Double standards againAmid the escalating risk of a virus variant stronger than Covid-19, the militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) went ahead with a mass rally in downtown Seoul Saturday. The defiance was a clear violation of the law. Law enforcement authorities must take legal action against the leadership of the umbrella union group.
The illegal gathering was carried out at a sensitive time. As the outbreak of the Delta variant has been alarming the world, daily Covid-19 cases reached 800 in Korea. The government hastily had to reverse its decision to ease social distancing measures from July 1.
The police called the rally “illegitimate” and banned it. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum and Jeong Eun-kyeong, head of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, had visited the KCTU headquarters to plead the mass protest be canceled.
The group claims that workers feared losing their livelihoods more than getting the virus. It vowed masks, vaccinations and social distancing during the rally. But a congregation in central Seoul of 8,000 workers from across the country at a time when the capital region accounts for 80 percent of the infected cases poses a risk.
Whether the law enforcement authorities had the will to block the rally also raises questions. Police had barricaded Yeouido with vehicles. But the KCTU changed their rally location to Jongno to avoid barricades. If vehicles coming into central Seoul with number plates from outer regions had been rigidly checked, the influx could have been lessened. Some suspect the blockade could have been lax so as not to offend the powerful union group.
When rightist groups tried to hold rallies last year, the Blue House and ruling Democratic Party called them “potential murders.” None of that strong rhetoric was heard this time.
The battle with Covid-19 has a long way to go. The vaccination rate remains at 30 percent. The speed has not picked up due to a lack of supplies. If Delta variants spread further, summer vacation and school re-openings in the fall could be ruined.
Self-employed businesses who suffered most from the strict social distancing measures have obliged with protracted mitigation rules. But the group representing elite unions has risked safety of the community with their selfishness. Their dangerous action calls for strong punishment.