Dozens of conservative and liberal organizations plan to stage large-scale assemblies and single-person protests around Liberation Day on Aug. 15 across the nation. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions is scheduled to hold single-person protests on Saturday afternoon in the center of Seoul to call for the suspension of R.O.K.-U.S. joint military drills.
The National Revolutionary Party led by Sarang Jeil Church pastor Jeon Kwang-hoon will lead a campaign to encourage 10 million individual citizens to walk in protest against the Moon Jae-in administration all throughout the capital city on the day. As of Friday, Seoul City issued a ban on as many as 195 assemblies over the holiday around National Liberation Day by 39 organizations.
Given the ever worsening of the COVID-19 situation over time, news on simultaneous assemblies only leaves the public frustrated and concerned. Despite a strengthened social distancing system, around two thousand newly confirmed cases have been reported in South Korea over three days running. As even those in their 30s to 50s turn into critical cases amid some delay in the vaccination program, even private-sector hospitals have been ordered to provide available beds. Driven to the brink in the extended pandemic, the self-employed have followed social distancing measures with patience even if their livelihoods are put at stake. Under these circumstances, no one would accept and understand whichever reason and cause protestors will claim if they push forward with large-sized assemblies with high risks of infection involved in them.
Some organizations argue that they will hold assemblies within an allowable range as per quarantine rules. However, infections may spread further via any activity related to assemblies from planning to execution to disassembly. As the Delta variant has become a prevailing type that is twice to three times as contagious as ordinary viruses, even those completely vaccinated fall victim to breakthrough infection. Considering that the court dismissed requests by some organizations for a suspension of execution of the assembly ban, it must have been judged that they can help drive infection rates.
“The safety and lives of our citizens matter more than any kind of freedom or right,” South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said in a statement to the public on Friday, warning that those involved in any illegal assembly will be held accountable. As vaccine supplies have been met with a series of disruptions, the nation may have to depend solely on public participation in social distancing for some time to overcome the 4th wave of pandemic. In this regard, the South Korean government should stay resolute and firm against those who try illegal assemblies or evasion of the law, with no exception, so that it can garner public support and cooperation on quarantine actions, albeit painful.