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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Civil-Political
  • 2001.07.07
  • 1135

A single person demonstration, another type of participatory democracy

Participatory Economy Committee


While it is drawing more support and interest from the country, a single person demonstration has currently undergone through the two opposite incidents. Although it appeared for the first time in December 2000, it is not until now that it is whirled in the midst of controversy when a chief of police station announced that it is illegal to protest in such a way. On the other hand, it played a crucial role to correct one customary misdeed of the Office of Tax Administration.

One person demonstration was made as a reaction to Article 11 of 'the prohibition law of assembly and demonstration' which bans having assemblies and demonstration within 100 meters around the Capitol, all levels of courts, and diplomatic organizations such as embassies. This type of a single person demonstration dates back from December 4, 2000 when one person demonstrated on account of the suspicion of tax evasion of Chaebol's illegal inheritance. In April 2000, PSPD provided information that Samsung SDS, including Mr. Lee Jae-Yong, son of Samsung Group, evaded a tax of up to millions but the Office did not take any appropriate actions. In order to make them alert to the seriousness of the issue, from December 4, 2000, accountant Mr. Yoon Jong-Hoon, leader of tax reform team, went on demonstration alone for 14 days. Succeeding to his movement, over 100 persons from various fields of Korean society took part in this historic movement, which included top ranking press people and lasted from March 1 to March 30, 2001. After that, this type of a single person demonstration became favored and used in many different fields of Korean society.

Mr. Jung Gwang-Sub, Chief Officer of Jongno-gu police office announced that modified one-person demonstrations, like a one-person relay demonstration or a demonstration of binding individuals every 20 meters, are illegal and that the participants are to be arrested. However, as if to prove what he said, on April 13, the Jongno-gu police Station took a laborer to the police station for breaking the prohibition law of assembly and demonstration. The laborer covered himself with bandage to give the message, "Even under the people's government, the human rights of temporary workers have been trampled to death." The police arrested him on the charge of an allegation that the laborer's behavior made the public feel disgusted.

But most scholars, said lawyer Mr. Jang Yoo-Sik of PSPD, have a commonly thought that this kind of interpretation on related laws violates the fundamental human right of freedom of assembly and association. Besides, Mr. Jang added that Chief Officer Mr. Jung is not in a right position to make an authoritative interpretation on the laws. In spite of their proclamation of driving reforms in many parts of Korean society, policy makers did not keep their words and they just made a boast of their plans for laws for preventing corruption and money laundering. They misused their causes and failed to bring satisfactory results in the end. In order to deter those laws to be passed into laws, there was all-night single person demonstration. It is meaningful that this is the first all night demonstration and 12 citizens, including professors and NGO activists, took turns in holding a picket, saying "I am ashamed of the Capitol, laws prohibiting corruption and money laundry."

Amid difficulties and very few outcomes, there was a big achievement. Mr. Ahn Jong Nam, chief of the Office of Tax Administration, announced in public the fact that Mr. Lee Jae Yong was charged for his illegally obtained property on June 13, 2001. This decision might seem too late as it has finally been made after 1 year. But it must be something worthy and welcome. What should be recognized behind this success is the participation of the public and their everlasting support. Heavy snow and companies' disturbances could not discourage over 100 people from cooperating to keep the demonstration on and at least 240 people from sending encouraging letters. This type of participation must play an important historic role for democracy in Korea.

But PSPD made it clear that this notice of taxation is not an end itself but just a beginning of their journey for fair taxation on anyone. They say they understand that these series of incidents show how seriously the Office of Tax Administration is determined to charge right and how the public people perceive equal taxation. It should also be remembered that this incident is expected to play a significant role in giving a warning that Chaebul's families would be deterred to inherit and donate their assets in an easy and improper way.


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