No time to rallyAfter the government upgraded social distancing to Level 2 in the greater Seoul area from Tuesday, the city has enforced a ban on gatherings of more than 10 citizens. The city government took the step to prevent a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, an increasing number of people have canceled year-end parties to cooperate with the city’s guidelines.
However, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) is going in the opposite direction. It plans to hold a general strike and nationwide rallies on Wednesday to oppose a government-led revision of the Labor Union Act and urge the Moon Jae-in administration to enact three labor-related laws aimed at reinforcing workers’ rights.
Such rallies and a general strike are selfish acts. The umbrella union does not care about the tragic suicide of two sisters whose noraebang (booth-type singing room) had to shut down during the pandemic. Under such dire circumstances, who would sympathize with the union’s rallies?
Massive infections can occur in large-scale rallies, as clearly seen in two previous protests by conservative civic groups and the KCTU on Gwanghwamun Square in August. Deputy Health and Welfare Minister Kang Do-tae warned against a “stealthily approaching” third wave of the pandemic. The KCTU already received severe public criticism for its outdoor rallies across the nation on Nov. 14. Freedom of assembly must be protected by our Constitution. But with a third wave of the virus around the corner, the combative union must cancel its brazen plan to hold public safety hostage.
The Moon administration must change its double standards on outdoor rallies. In October, when conservative groups staged a large-scale rally on Gwanghwamun Square, the police conducted random questioning of pedestrians, not to mention finding out their identities by tracking their smartphone usage. President Moon’s Chief of Staff Noh Young-min even defined organizers of the conservative rally as “murderers.” But the government is pleading with the KCTU to restrain from attending the rally this time.
Such an inconsistent reaction provokes criticism that the government is still bent on dividing people into friends and foes. After the government’s enforcement of Level 2 social distancing, noraebang must close and restaurants can serve their customers with only takeout after 9 p.m. If the KCTU hopes for different treatment from the government, that does not make sense.
The union group must cancel its strike and rallies scheduled for Wednesday and the government must put top priority on public health. Nothing less is acceptable.