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Too Noisy to Work

Posted August. 16, 2002 22:03,   


No molotov cocktail and tear gas any more. Only few demonstrators. Nonetheless the downtown is boisterous all day. Pedestrians raise their eyebrows and people whose work places are nearby are not able to concentrate on their job. Reason? The so-called "noisy demonstration`.

▽demonstration sites in downtown

In front of the `H` bank in Chung-gu, Seoul in the afternoon, yesterday, 50 small business owners have been waging a demonstration for a month demanding the refund of their lease deposits they were about to lose through auctions.

They were just puting up a placard reading `Beware, H Bank!` and did not occupy the bank nor do they interrupt the operation of the bank. It was difficult to think that is a protest by seeing them talking to each other in groups.

A participant in the protest, who identifies himself as just Lee, said "We got a permission from the police for the protest. We were trying to display what we want in a peaceful way without resorting to violence."

But people whose work places are near the demonstration site told a different story. Because speakers installed on the roadside trees were spewing inflammary songs and chanting all day long, they were not able to concentrate on their job.

In particular, the sound of speakers had a resonance effect in this area, where a large number of high rises are located, wreaking havoc on people who work nearby and even who work at distant places.

A female worker in a nearby building said that she was on the verge of nervous breakdown.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA), about 161 demonstrations and rallies were held on this day alone. The so-called `speaker demonstration` is being held almost every day around public agencies such as the City Hall and gu-offices.

In some cases, demonstrators are singing popular songs through speakers when they get no response from the public.

▽Related laws

The Ministry of Environment enacted a related law, under which the time of speaker use is limited to 2 minutes one time with 15 minutes of interval. Those who violate the law are subject to 500,000 won in fine.

If street vendors use speakers to sell their products or churches play recorded sound of the church bell through speakers, they violate the law. But the law has never bee applied to noise created by speakers in demonstration sites.

An official of the Environment Ministry said, "Related ministries discussed ways to regulate the noise in demonstration sites, but only found it not feasible. So we concluded that more desirable way is the guidance of police."

But police has never crack down on the `noisy demonstration`, which is not included in traditional way of demonstration, in which protestors occupy certain areas or hurl stones and other dangerous materials.

▽The impact noise has on human body.

People are usually talking to each other at the level of 60dB. The sound of ringing telephone is at 70dB. Experts say that if the average level of noise is over 70dB, the peripheral blood vessels begin contracting, deteriorating concentration and causing nervousness.

Prof. Shin Young-chul of the medical-center of Sungkyunkwan University said, "If noise is temporary, it does no harm, but it continues for several hours, it causes decrease in job productivity and does harm to human body. The continued noise is especially dangerous for those with heart disease."

An official of the Environment Ministry said, "If people apply for grievance settlement to the National Environmental Dispute Resolution Commission, they can be compensated for damage by noise at demonstration sites just like in cases of noise in construction sites.

Sang-Keun Song Seong-Ju Lee songmoon@donga.com stein33@donga.com