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[Editorial] Violent Demonstrations and Excessive Control Are Both Unacceptable

[Editorial] Violent Demonstrations and Excessive Control Are Both Unacceptable

Posted December. 28, 2005 03:19,   


President Roh Moo-hyun and Huh Joon-young, commissioner general of Korean National Police Agency, apologized to the public after the National Human Rights Commission said the death of two farmers, Hong Deok-pyo and Jeon Yong-cheol, who participated in a farmers’ rally in Yeouido, Seoul, was caused by a clash with police,

Roh vowed to reprimand those responsible and compensate the victims’ families, saying, “Public power holds particularly heavy responsibility.”

It is very unfortunate that two people died at the hands of police in a violent illegal demonstration. As the president pointed out, public power must be controlled appropriately so that it can be exercised in a level-headed way. In this regard, it is regretful that police lost control and caused the tragedy. Even if it was an inevitable situation, police cannot be absolved from the responsibility for the deaths.

However, the country needs to take this unfortunate occasion to seriously discuss violent demonstrations. It is nonsense to expect the police to wink at violent illegal demonstrations. The death of the two farmers was not caused by excessive police actions at a peaceful and legal rally. There were square wooden sticks, iron pipes and Molotov cocktails everywhere in the demonstration, which wounded more than 200 police officers. In fact, it is too much to expect self-control of public power in such a situation. The organizers of the violent demonstration who enticed a violent reaction from the police in the first place, should take heavy responsibility for the deaths as well.

Advanced countries never accept illegal challenges against public power. By contrast, the Korean government has actually bred violent illegal demonstrations with a tepid response. The president also pointed out yesterday that violent rallies were planned from the beginning. However, he put forward an unclear resolution, saying, “To have the government’s responsibility for such incidents, an agreement from civil society is needed.” The remark makes one wonder if there is someone who opposes the elimination of illegal demonstrations.

Under these circumstances, the country should correct its demonstration culture. Above all, the government should show its firm willingness to take stern action on illegal rallies. This issue is hard to resolve through overlooking violent demonstrations without punishing them. A country will be shaken if social order collapses because of violent demonstrations.