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[Editorial] Rights Commission Fuels Social Disorder

Posted June. 05, 2009 08:06,   


Police have reopened Seoul Plaza after they formed a blockade with police buses to maintain order after the death of former President Ron Moo-hyun. In principal, any rally or protest at the plaza was banned during and after Roh’s funeral because of alleged attempts to take advantage of the event to instigate a massive anti-government protest. Freedom of assembly and demonstration is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution, but not a guarantee to conduct illegal violent protests that violate other people’s right to pursue happiness, life and passage.

The government has the power to prevent rallies and demonstrations that could turn into illegal and violent. Laws on assembly and demonstrations empower police to ban any gathering or demonstration feared to directly threaten public welfare and order. No government in the world allows illegal and violent assembly or protests to take place.

The head of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, Ahn Kyong-whan, issued a statement Wednesday that freedom of assembly and demonstration is shrinking significantly in Korean society. His argument ignores law and reality, however, and lacks a sense of balance.

If his argument is to be persuasive, the commission should also have criticized violence by demonstrators and urged prevention. Last year’s candlelight protests nearly paralyzed downtown Seoul for three months from May, with police being beaten by the demonstrators and newspaper companies attacked by rioters. The human rights panel can easily rebuke criticism that it turned a blind eye to the rights of the majority of citizens who did not take part in the rallies or opposed them.

There are many places other than Seoul Plaza for assemblies or demonstrations. The plaza is a public place for all to rest or enjoy cultural life freely. It is not meant only for rallies or demonstrations. Leftist groups, however, have monopolized the venue for their politically motivated rallies. The plaza must be returned to the public for peaceful use.

The commission says aggressive police suppression of rallies is likely to further damage the people, but failed to mention violent protestors who attack riot police with dangerous weapons. The panel needs a sense of balance before discussing the rights and freedom of protestors.