|South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on May 23, 2023./ Source: Yonhap |
AsiaToday reporter Lee Wook-jae
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Tuesday that the government will not neglect or tolerate any form of illegal action, referring to a two-day street rally staged by the Korean Construction Workers’ Union under the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun area.
During a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office, the president criticized the labor union for staging a large-scale rally last week that disrupted traffic in central Seoul.
Earlier, the KCTU held a two-day rally in downtown Seoul, causing traffic congestion and leading to some noise complaints. Besides, the police faced criticism that they sat on the sidelines of the rally, leading to National police chief Yoon Hee-keun expressing regret. The president’s remarks are seemingly aimed at emphasizing that strict law enforcement should be carried out in illegal rallies to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.
“Our Constitution guarantees the freedom of assembly and demonstration, and as president, I, too, have respected this,” the president said. “However, guaranteeing the freedom of assembly and demonstration does not mean infringements on another person’s freedoms and basic rights, or acts disturbing the public order, are justified.”
“It will be difficult for the people to tolerate the behavior of a protest that violates the public’s freedom and basic rights and disrupts public order,” he said.
Yoon blamed the previous Moon Jae-in administration for abandoning its law enforcement duties with regard to illegal rallies and demonstrations, leading to intolerable levels of inconvenience for the people as they struggle to cope with loudspeakers and street occupations.
He promised the state’s strong support and protection for law enforcement officials who faithfully carry out their duties, saying they should not suffer pain or disadvantages due to lawbreakers.
“If the law is not followed, good citizens and the socially vulnerable are bound to suffer,” Yoon said, urging the police and related public officials to strictly enforce the law against illegal activities.