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Human Rights VS Government Power
Ju Lan Reporter  |  jul2238@uos.ac.kr
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[0호] 승인 2009.06.10  
트위터 페이스북 네이버 구글


Protestors and police mingle in the crowds.


`We will fight for the rights to live`
`The law is going to be applied to violent demonstrations strongly.`


Fire bottles, water cannons, long bamboo sticks, and clubs. These days, these items exist during a demonstration in Korea. Six or more people hit one person who then fell to the ground; they attack each other like lions and tigers! Some hold pickets or wrap a band around their heads, and others wear helmets and hold a shield in their hands, both of them looks maliciously at each other. After the violent protest, the conservative and progressive mass media announce contrary opinions and write articles that blame each other.


There are many police buses on the street.


Before the 1990s, youths protested against corrupted government, dictatorship and military junta. Also, they asked the government to resign and develop the Democratization Movement. At that time, many displays of violence occurred. The government oppressed the youth—most of them were students—using inhuman ways such as military forces. Protestors were arrested because they were accused of being communists, so they were tortured by police, assassinated or punished with death. But most people who know about modern Korean history estimate that without these demonstrations Korea would not be a democratic country like it is now. More importantly, the past demonstrations tended to have a strong purpose, which was to protect the human rights that were secured in the Constitution.

Presently, however, even in this democratic country armed displays are still held in many areas. Very seldom are there peaceful demonstrations such as candlelight displays, when the two middle school students were killed by an U.S. armored personnel carrier. Also, new weapons to prevent demonstrations have developed such as bamboo sticks, fire bottles and even smoke bombs, subsequently many people who are taking part in a demonstration are injured. In January of this year, we remember that five protestors died as a result of throwing fire bottles. Protestors fight for their human rights and claim freedom of assembly that were stated in the Constitution, and the police fight, claiming that they move to enforce government. In this situation, citizens are wondering that which of them are right.


Police fired water cannons at protestors.


Han Seung-soo, the Prime Minister, spoke publicly on May 4th about the first anniversary of candlelight that was held in the middle of Seoul. He stated that, "There was a violent demonstration again, and an unlawful assembly like this will cause the downfall of the national economy and create strong disadvantages for our country." In reality, some foreign presses reported negatively about the displays in Korea. Also, he stressed that when excessive protests are informed around the world, foreign countries will have a distorted view about Korea. Moreover, the National Police Agency and the Supreme Prosecutors` Office announced that they are going to take firm action towards unlawful assemblies.

These statements caused some people to expect that `the government power will be restored,` and others raise critical questions that `a standard that distinguishes an illegal and violent display is not clear, so the government is likely to regulate peaceful assemblies.` In reality, the police deterred protestors from biking as the protestors were doing a bike parade to demonstrate against Seoul and Incheon Canal Project.

Protestors, They Want to Talk

We can`t just blame protestors because they have a voice, too. How many underprivileged citizens have been sacrificed under the rule of capitalism? How have their opinions been transmitted by the government? We know a book called A Dwarf Launches a Little Ball written by Cho Se-hi. Even if this book was written in the 1970`s, it still reflects sufferings associated with the weak.

On May 16th, in Daejeon, many people were injured and over four hundred protestors had been arrested because of the striking cargo workers. Protestors tried to enter their company and the police tried to stop them. Subsequently, during the situation violence occurred. This demonstration was caused by the death of a leading member of the Unions of Cargo Workers; he was stabbed to death after rejecting a demand for raising his salary more than 30 Won. The competition between home-delivery companies increased and the companies proposed a low price strategy. So the unit cost was decreased compared to 10 years ago and subsequently a cargo worker only gets 100 Won per month.

In January, there was a disaster in Yongsan. The protestors were merchants who were ordered to move because of the Seoul redevelopment project. They insisted that their indemnity was extremely short. Merchants have worked during the last few decades in Yongsan. If they have to leave, they will lose their business for an extended time. Moreover, if they discover that they can`t keep their home with the indemnity which they were given, the result is that they may feel threatened. That`s the reason why merchants had to hold the demonstration.


The Unions of Cargo Workers


Press`s View of Demonstrations

When you read articles that the conservative press, Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo write, most of them blame the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the KAPM (Korean Alliance Progressive Movement), and support the National Police Agency and the Supreme Prosecutors` Office. When you read the responses to these articles on the internet site, you can easily confirm many replies that say `protestors are communist,` or `they works mischief to nation.` The viewpoints of the conservative press are about the injured police officers, the weapons that the protestors used and what the groups did in the past.

On the other hand, the progressive newspapers such as Hankyoreh, Kyunghyang write articles that usually support demonstrations. This opinion is revealed in their editorial articles. When the Unions of Cargo Workers demonstrations occurred in Daejeon, in the editorial they criticized that `the government made a wrong application of the government power during the demonstrations in Daejeon.`


There are blood and trash on the road.


How Can We Prevent Illegal and Violent Situations?

Illegal and violent displays should disappear! Also, excessive oppression should not occur. Violent displays and excessive oppression are linked to the question `Which came first, the chicken or the egg?` The demonstration gets violent because of the police`s excessive forces. On opposite side, the unreasonable oppression is caused by violent demonstrations. After some displays, the government made their decision that they will apply the law strictly.

We can expect that the government should draw a definite regulation that distinguishes illegal assembly. In other words, government should clarify what forms of demonstrations that are acceptable and when these measures are not taken, they should not disperse forces indiscreetly with unjust reasons. Otherwise, it can infringe the rights that the Constitution guarantees. Presently, it seems that the law doesn`t define a permissible level regarding an assembly. So, there are some examples that peaceful assemblies were compulsorily dispersed by the police.


In Yongsan, a bereaved family demonstrates.


Demonstrations should not occupy major roadways or use weapons such as fire bottles, clubs, because it causes confusion of traffic and may cause serious injuries. Also, they have to be aware of that the police are innocent youth; even some of them are as same as protestors` sons` age. They are doing military service as Korean men. Freedoms of assembly can`t equate to freedom to use violence from the police. Moreover, companies or government have the tendency to show indifferent responses because they think the police can protect them. For this reason, sometimes using violence rather hides their opinions than proclaims their persistence.

We, UOS students, shouldn`t ignore this matter, because we will going to be a social members. If we keep silent, matters of the world where we live in can`t be solved or get worse. It`s recommendable that we spend our time listening to the news or read a variety of newspapers carefully as possible as we can. After that, we establish our opinion based on social ethics rather than following major groups with no particular view. And we give a voice to the world by rational judgement, not by one`s emotions.

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