SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean police forces have been advised by a reform committee to exercise less force and authority to control peaceful protests and do more to protect protestors.
At a press conference held on Thursday with the commissioner general of the National Police Agency, the police reform committee urged South Korean law enforcement to do more to uphold the constitutional right to hold a protest, reflecting a shift towards a more peaceful protest culture that many liberal civic societies have called for.
During the conference, plans for the first draft of a more protest-friendly reform bill based on the committee’s recommendations to be passed before the National Assembly by early next year were also revealed.
Though police have been focusing on protecting legal rights and punishing illegal activities when it comes to protests, the committee’s proposal goes one step further and instructs police to do their best to cooperate and not obstruct the demonstration permit process by being too hung up on details on purpose to curb the number of protests.
In the past, police had much to say when it came to the routes, scale, and style of protests, but the new proposal from the reform committee urges law enforcement officials to give as much leeway to protestors as possible within legal boundaries, so long as it is not in breach of public interest.
The reform committee also advised police to make it easier for protestors to obtain a permit, by introducing an online system for instance, urging law enforcement to change from a ‘something to be avoided’ view of protests to a ‘something to help make happen’ outlook.
As for protestors occupying roads and obstructing traffic, the committee advised police against pressing illegal road occupation charges, citing situations where protestors have no other choice but to resort to going out onto the road.
The use of water cannon trucks, often adopted to disperse crowds, should be recorded under all circumstances, the committee proposed.
However, some police officers expressed concern over the proposals unveiled during the press conference.
“I feel like it’s too biased towards the rights of protesters and marchers, instead of looking after the safety and convenience of all citizens. If protests derail from the permitted marching routes, they could have a great impact on road safety,” one police officer said.
In response to the criticism, Moon Gyeong-ran, the chairwoman of the police reform committee, said, “Peaceful protests shouldn’t be branded a ‘threat’ to public safety and order. We are fully aware that we can’t cause too much inconvenience to public citizens.”
Hyunsu Yim (firstname.lastname@example.org)