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[Opinion] No More Violent Protests

Posted November. 10, 2006 07:07,   


A seminar was held in downtown Seoul on November 8 under the theme of “peaceful demonstrations.” At the seminar, Kim Tae-il, secretary general of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), said, “There is no such thing as an organized armed demonstration; violent demonstrations occur accidentally.” In response, Lee Jong-hwa, the president of the Police Parents Association, said, “There is no bamboo field in Seoul. If it was not arranged beforehand, how could demonstrators have bamboo spears or iron pipes?”

Kim, who was at a loss for an answer, could not answer her question right away. When farmers demonstrated in Seoul last year, they used bamboo sticks. However, they said that they picked them up from construction sites, despite video footage showing bundles of bamboo sticks being delivered to the demonstration site.

Although anti-FTA demonstrators wielded bamboo sticks and iron pipes in Seoul, they did not dare to do so when they rallied in Hong Kong and Washington. Instead they picked up picket signs and Korean traditional music instruments. The attitude of the police and the government influences the behavior of demonstrators tremendously. Ben Brown, a professor at the University of Texas, says that the public should join hands to curb violent demonstrations as it is very difficult for the police to control violence in demonstrations without help.

It has been 10 months since the government launched the Peaceful Demonstration Promotion Committee. The committee promised to draw up a “Social Convention on Peaceful Demonstrations” by April, but kept delaying it. The committee says it now aims to come up with the agreement by the end of December. If the government, society, and religious and labor groups sign the agreement, will Koreans demonstrate peacefully next year? Bamboo sticks and iron pipes should be sent to museums.

The lawmakers of the Uri Party seem to have regrets these days. Activists will be also shunned by the public and have regrets if they do not make serious efforts to remove violence from Korea’s demonstrations.

Korean Federation of the Needy demonstrators marched across downtown Seoul on the afternoon of November 7. This caused a fight between demonstrators and an office worker who got stuck on the road for half an hour due to the rally. Kim drove his car toward demonstrators and hit four of them. He tried to turn the car but the demonstrators stopped the car and beat him. Such conflicts are by-products of frequent demonstrations in cities. The leadership of demonstrations should keep in mind that there are a growing number of people who can no longer put up with the inconvenience that demonstrations downtown are causing.

Hong Kwon-hee, Editorial Writer, konihong@donga.com