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Lack of respect for law enforcement

Posted September. 20, 2012 05:34,   


In front of the headquarters of the investment bank Goldman Sachs Monday in Manhattan, New York, a group of muscular police officers was seen handcuffing a feeble woman wearing a short skirt. She was one of the demonstrators in a protest rally marking the first anniversary of “Occupy Wall Street.” Police were even catching protesters marching on pedestrian paths, saying they were blocking pedestrians from moving. Back in Korea, an excavator operator in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province, was hammering a police patrol car with his excavator and threw the vehicle at a police box to protest a crackdown on parking violations, creating a mess there. The scene looked like something out of the movie “Transformers.” On Tuesday in Yeonpyeong Island off the coast of Incheon, a motorist rammed his car into a police box to express anger against fines levied on him due to his drunk driving.

Last year, the chief of Jongno Police Station in Seoul in full uniform was beaten by demonstrators who were staging a rally against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement when he was approaching them. After an arrest warrant was sought for the rally`s leader, members of a coalition opposed to the agreement rushed to the police station en masse and created a disturbance late at night. On Jeju Island, police sent to arrest protesters staging violent demonstrations to block the construction of a naval base on the island were captured and detained by demonstrators. They were released only after promising to discard evidence on illegal demonstrations, something truly humiliating for law enforcement authorities.

Beating a police officer is a felony in the U.S. A violator of this rule is put on trial while detained and is denied bail. Conviction means up to 10 years in prison. Korean-American police officers who were invited to Seoul by the National Police Agency in 2010 asked why Korean cops have just blanks in their guns. Korean police rarely use guns even in a standoff against violent criminals. American officers carry loaded guns with them even when they are mobilized to handle rallies. In the U.S., demonstrators who wield iron pipes or Molotov cocktails to counter police effectively risk suicide. Anti-free trade demonstrators in Korea, who habitually mess up Korean streets, follow police lines like obedient sheep when staging rallies in the U.S.

Admittedly, the level of danger police officers face in the line of duty greatly differs between Korea and the U.S. to an extent, because civilians are banned from owning guns in Korea. In part because law enforcement authorities are too weak, however, violence against police is occasionally committed easily by certain civilians. Last year, the mayor of Washington, D.C. was arrested and bound by a police officer appointed by none other than the mayor when the former was staging a rally against the federal government for cutting the city`s budget. Certain U.S. states construe protesters who just stop marching in the middle of a street while staging a rally as an “occupation.” Proper respect for law enforcement authorities is a basic apparatus that helps sustain law and order in a society.

Editorial Writer Lee Hyeong-sam (hans@donga.com)