Listen to voices in the streetsCivilians held protests in downtown Seoul on Thursday demanding that Justice Minister Cho Kuk step down. The rally is believed to be the largest since the candlelight vigils to oust former President Park Geun-hye in 2016. The scale reflects the broad public sentiment. Many families attended the protests together.
The rally conveyed the country’s disappointment in the current government. Civilians have been outraged by the ruling camp’s stubborn and obsessive defense of Cho. Young protesters argued that this was not an issue of conservative versus progressive, but about fairness and justice.
Three years ago, citizens filled the downtown streets to rally against similarly abnormal state affairs. Many in attendance at the latest rally were equally disheartened and angered by today’s state of affairs.
Some in the ruling front shrug off the rally as one encouraged by conservative political forces, but public sentiment cannot be read with such selective understanding. That many people cannot be mobilized by political parties or conservative groups. The scale underscores the rage against the government for its blind protection of Cho and his family despite charges of various irregularities defying common sense.
The government also provoked the conservative camp by inflating the meaning and scale of the rally, calling for prosecutorial reform in front of the top law enforcement agency. The president pressed Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to come up with reform outlines as soon as possible. Justice Minister Cho claimed that passion for prosecutorial reforms has never been so strong. The protesters in downtown Seoul on Thursday supported the government’s prosecution reform drive, but they do not want Cho to serve as justice minister. These common sense voices should be listened to by the ruling front.
The conservative and liberal forces may hold tit-for-tat protests down the road. This show of power through street protests could shake our democracy.
Civilians have the right to protest, but regular street politicking comes at too much social cost. People come out to the streets when politics do not work properly. The parties are at fault, but the biggest blame should go to the president. The government must pay heed to the voices and stop creating an even greater divide in society.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 4, Page 30