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[Editorial] Police Crisis, Security Crisis

Posted January. 27, 2006 03:06,   


Korea’s 150,000 policemen are in crisis. Their morale has fallen and their discipline has degraded. Ever since National Police Agency Chief Huh Jun-young resigned at the end of last year after taking responsibility for the death of a farmer during a protest, the top security post has remained empty for too long, resulting in exacerbated trouble.

To make the matters worse, Deputy Commissioner General Choi Gwang-sik was found to be involved in the Yoon Sang-lim scandal. Because Choi was subsequently relieved of his duties, the police agency is now without its top two officials simultaneously for the first time in its history. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency chief position is also empty.

The government took an emergency measure yesterday by appointing Lee Teak-sun, the current Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency chief who will be appointed as the next chief of the National Police Agency, as acting commissioner. However, how much of an effect the move will have on normalizing the police remains to be seen. Lee said he will focus on solving pending issues, but he is only “acting” commissioner until the hearing in the National Assembly ends. Thus, it will be difficult for him to demonstrate his leadership in critical matters such as personnel changes in the agency. Moreover, Lee has some personal problems as he is suspected of having falsified his residential address.

The long-term absence of chief commanders and confusion in the police agency are causing public insecurity. Cheonan citizens are fearful of serial murders, and dozens of gang members created an armed disruption at a funeral parlor in Busan in broad daylight recently. Arson is on the rise across the nation as well. And in another incident, about 40 labor unionists from an electricity company climbed the wall of the Foreign Ministry to occupy the entrance.

The government and the ruling party are fueling these security crises. The Roh administration was obsessed with calling the police to account for its excessive crackdown on protesters, listening only to the demands of certain factions and civic groups without preparing measures to eradicate illegal violent protests.

At the end of last year, the Uri Party, together with the Democratic Labor Party, put pressure on Commissioner Huh to resign in order to pass its budget proposal and its real estate policy laws. In effect, they drove the police into a corner and confused its identity. Discouraged police officials have even ordered riot policemen to wear nametags. One cannot but question whether police are capable of protecting innocent citizens.