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[Editorial] Preemptive Action to Prevent Conflict and Violence

[Editorial] Preemptive Action to Prevent Conflict and Violence

Posted February. 13, 2009 03:43,   


To prevent a recurrence of the Jan. 20 deadly clash at a redevelopment site in Seoul’s Yongsan district, the government has proposed giving the tenants of a building under redevelopment the preferential right to buy what is left in the refurbished building after it is divvied up by the owners. Though the measure is correct, it is disturbing to see the government continue its practice of belatedly presenting a revised plan only after a disaster. If the government and political circles had paid attention to the suffering of tenants in redevelopment zones and come up with countermeasures earlier, the deadly clash would never have happened. The problem is also not confined to downtown renewal projects. If the government listens to the people’s needs and complaints and takes preemptive action, grievances and conflict will not turn into violence.

A case in point is the “new town” project, an urban redevelopment venture in Seoul, scheduled to start this year. More than 120,000 homes in 26 districts will be torn down by 2011. Without measures to resolve conflict between home owners and tenants, however, another Yongsan conflict could erupt at any time. The plight of temporary workers, who will face massive layoffs from July 1, urgently needs attention.

Conflict over deregulation in the Seoul metropolitan area and measures for balanced regional development remain unresolved. Simmering grievances of the business community led CEOs of smaller companies to lash out at public officials in a meeting of businessmen in Gyeonggi Province Tuesday. Criticizing the government’s nearsighted approach, they urged an end to regulations that block investment and facility expansion.

At this critical juncture, however, the National Assembly remains in a stalemate and unable to present legal and institutional solutions to this conflict. Though more than 10 days have passed since the opening of this month’s extra parliamentary session, none of the 27 disputed bills that rival parties had agreed to settle through either agreement or negotiations have been introduced to parliamentary standing committees. Would the government and the Assembly do their jobs if violent protesters wielding paint thinner and steel pipes stage another sit-in protest? In this situation, who will try to solve problems through peaceful and legal means? If things go unchecked, more people could resort to extreme measures.

The ruling Grand National Party, which has a parliamentary majority of 172 seats, has remained powerless for a long time. The main opposition Democratic Party and progressive Democratic Labor Party continue to paralyze parliament and hamper administration by opposing all government actions. This deplorable situation stands in the way of seeking peaceful and legal solutions to economic and social conflict. Worse, the Democratic Party has aligned with illegal and violent forces and further fueled conflict. The media and experts are not free from criticism, either, because they have failed to detect issues that cause social disputes and to provide solutions.

Politically motivated forces that ignite social unrest by instigating the public exist in every society. An effective way to prevent such forces from wreaking havoc is to listen to the people’s complaints and present solutions before things get out of control. Illegal and violent forces will lose ground only when the government and political circles pay heed to the people’s needs and make sincere efforts to find solutions.