Representative Yun Jae-ok, the floor leader of the conservative People Power Party (PPP), center, Justice Minister Han Dong Hoon, second from right, and Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Society Kang Seung-kyu, right. [Photo by Kim Ho-young]
The Korean government and the ruling party are exploring measures to restrict demonstrations during late night and commuting hours that cause inconvenience to citizens, while considering limitations on rallies organized by groups that engage in illegal activities like violent protests.
The police already decided to resume training for dispersing illegal rallies and apprehending unlawful participants, marking the first such training in six years.
On Wednesday, Representative Yun Jae-ok, the floor leader of the conservative People Power Party (PPP) along with other PPP leaders, held a party-administration consultation meeting on the establishment of public order and protection of people’s rights and interests. The consultation involved discussions with Justice Minister Han Dong Hoon, National Police Agency (NPA) Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun and Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Society Kang Seung-kyu regarding proposed amendments to the Assembly and Demonstration Act.
The meeting comes after the inconvenience caused to citizens due to an overnight rally held by representatives and workers of the construction industry division of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on May 16-17.
Following the meeting, Yun told reporters, “We will consider restricting rallies and demonstrations at the notification stage if they have a history of being illegal and they are clearly judged to harm the rights and interests of others or public safety and order, such as this rally,” adding, “Our meeting concluded that rallies on major downtown roads during commuting hours must also be restricted at the notification stage.”
Han, who attended the consultation, emphasized the need for rigorous investigations to eradicate the vicious cycle of illegal demonstrations, saying, “While the government seeks to ensure the freedom of assembly and protests within the boundaries of the law, illegal rallies pose a threat to citizens’ daily lives and safety.”
The NPA is scheduled to conduct the “NPA and Provincial Police Units Training” from May 25 until June 12. Approximately 12,000 members of riot police units across the nation will participate in the training. The last training session for dispersing illegal rallies in Korea was held in March 2017.
“If illegal rallies causing extreme inconvenience to citizens persist, we can resort to dispersing rallies as a last resort under the law,” said an NPA official regarding the rationale behind resuming the training.
“To prepare for rally dispersal measures, we will commence training from May 25,” the official added. The training will focus on scenarios involving non-compliance with police orders, necessitating forced dispersal and apprehension. It will also address situations involving violations of noise regulations, such as the confiscation of broadcasting equipment. In addition to training, the police also began improving their manual for handling illegal rallies to ensure effective dispersal.
By Lee Ho-jun and Minu Kim
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