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Police Divided Over Name Tag Plan

Posted January. 17, 2006 03:59,   


On January 16, an odd sight took place in the pressroom of the Korean National Police Agency in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, where police officers argued with each other.

At a meeting with reporters on the issue of placing name tags on riot policemen who control demonstrations, Deputy Commissioner General Choi Gwang-sik saved words only by commenting, “That should be decided by the new commissioner general.”

However, Chief of the Police Renovation Planning Team Song Gang-ho, which also leads the “Task Force for Management of Safety Measures in Demonstrations,” said, “It is our policy that riot police wearing name tags is certainly necessary.”

Deputy Commissioner General Choi said, “It is not a confirmed opinion,” and Chief Song answered back, “Internally, it is staunch.” Their argument ended when another police officer stopped Chief Song.

Controversy is hot over the policy to make riot police at the scene of demonstrations wear name tags, both within and outside the police department. While most of the parents of riot police and riot police themselves are opposed, labor groups such as the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and civic groups are favoring it.

Great Objection by Riot Police—

On January 16, Dong-A Ilbo surveyed a riot police company in Seoul, and out of 59 polled, 25 agreed to wear name tags while 34 opposed it.

Policeman A said, “I think name tags will have the effect of controlling overly excited members, but I think that, at the same time, punishment should be implemented on illegal demonstrators.”

Policeman B commented, “If demonstrations are peaceful, I would even wear the ID, however if the names of riot police become known, it is obvious that they will be condemned by demonstrators.”

Demonstrators Should also Show Names—

The manager of Internet café “Riot Police are Our Tender Sons” Kim Jin-mi, 48, opposed riot police wearing name tags, saying, “Demonstrators hide themselves by covering with hats and masks; what is the reason for riot police to wear name tags?”

“Citizens United for Better Society” declared a statement on the same day and argued, “With the people’s opinion toward illegal, violent demonstrations worsening, we don’t know how much the people will hail the police agency’s measures. Intended violence from demonstrators is a greater problem than just incidental violence.”

Revival of Molotov Cocktail and Tear Gas Theory—

Human Rights Implementation Citizens Union Secretary General Oh Chang-ik agreed to name tag wearing saying, “The police control of demonstrations is also an administrative activity, so it should be conducted openly.”

According to police task force, only the Philippine riot police wear tags. It is reported that the tags don’t have names on them, but just numbers.

Some inside the police force say that the police stopped using tear gas in order to develop peaceful demonstrations, and wearing name tags might also help the establishment of peaceful demonstrations.

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com