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[Editorial] KCTU above law

Members pull down fence of National Assembly, assault police; protesters released soon

During its rally in front of the National Assembly on Wednesday, protesters of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions knocked down part of the fence surrounding the premises. They attempted to enter the grounds illegally and block the passage of labor bills.

They also pulled down a barrier set up by police, took riot batons and shields, collared police officers, slapped their faces and swung their fists. Six police officers were taken to a nearby hospital.

They were more like a lawless mob than lawful protesters.

Police arrested 25 violent protesters on charges of obstruction of justice, but released all of them at around midnight the same day. Police cited that they had admitted to the wrongdoings they were accused of, but it is hard to understand their quick release. If they were not KCTU members, they might have been behind bars. This gives the impression that the Moon Jae-in administration treats the labor group with a sense of gratitude for helping it into power. Police plan to summon the union members this week, but its investigation may well fizzle out this time too.

This atmosphere is likely to reassure the KCTU that its members will receive a slap on the wrist or get off scot-free even if it stages violent protests.

The group declared the protest in front of the legislature a “victory,” saying they delayed efforts to enact an extension of flexible working hours and revamp the systems of minimum wage determination. It did not show the slightest bit of self-reflection over the damage its violence caused.

The flextime bill resulted from the Economic, Social and Labor Council created by the government to deal with labor issues. The KCTU boycotted the council and now vows to kill the bill because it does not like it. Few people would understand its attitude. Before it opposes the bill at this belated time, it should have joined the council and offered an alternative.

Members of the KCTU have shown the tendency to occupy government offices illegally if their demands are not accepted. They took over regional labor administrations and a mayoral office. They held surprise sit-ins even in the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office.

In November, their violence overstepped limits. A group of KCTU members ganged up on an executive of their company after locking him in an office. Police responded half-heartedly, lingering around as other union members blocked the way to the office.

The KCTU staged violent protests in front of the National Assembly this time. Someday, it may protest in front of Cheong Wa Dae. The Moon administration has brought this situation upon itself.

The administration may feel politically indebted to the labor group that played a leading role in protests leading to the impeachment of the previous president and the election of the current government. It has been endlessly generous to the labor group. A case in point is a guideline issued to police that calls for restraint in dealing with labor protesters over minor illegal acts and seeking legal compensation for damage.

The KCTU membership topped 1 million late last month. Still it boycotts the council.

On Thursday, it decided to hold a general strike this month. Though it has become bigger, it could not care less about its responsibility to society. All it cares is to fight for its own interests, no matter how much damage the violent protests may cause to the economy.

The group uses violence as if it is a natural right granted to it. Its violence, if left unchecked, will destroy law and order and spoil the economy. Until when will the administration overlook its violent protests? It must deal with them sternly to protect the law and revive the economy.