Law and disorder

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2003, 12:00am

Is South Korea a country based on law and order? Or do unlawfulness and a disregard for authorities dominate? That was the question many people were asking this week after a local county chief was beaten by his village people for pursuing an unpopular project.

Kim Jong-gyu, chief of Buan county in North Cholla province, was treated in hospital on Monday after being attacked by some of the hundreds of people who oppose his plan to allow South Korea's first nuclear waste dump to be built near their homes.

Currently, nuclear waste is stored in temporary sites, which poses a high risk. For years, the government has tried to find a place for the nuclear dump - but no one wanted to accommodate the seemingly dangerous facilities.

That was until Mr Kim stepped in, hoping that the numerous jobs which will be created by the project would turn around the county's devastated economy. He was also encouraged by the government's repeated promises to make it one of the safest nuclear facilities in the world. People living near the designated site supported the plan, hoping to get a generous compensation package - but others were vehemently opposed.

Clearly, any project involving nuclear waste will arouse strong feelings, opposition and protests. But beating up civil servants is not the way to resolve such issues.

In recent years, South Korea has seen many violent clashes between police and labour union members or radical students. On the streets and in the workplace, protesters throw rocks, wield steel pipes and even beat up others. In such instances, there is no respect for law and order. Authorities are ignored, or even ridiculed from time to time.

But the image of violent South Korean labourers is hurting the economy by driving away potential foreign investors. It is time to restore law and order, so that the nation will be respected by other countries.