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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/16/08

Is Korea's President Lee going back to the era of dictatorship?

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   4 comments
Message Chang Kwon

The democracy in Korea is going back to 1970s, the regime of the dictatorship.

One of the core principles in democracy is the freedom of speech. The freedom of speech specifically protects political expression. In Korea, as many as 100,000 people (around a million people on weekends) are rallying against all misgovernments by President Lee's regime in Korea. Some guys may wonder like this: Korean people elected their president by democratic ways and therefore, the Korean people should use a democratic way, such as stressing upon the National Assembly, to voice their saying.

However, the problem is that the President Lee in Korea, namely President Lee's government, is deceiving Korean people by using mass media. For example, many people do not agree with the privatization of the health care. The Lee's government stated that they would not progress the policy of privatization of the health care anymore. However, right away after that date, the Lee's government tried another way of privatizing the health care. Second, many people do not agree with the policy of the Grand Canal in Korea. The Lee's government stated that they won't start working with the Grand Canal. However, right after that date, the Lee's government explained the goodness of the Grand Canal to the few interested people. Third, many people do not agree with the Beef Deal between US and Korea, because they are worried about the safety of the US Beef, specifically the fear of mad cow disease. I am not saying that Korean people are upset over the US and the US Beef. Namely, Korean people are not anti-US and anti-US Beef. What they want is that they want to eat US Beef safely. Think about it this way: Is there any reason why Korean people should be afraid of the safety of the US Beef when they are buying the US Beef?

I'm not saying that all US Beef is dangerous to eat. What I want to point out is that the Korean government did fail to convince Korean people about the safety of US Beef. One of the ways of convincing Korean people is a discussion between the President and the Korean people. This kind of discussion is not abnormal in Korea, compared to the former Presidents in Korea. For example, the former President, Noh Mu Hyun, came down to the free discussion whenever his government planned to promote a hypersensitive policy against the feeling of the Korean people. However, what President Lee in Korea has done so far is only two apologies, standing on the platform and saying "I know all of your concerns and worries but I have to progress these policies."

Do you guys think this is an "Apology?"

That's why the Korean people are upset about Lee's government. Almost 100,000 people""around a million people on weekends""are gathering into the Seoul Plaza in front of the Seoul City Hall every single day. They are saying that "Mr. President, please listen to our voices." All of them hold a candle to show their voice in the middle of the night. However, what the Lee government is doing for this candlelight rally is a brutal suppression of freedom of speech. The police closed off every street near the Seoul Plaza and therefore, the citizens holding a candle could not march any more. Suddenly around 3 or 4 O'clock A.M, the riot police with heavily armed with club and shield, attacked those people brutally. The result of this brutal suppression by the police is really terrible. Until now, almost 1,000 people were arrested and 1,500 people were injured.

Can you guys believe this?

The so-called demonstrators in Korea are armed with only a candle. Those people are voicing "Non-Violence" during the demonstration. However, the police are heavily armed with a club and a shield.
Is there any reason for the demonstrators to be attacked by the police?
Is there any reason that the demonstrators must be shut up because of their voice against the policies of Korea government?

First of all, let me explain the "Freedom of Expression," the core principle of the democratic system.

One of the great expressions that I learned at law school is "Market Place of Ideas." This fabulous theory, "Market Place of Ideas" is originated from the Honorable Justice Holmes' dissenting opinion in Abrams v. US, 250 US 616 (1919). Justice Holmes said that "the best test of the truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." He also stated that free trade in ideas was so important that even bad ideas should not be suppressed, "unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country."

Let's apply this rule of law to the situation in Korea. Many protesters are saying that President Lee must listen to their saying, such as "Stop the big canal, Stop the privatization of the health care and public services, and Renegotiate the treaty regarding US Beef." To show how desperately they want those things, they are holding a candle, marching a street and gathering into Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall.

Do you guys think that those voices are dangerous ideas or those candles hurt someone?

Those protesters always sing this song, titled as "The Constitution of the Republic of Korea, Art I." One of the lyrics of the song is like this: "The Republic of Korea is based on Democracy. All powers of the Republic of Korea are originated from the citizens." From start to finish, the protesters voice the protection of the democracy and human rights and non-violence even though the riot police beat them with police shields and clubs, and many of them were bleeding and some of them were seriously injured. The riot police do not care about who you are if you are among the protesters. The riot police brutally attacked fallen citizens, a foreigner, a council and even a volunteer for medical services.

Do you guys still think these protesters are dangerous?

Do you guys still think the ideas of these protesters are bad ideas?

The freedom of expression protects political speech. Personally, political speech must be protected more than any other speech unless that political speech seriously imperils the safety of the country. Some of the councils in Korea still blamed the protests for being political gathering.

What is the problem with those councils? The Koreans have their right to say that "Hey, Mr. President, I do not think that your economic policy works well." Why do those councils think that you'd better shut up because what you are saying is political? Come on, councils in Korea.

Is there any democratic country which protects the freedom of speech by a prison bus?

Seoul Plaza is placed in front of City Hall in Seoul, Korea. Seoul Plaza is used as a kind of public gathering place. However, when the protests were continued for over a month, the police enclosed every way of entering Seoul Plaza by those prison buses. By the way, the Ministry of Justice in Korea said that those buses were used as a "police line" and "it cannot be avoided." Again, those buses were used as a "police line" and "it cannot be avoided."

Hey, wait a minute! Where is the free-speech zone? Are all the buses a "police line?"

A police line is supposed to be a "yellow"-color, isn't it? But the color of the bus is "blue." These protesters are saying only one thing: Please, President Lee, listen to what we say, please listen to your people's speech. By the way, President Lee said "I will serve the Korean people" on his inauguration day. Now what? Please, President Lee, keep your promise and do not look at your people as enemies.

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If there is God, God helps Koreans.
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Is Korea's President Lee going back to the era of dictatorship?

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