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Saturday, December 19, 2015

[Editorial] Is President Park Accusing Citizens of Being Terrorists?

The statement made by President Park Geun-hye in yesterday's cabinet meeting was shocking enough to make the listener doubt his ears. Park defined the demonstration held at Gwanghwamun, Seoul on November 14 as an illegal violent demonstration and condemned the rally, claiming that its intention was "to deny the rule of law in the Republic of Korea and to neutralize the government." She also said, "We cannot ignore the fact that such an incident occurred in our country, which is in confrontation with the North. Terrorist groups can mix in with the illegal demonstrations and threaten the lives of the people." "We also need to ban masked protests. Isn't that something that the Islamic State (ISIS) does? Hiding their faces..." and compared the demonstrators to the terrorist group ISIS. President Park accused citizens as potential terrorists--citizens who had come out onto the streets to protest the government's state authorized history textbook, easier layoffs, youth unemployment and the drop in rice prices. Her blasphemy against the sovereign has crossed the line.

President Park's perception is what violates the Constitution and rule of law. The freedom of assembly is a basic constitutional right. Banning masked demonstrations in Seoul because of a terrorist act in Paris is an absurd leap of logic. South Korea had managed to restore democracy decades ago and is now about to cross the threshold into a developed nation even as it stood in confrontation with the North, but trying to restrict the freedom of assembly now is anachronistic. We also need to look into why there was a physical clash between the citizens and the police in the November 14 rally. The police installed a barricade of buses throughout downtown Seoul, despite that the Constitutional Court had ruled such acts unconstitutional, and they fired water cannons in which they had mixed tear gas, harmful to people. If the president wants to talk about the rule of law, public authority should be the first to abide by those laws. The president's remarks were shameless, lacking any respect for man. The farmer in his sixties shot with the water cannon is still in critical condition. It would be right for the president, who represents the government, to apologize first. But she failed to even mention so much as her regrets on this issue.

Former President Kim Young-sam, who passed away a few days ago, reportedly left behind the dying words, "unity and harmony." That the last message of the late president, who had lived his life struggling before challenges, was unity and harmony rings deep in our hearts. A willingness to follow the final teachings of the former president is probably why the ruling party and the opposition party, the pro-Park group and the non-Park group within the Saenuri Party, and the mainstream and non-mainstream within the New Politics Alliance for Democracy have stopped their political battles. But instead of cherishing the late president's message, 

President Park is insulting the people and forcing them to take sides. It looks as if she is trying to change the situation, which had been unfavorable to her due to the state authorized history textbooks, by creating a new "security-oriented" authoritarian nation. It appears "North Korean supporters," a card which the president had pulled out at critical moments, was not enough. She seems to be planning to resort to "ISIS supporters." However, there will not be that many citizens who would agree with a president who takes advantage of an ally's tragedy in domestic politics and knows not to be prudent before the death of a former president.

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