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Korea: Death of 5 Evictees in the middle of Seoul

On the 20th of January, residents who were told to be evicted to make way for a new development by February in Yongsan, which is the middle of Seoul, opposed the decision and five people were burnt to death as a result of police action. One policeman died at that moment. The police explained that they did not have any other choice but to respondbecause those demonstrators were holding gasoline bombs (a small bottle, usually soju or beer bottles are used, filled with gasoline) and thereby putting many in danger.

How the police responded, how the media cover the story, and how the government reacts to the result are criticized.

Photo of the night of the 20th of January.

Why did this happen in the middle of Seoul?

철거민 5명과 경찰 1명이 사망에 이른 사태의 출발지점에는 용산구 서부이촌동 일대에 들어서는 ‘국제업무지구’ 개발이 있다. 그 지구를 중심으로 주변지역은 상업, 주거, 공원 등 배후단지로 개발된다. 이번 참사가 일어난 용산4구역은 바로 그 배후단지 중 하나로 40층 높이의 주상복합 초고층 빌딩들이 들어서기로 되어 있다.[…]통째로 갈아엎고 새로 도시를 만드는 그 엄청난 일을, 아무도 살지 않는 사막에 도시를 짓는 것처럼 막무가내로 진행하고 있다. […] 용산미군기지 이전계획이 발표되면서 용산은 서울 도심의 최대개발지역으로 떠올랐다. 용산의 서쪽을 관통하는 한강로 일대는 부동산중계업소가 한 집 건너 하나 꼴로 있을 만큼 부동산경기가 가열되었다.[…]

The reason why 5 evictees and 1 policeman were dead was because of the development of the ‘international affair zone’ at the western part of Yongsan. Surrounding the zone, there will be industrial and residential districts and parks. The fourth district of Yongsan was one of those districts and is planned to have a 40 story residential and industrial building. […] To make a new city after destroying existing things is a big job. But the government does like they make a new city in a desert where nobody lives […] After the announcement that the American army base will move out, Yongsan became the greatest developing district in Seoul. Near the Han River zone of Yongsan area, now there are real estate agencies every other house.

People were able to see what happened that night through the internet, not by the media. This has led to a big argument and distrust of the media.

[…]국민들은 인터넷을 통해 생지옥을 목격했다!

그런데 지금 우리는 두 눈으로 똑똑히, 군사독재정권보다 악랄하고 야만적인 현 정권이 어떻게 국민들을 죽였는지 지켜보았다. 불법시위에다 화염병을 들었다는 이유로 시민편의를 위해서라는 말도 안되는 변명들로, 철거민 6명이 인화성물질이 가득한 옥상 건물에서 불타 숨지게 한 살육의 현장을 말이다.

바로 주류 쓰레기 언론(방송.신문)이 주목하거나 담아내지 못하는 것을, 인터넷과 블로그를 통해서 그것도 실시간으로 말이다.

[…]People witnessed hell through the Internet!

With our eyes, we witnessed how the current government killed people in a worse and more cruel way than in the period of the military dictatorship government. The government excused that those people have illegal demonstrations and hold gasoline bombs, and therefore for other people’s sake, they let those 6 evictees die to be burned on the top of the building.

What main trash media (broadcast and newspapers) didn’t show, we were able to see through the Internet and blogs.

Others raise questions of how long the Internet and netizens will be safe from the current government.

대한민국 네티즌은 예약된 범죄자

 용산 참사 일어나고 딱 하루 동안만 정부와 여당이 들썩들썩하면서 경찰의 강경진압에 대해 잠시 심사숙고 하는 것 같더니.. 이것저것 재고 따져보고 하더니 철거민 쪽으로 모든 책임을 돌려가고 있는 듯 하다. 거기에다 국민의 관심이 명절로 바뀌니 정부 입장에서는 얼씨구나 할 일이다.

미네르바도 그렇고, 촛불시위 참가자도 그렇고, 용산 철거민도 그렇고..정부의 입장에서 조금만 벗어나는 행동을 하는 국민들은 모두 범죄자 취급을 받아가는 것 같다. 앞으로 줄줄이 통과를 시키려고 벼르고 있는 집시법이며 사이버 모욕죄 등등이 적용되면 정말 조금이라도 비판의 글을 쓰는 네티즌들은 벌금형에, 구속에.. 다 범죄자가 될지도 모르겠다.[…]

Netizens are potential criminals.

After tragic death at Yongsan, it was the only one day that the government and ruling party were upset about strong suppression by the police and consider it serious… Measuring several ways, it seems that they turn all responsibilities to evictees. In addition, due to New Year it is easy to distract people’s interests.

