[WORD_ON_THE_WEB] 'Prohibiting rallies or demonstrations is unreasonable'The renovation of Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul finished on Saturday after a year and nine months of construction. The Seoul Metropolitan Government said the reason for the work was to make better use of the square and create a relaxing place in the center of the city.
To allow the square to be a peaceful place, the authorities plan to strictly review plans for large-scale rallies or demonstrations according to related ordinances. From this month, officials will launch an advisory panel for Gwanghwamun Square, which will consist of a group of experts in five fields — noise, traffic, law, police and events — in order to review how permission is given to use the square.
“The square needs to be under strict management to make sure that local residents do not suffer any inconveniences,” said Kim Jeong-beom, head of the planning team.
Critics argue that these measures infringe upon the constitutional rights to assembly and association.
“As freedom of assembly and association is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution, it can only be limited by the law," said Lee Ji-eun from People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. "The city is now showing administrative opportunism and authoritarianism.”
“Banning rallies and demonstrations in a democratic country? Does it make sense?”
“There’s no advanced countries where demonstrations don’t take place. It is wrong to put limits on rallies.”
“What the city said sounds reasonable in some ways. Local residents and office workers are suffering from inconveniences caused by rallies or demonstrations every day.”
“The right to pursue happiness should be ensured as well. Freedom of assembly and association is not the only right that needs to be guaranteed.”
“They should find the middle ground with rally participants. Banning rallies altogether is nonsense.”
“Prohibiting rallies or demonstrations is unreasonable, but the square should be a relaxing place where people can rest as well."
BY HWANG JAE-YOUNG, BY HAN HYE-RIM [email@example.com]