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[Opinion] Parents of Riot Police

Posted June. 10, 2008 08:31,   


While protestors take to the streets for candlelight vigils day after night in downtown Seoul, there are those who watch the chaotic scenes on pins and needles every single night – parents of sons who chose to be riot police instead of going into the regular army for their 24-month mandatory conscription. They find themselves restlessly wandering around sites when violence breaks out between protestors and riot police, horrified by the prospect that their sons could get hurt. In times like this, they once again realize the enormity of burden on their shoulders as parents to be responsible for their children. Worse, they instantly become mortified when protestors denounce their sons as violent police.

Many Web users have clicked on a tearful video footage uploaded on the Web containing images of a mother of a riot policeman in his uniform crying in her son’s arms at one of the entrances of Gwanghwamun subway station. Even her son’s soothing words cannot stop her tears. However, their voices are constantly interrupted by the endless chanting of candlelight protestors on the streets. These sounds horrify parents of riot police like the mother in the video. They also take to the streets with signs that say “Riot Police are also the Sons of this Nation,” “They are Soldiers who Fulfill their Military Service,” and “Please Let Them Safely Complete their Military Service,” but to no avail. Their attempt moves no one’s heart except for their own children.

Candlelight vigils demanding renegotiation of the U.S. beef import deal have continued on for 39 days from May 2, during which riot police suffered as much as anyone else. As if the lack of sleep and injuries were not enough, some netizens and media have pointed a harsh finger at riot police for, in their words, brutally quelling the protests. Unfortunately, no one bothered to highlight the fact that 172 policemen including 157 riot police officers have been injured from the clashes and eight had been hospitalized. No one seems to remember the fact that these policemen are also dear sons of citizens like the protestors themselves.

With candlelight protests persisting for a protracted period of time, some protestors have begun to wield iron pipes at riot police, a scene that seemed to have disappeared a long time ago. It may be just days before other protestors turn up with the “nostalgic” Molotov cocktails. Some media have aired scenes of riot police defending police bus against violent protestors as examples of brutal suppression. At this rate, riot police will be deemed “democratic” if they let illegal protestors beat them up without any resistance. Some newspapers even excluded pictures of protestors committing violence against riot police from their pages, while portraits and telephone numbers of riot police are exposed to the public, which will only make them the victims of cyber terrorism. Therefore, the nation needs urgent restoration of public power and the rule of law.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)