Sedition charges on protesters
Police are investigating leaders of conservative organizations who called for the promulgation of martial law, among others, during the so-called Taegeukgi (national flag) rallies at the end of last year and beginning of this year. They opposed the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
It is unprecedented for police to investigate participants of demonstrations and rallies on sedition charges for instigating the use of violence with the purpose of overthrowing the state.
To date, only former Army generals and ex-Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, who seized power through the Dec. 12, 1979, coup, and former lawmaker Lee Seok-ki, leader of the disbanded pro-North Korean United Progressive Party, have been convicted of treason.
Indeed, the demonstrators went too far; but their calls for martial law promulgation and a military coup were close to slogans coming in the heat of the moment, rather than being indicative of any organized effort for sedition.
Their counter-protesters, “candlelit demonstrators” chanted, “Let’s advance to Cheong Wa Dae and drag Park Geun-hye out.” Yet, police have not yet taken issue with such a radical slogan.
Furthermore, police started the investigation seven months after Military Human Rights Korea, a progressive nongovernmental organization, filed a complaint with the prosecution against the pro-Park protesters.
It is natural to question what motivated police to conduct the investigation now, though they claimed they had no choice but to open the case following orders from the prosecution.
The police investigation into the pro-Park supporters is certainly raising questions over fairness and also causing strong suspicion that politics are behind the unprecedented probe.
The prosecution and police should deal with the case fairly or they will face suspicions not just that they are catering to those in power but also allegations that they are encroaching on the legally guaranteed right of assembly.