Moon Jae-in not allowed to go quietly into retirement
"The protests mixed with profanities and insults have brought inconvenience to the former president and his wife," a presidential official told the JoongAng Ilbo over the phone Sunday, "and even the villagers are at the point of being hospitalized [because of the disturbances]. President Yoon is very concerned about this."
After Moon's five-year term ended on May 9, he and former first lady Kim Jung-sook moved into a newly-constructed home in rural Pyeongsan Village in Yangsan. Conservative protesters set up loudspeakers in front of the house, causing major disturbances to the neighborhood. Some are broadcasting the protests on YouTube.
Some rallies organized by civic groups have drawn crowds of people and resulted in minor scuffles with the police. Others blasted profanities nonstop over the loudspeakers. Some even made death threats to Moon and his family.
The Moon administration's policies are the focus of some protests, such as Covid-19 vaccinations that led to some deaths. But others are simply abusive, or incoherently demand Moon apologize, or accuse him of being a "spy."
Some locals have complained about suffering from sleep deprivation, loss of appetite and needing psychological treatment for the disruption to their lives.
On May 31, Moon and Kim lodged a complaint against four protesters from three conservative civic groups, accusing them of spreading false information, defamation and repeatedly using abusive language. They also accused them of violating the Assembly and Demonstration Act, which protects against unlawful demonstrations and bans assemblies that threaten public peace, and the Act on the Punishment of Violence, which punishes threats of murder and arson.
Last Wednesday, a group of liberal Democratic Party lawmakers led by Rep. Han Byung-do visited the Yangsan Police Station to protest the police's passive response to the rallies. Han told reporters after meeting with the local police chief, "This is not a demonstration, but an act of collective terrorism."
Last Friday, police imposed their first ban on some rallies in front of Moon's residence.
The Yangsan Police Station said it has issued bans against two rallies planned by an organization representing people who became sick or died after taking Covid-19 vaccines in front of Moon's residence and the nearby town hall. The civic group initially planned to stage 13 rallies in locations in the village including in front of several Catholic churches and a restaurant frequented by the former president from Saturday to July 1. Around 100 people were expected to take part in the rallies.
Police said that 55 residents of the village have filed complaints over the noise levels, and 10 people submitted medical records after receiving psychiatric treatment.
The police allowed a civic group from Busan to hold a rally last Wednesday, saying they could gather from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but they would not be able to use a loudspeaker or use abusive language.
A presidential aide told the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity Sunday that in an internal meeting held to discuss the issue, "There was the view that anyone can hold protests but should do so in a reasonable and non-violent way." However, that message was not disclosed to the public because the meeting was held just before the June 1 local elections.
The presidential aide said, "President Yoon is contemplating whether to send a message calling on people to refrain from protests directly or through a representative of the spokesperson's office."
Another official from the presidential office told reporters Monday that remarks by Yoon on protests in front of Moon's residence couldn't be confirmed.
Addressing the protests, Moon posted on Facebook on May 15, "Coming back home, anti-intellectual noise from loudspeakers and profanities are breaking the tranquility and freedom of a small rural village on a Sunday."
BY SARAH KIM, HYUN IL-HOON [email@example.com]