Go to contents

[Editorial] Unfair Nametags

Posted January. 16, 2006 03:00,   


Korean demonstration scenes featuring demonstrators armed with steel pipes confronting riot police that have been broadcast worldwide now have a new feature. Riot police facing off against demonstrators armed with lethal weapons are now putting nametags on their riot uniforms and standing as still as military cadets preparing for inspection. This is because the police have decided to accept the demands of civic groups calling for police name tags and “responsible demonstration control.”

Civic groups claim that the faces of riot police are difficult to distinguish because of their protective helmets, which in turn causes riot police to become violent under the protection of anonymity. However, the protective helmets were created in order to protect riot police from stones, bolts, steel pipes, and bamboo spears that demonstrators sometimes use to threaten their lives. The elimination of anonymity should be mutual. In many cases, the more violent demonstrators often cover their faces with red masks in order to evade police cameras seeking to record evidence.

If the anonymity of violent demonstrators is allowed to continue while the names of riot police are revealed, the balance between offense and defense will be upset, and the police’s ability to suppress violent demonstrations will deteriorate further.

The police commissioner general usually resigns whenever there are casualties among demonstrators, and leading police officers are also reprimanded, causing police morale to fall. Putting nametags on the uniforms of riot police seems to be a result of low morale after the resignation of former Commissioner General Huh Jun-young among police officials who seem more concerned about their status than the safety of riot police.

During last year’s November 15 farmer demonstrations in Yeoido, 220 riot police were injured, 52 of them seriously. Even in developed countries, demonstrators that cross police lines or use violence are controlled with force.

I am concerned that some might even film riot police wearing their nametags and spread the images on Internet, portraying them as criminals and defaming them. I wonder whether these civic groups also demanded demonstrators not to use violence.