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[Editorial] Unjustifiable Demands of Protesters

Posted June. 10, 2008 08:31,   


The People`s Association for Measures Against Mad Cow Disease will launch a “million candlelight march” today, which also marks the 21st anniversary of the 1987 democratic movement. The group also plans to reenact the funeral of Lee Han-yeol, a Yonsei University student killed in the movement. His mother and classmates are expected to march from the university to Seoul City Hall while carrying Lee’s picture. This, however, raises questions about why an organization against American beef imports seeks to exploit the pro-democracy movement 21 years ago for its own purposes.

If the organization is attempting to launch another democratic movement by taking an advantage of the American beef scare, it is misunderstanding the essence of the event. The 1987 uprising was public resistance against the oppressive Chun Doo-hwan administration and its attempt to extend its military rule, which was illegitimately established by a coup and brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy movements. How can anyone say public fears over the safety of imported U.S. beef are on the same page with the democratic uprising?

This clearly shows that the organization and certain protest groups are exploiting the public to oust the incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration. We can see the true intention of the rallies from their actions and the slogan, “Let’s go to (the presidential office of) Cheong Wa Dae.” Heo Young, a senior constitutional scholar and former professor at Yonsei University, says blindly marching toward Cheong Wa Dae is an attempt to distort constitutional order.

Demanding a democratically elected and legitimate administration to step down without legal grounds is a challenge to Korea’s constitutional order and democracy. Korea was not a nation created overnight. It is wrong to pose a threat to constitutional order this way. Reckless action to destroy the 60 years of accomplishment by the Republic of Korea is unacceptable not only by the government but also by the majority of the people. It was also the people who elected Lee Myung-bak as president. Even if problems arise in the resumption of U.S. beef imports or the appointment of the new Cabinet, there is no legal basis to overthrow the people’s decision. Certain media are calling the candlelight vigils “street democracy,” but it is important to note that the Constitution is based on representative democracy.

Violence broke out in the candlelight vigils Friday night, with protesters destroying 19 police vehicles with iron pipes, wooden sticks, shovels and hammers and clashing with police. Many rioters and police officers were wounded. Fortunately, the majority of the candlelight vigil participants oppose the use of violence.

If protesters resort to violence because the results of peaceful demonstrations fail to meet their expectations, the public will eventually turn its back on them. The government should also start exercising its authority and clearly set a boundary to use force if necessary to protect constitutional order.