PSPD in English Newsletter 2023-08-31   2562

This Month at PSPD, July/August 2023

Deliberate forgetfulness of the dire consequences of suppressing assembly


Under the Yoon government, the freedom of assembly is in a distressing retreat. President Yoon himself ordered a “strong action” and the workers at the protest site were brutally arrested by the police. The one-person protest and the non-violent protest were violently interrupted and dispersed. The memorial altar of the self-immolated worker was torn down. The protest by the families of the 10.29 Itaewon Disaster met with heavy clashes by the police, even though they were only preparing the properly notified protest in remembrance of their loss. The police resumed the protester-control drills, including the use of water cannons and pepper spray against civilians.

Have the Yoon government and the police forgotten the dire result of the brutal crackdown on the rallies that happened in the Yongsan Redevelopment Area and the death of Baek Nam Gi, the farmer who was killed by a water cannon? The Yoon government and the ruling party are even trying to revive the toxic clause of “ban on night rallies”, which has been declared unconstitutional. In response, PSPD held the relay debate forum with MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Human Rights Networks Baram, and GongGamDae. Through the debates, we examined the challenges to freedom of assembly and discussed how to counter the unconstitutional attacks by the government and the police.

The first debate forum, “The Day Freedom of Assembly Collapsed: Through Voices” was opened to examine the 2023 Case Report on the instances of violation of the right of assembly. The following debate forum on “Freedom of Assembly Must Be Guaranteed” discussed the policy strategies to regulate the use of riot gear by the police.

Freedom of assembly is the fundamental right that the PSPD refuses to back down from fighting for. In 2016, the candlelight march for the impeachment of Park Geun Hye paved the way for our rights up to 100 meters from the Blue House. It is time again to fight for our right to march despite the repression of the Yoon government.

Over the Crisis of War, Forward to Peace!

2023.06.13 AM 11:00 서울 광화문 세종문화회관 앞 계단 "전쟁 위기를 넘어 적대를 멈추고 지금, 평화로!"© 정전 70년 한반도 평화행동

If you live in Seoul, you’ll remember the false evacuation alarm that went off at dawn last month. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when it turned out to be a false alarm, but we had to come to terms with the fact that not only do we live in a country with a higher risk of war breaking out, but we are not even prepared with adequate evacuation protocol when it finally happens.

Since the collapse of the Hanoi Summit between North Korea and the United States in 2019, talks for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the improvement of relations between South and North Korea have been at a standstill. It has been 70 years since the armistice agreement, the military threat and the sense of crisis are only growing. The situation is even more grim than when PSPD launched the “Campaign for the End of War on the Korean Peninsula” with many civic groups and religious communities at home and abroad. But still, many citizens at home and abroad continue to raise their voices for “Ending Hostility and Ending the War.

Last June 13, a large banner reading “Over the Crisis of War, Stop the Hostility, Now to PEACE.” was held in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Gwanghwamoon, Seoul.

The Korea Peace Appeal Campaign, together with the South Korean June 15 Joint Declaration Committee, organized a press conference and proclaimed the “Month for Global Action”. The press conference showed the desperate but firm conviction of the people who won’t and can’t allow the war on the Korean peninsula and let the crisis continue. Those who participated in the campaign proposed various peace actions in more than 300 countries and called for further actions such as organizing a peace conference and symposium.

The action we must take is not to prepare for war. We need to work on the conditions for the conversation to prevent the war. To protect our lives and secure a better future, we ask you to join us on our journey to peace.

Burning the last straw of the bereaved families?

서울광장 분향소부터 국회까지 릴레이 행진에 함께 한 참여연대 회원들과 활동가들

A special bill for the investigation of the 10.29 Itaewon tragedy, co-sponsored by 183 congressmen and 50,000 petitioners, has been submitted to the National Assembly, but the discussion has been too slow so far. Last May, the Democratic Party of Korea said the bill would pass the Public Administration and Security Committee (PASC) in June, but the PASC did not even select the commissioner until mid-June.

The bereaved families set up a protest in front of the National Assembly, urging the National Assembly to pass the Special Law in June. In particular, they are continuing a 159-kilometer relay march that starts every morning at 10:29 a.m. from the memorial altar at Seoul Plaza to the National Assembly. Members of the PSPD also joined the desperate steps of the bereaved families. However, despite these desperate efforts and hopes, the PASC has still not opened a proper discussion. In addition, the leaders of the PPP (People Power Party) made public statements against the enactment of the special law. The bereaved families requested a meeting with the PPP saying, “There can be no division between parties in the bill for the life and safety of the people,” but they did not receive any response from the PPP.

In the end, the bereaved families went on a hunger strike in June demanding that the special bill be put on the fast-track agenda. On June 20, Lee Jeong-min, acting representative of the Bereaved Families of Itaewon Tragedy Association (Lee Ju-yeong’s father), and Choi Seon-mi, an executive committee member of BFITA (Park Ga-young’s mother), went on a hunger strike. It is truly devastating that the bereaved families have to go on hunger strike to find out the truth about the death of their loved ones when it is time for them to be comforted and consoled by the tragedy.

The PSPD, together with the bereaved families, will continue its activities to push for the Special Law to be placed on the accelerated agenda of the National Assembly plenary session in June and for the PASC to review the Special Law.

Social Service Reform: Not innovation, but regression

On May 31, President Yoon Seok-yeol announced that “social services must also be marketed. However, marketization is not the key to accelerating the improvement of social services. Rather, marketization is the real cause of problems such as the low quality of social service jobs. In order to actively respond to the extremely low birth rate and the super-aged society, it is necessary to further strengthen the state’s responsibility for care and ensure the public nature of social services. In response, we held a forum to diagnose the problems of the Yoon Seok-yeol administration’s social services, which are abandoning the people’s right to care and pushing the vulnerable to the brink. We also sought alternatives.

Translated by a PSPD Volunteer

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