As well as Minerva and candlelight vigil participants, evictees at Yongsan are treated as criminals because they have different thoughts from the government. If regulations regarding gathering and cyber contempt are passed in the future as the government tries, netizens who will write criticism no matter how strong or weak their writings are will be penalties and arrested[…]

This tragedy brought a big shock to people and has been added to the concern of weaker voice of citizens.

용산 참사! 분노하지 않으면 다음 차례는 당신입니다!

Tragic death at Yongsan! If you’re not angry, the next turn will be you!

The tactics that the government uses seem to generate more complaints and criticisms.

[…]모든 문제가 그렇다. 문제를 해결하려면 사태의 본질을 보고 해결책을 내 놓아 야 한다. 그렇지 않으면 같은 사태는 또다시 반복될 것이다. 이번 사태의 핵심은 무엇인가? 왜 그들은 화염병을 준비해야 했을까. 아니 그 이전에 왜 그들은 친지들의 걱정을 뒤로 하고 가족들의 만류를 뿌리치고 시위를 시작해야 했을까? 언론과 정부 당국 모두 ‘철거민’이라는 용어를 남발하지만 ‘철거’라는 사태의 핵심을 주목하는 곳은 많지 않다. 그러니까 사태의 핵심은 바로 ‘철거’다. 그것도 ‘강제 철거’ . 그들을 가족의 품에서 떼어놓아 시위장으로 향하게 만든 것은 바로 강제 철거다. 빛까지 내며 1억원 이상을 들여 개업한 가게를 단 돈 5천만원으로 보상하겠다는 철거, 교복을 챙겨나올새도 없이 어린 학생이 사복을 입고 등교하게 만든 철거, 온 가족을 천막에서 생활하게 한 철거, 바로 그 철거가 사태의 핵심이다. 이렇게 무리하게 추진된 철거는 사회 내에서 갈등을 양산한다. 철거를 하겠다는 자들과 철거를 당하제 않겠다는, 그러나 결국 철거를 당할 수 밖에 없는 자들간의 갈등 말이다. 이러한 갈등은 명백히 치안의 문제가 아니다. 갈등과 대립은 어느 사회에서나 일어날 수 밖에 없다. 그러한 모든 갈등을 경찰력을 동원해 해결할 수는 없다. 그것은 말 그대로의 ‘해결’이 아닌 ‘진압’이다. 갈등의 양 축에 위치한 자 중 상대적 약자를 억누름으로써 일시적으로 갈등을 잠재우는 ‘진압’이다.

우리는 이번 사태를 명백히 ‘정치’의 문제로 보아야 한다. […]

[…] All problems are like that. If you would like to solve problems, you should understand the situation well and suggest the solution. Otherwise, it will be repetitive. What is the main point of this tragedy? Why did they prepare gasoline bombs? Why did they start demonstrations behind other family members’ anxieties and discouraging? The media and government all call them ‘evictees’. But they should focus on ‘removal.’ That is, the main point is ‘removal,’ ‘forceful removal.’ The reason why it led them to demonstrate is due to forceful removal. They opened their stores with 100 million won with debt and received compensation, 50 million won. Young students had to go to school without their school uniforms because they were kicked out without enough time. All family members had to live in a tent. This removal is the main point of this tragedy. This kind of removal causes conflicts in society, conflicts between people who don’t want to be removed and people who would like to remove them. This conflict is not the matter of security. Conflicts and confrontation happen any society. But the police force is not the only solution to settle all conflicts. It is not a ‘solution,’ but ‘suppression.’ Of the two beings who cause conflicts, the strong presses down the weak. This is ‘suppression.’

We should clearly look into this incident as a ‘political’ problem.

1 comment

  • R. Elgin

    I would conditionally agree with the last observation. This is a “political” problem because it would not have happened if the society had faith in the system of justice. Because people have no faith in due process, they resort to firebombs.

    I was downtown this weekend and there are riot police everywhere. It is a bloody mess. Apparently around 19,000 people were out, protesting the events at Yongsan. The mainstream press is also very selective in what they report on this, if at all. So far, there are few pictures of the ongoing protests in the big three dailies.

    IMHO, from what I have seen here, there is a well-known problem with the larger developers using violence and intimidation (gangsters and thugs) to force people out and the city politicians and police deliberately ignore this as well. Opposition political agitators have begun to use this injustice to pursue their own political agenda, thus, like the mad cow protests, they are attempting to use this issue to promote their own interests.

    A change in the system is needed but will it happen? Probably not since it would require a sea change and there is not the political will in the ruling party. Ultimately, I would predict that it is only a matter of time before this inability on their part to embrace true political change will lose them the next election and probably more if combined with a truly bad economic downturn that lasts more than a few years.

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