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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 18)

All News 06:55 May 18, 2023

Political strife, not protest anymore

If demonstrations are an act to draw sympathy for their cause, the violent rally staged by the construction union under the combative Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) on Tuesday and Wednesday in downtown Seoul failed to achieve the goal. For two days, union members caused extreme traffic congestion during the day and unbearable inconvenience to citizens at night as they slept on the street. Who would really listen to their demands?

The two-day protest in central Seoul was illegitimate from the beginning. Police disallowed them from staging the rally from 5 p.m. to prevent a traffic jam and protect pedestrians' rights. But unionized members pressed ahead with it.

Many of them slept around the city hall building, which left a tremendous amount of trash, including many empty soju bottles and leftover food, not to mention urine on the street.

Citizens had to persevere all the horrid smells when reporting to work yesterday morning. Protestors may take pride in showing a determination to protest the government's hardline approach to them. But they must take responsibility for all the confusion and chaos they triggered.

The construction union claims that it took action to oppose the conservative government's oppression against them. But what the prosecution and the police have conducted is an investigation into their illegal acts — such as obstructing a hiring of non-unionized members, obstruction of business, and demand for dirty money in return for favors to stakeholders, as well as extorting money from others when they show weaknesses. The police have discovered 866 cases of violation of the law in a 200-day special investigation. Many senior members of the construction union have been indicted on charges of threat, blackmail, and violence.

What the law enforcement authorities tried to do was to root out the tyranny of the mighty union, not their normal activities. It does not make sense for the union to define it as a political repression.

Such an aberrant way of demonstrating suggests their political goal of shaking the government instead of trying to convince the public of their cause. Familiar senior members of progressive civic groups and lawmakers from the Democratic Party also joined the violent rally on Wednesday to show their support for the union. If that is not political strife, what is?

It is regrettable that the same faces always appear in such anti-government protests. This suspicious mix of powers became a chronic disease in our society long ago. The answer must be found in the common sense of citizens who can say no to them.


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