidential term lasts five years, but the loss of police authority won’t be redeemed even after 20 years,” Hong cried out. The police command must pay heed to this sincere plea from one of its officers calling for police independence from the political powers that be if it really wants to perform its innate role of safeguarding public safety.
JoongAng Sunday, Sept. 15-16, Page 34