The Marmot's Hole Blogger
6/22/2003
 
Burning Old Glory is OK, but...

Don't do this at home! Pre-edited photo ripped off from the Korea Timestoasting the North Korean flag apparently is not - at least in South Korea. Reports the Korea Times (thanks to "trice" for pointing this out):

Controversy is growing after police Saturday blocked a move by anti-North Korea activists to burn the North's flag during a street rally in front of City Hall in central Seoul.

Police put out a burning North Korean flag with an extinguisher set by the activists during a rally condemning Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions and calling for strengthening the country's alliance with the United States.

Many activists who participated in the rally criticized police for making an about-face from its stance during anti-U.S. rallies last year, where it didn't attempt to take any action when protestors burned American flags.

The activists said it is an indication the police are becoming left-wing in their policies, and ignoring South Korea's ties with the United States, a long-time ally of South Korea.

Burning a flag of a foreign country is in violation of the laws preventing the defamation of the symbols of foreign countries, but burning a North Korean flag is an exception because current laws define North Korea as non-foreign country.

But the police claim burning anything during a rally is illegal, citing laws defining protests and demonstrations.

"The problem is they are setting fire to something. Burning a North Korean flag is not the issue," a police officer said.

Last year, police also blocked protesters from burning the North Korean flag and portraits of its leader Kim Jong-il during protests during the Pusan Asian Games where Pyongyang sent hundreds of its athletes.

Now this... this makes no sense. In the nearly seven years I've been in this country, I've seen Old Glory desecrated in just about every way imaginable - check out the films over at Anti-USFK/US Newsletter to see just a couple of them (along with a whole lot more). Not once have I've ever seen the police intervene to save the Stars and Stripes. Let me make something clear first - I believe that laws that forbid flag-burning are wrong-headed, even though I also believe that flag-burning is a very ineffective (if not outrightly counterproductive) way to express one's political grievances. But if you're going to have the laws on the books, you have to apply them equally. It boggles the mind that the police would prevent protestors from burning the flag of a country that the nation is still technically at war with, while permitting the flag of South Korea's closest ally to be burned, torn apart, walked upon, and otherwise abused on an almost daily basis. You know the orders to intervene came on down from high, and at the risk of sounding too Chosun Ilbo-like here, it makes you wonder about the attitudes of the authorities here vis-a-vis the North and the United States.

UPDATE: The Chosun Ilbo reports that 110,000 people attended last Sunday's anti-North / pro-US rally in front of Seoul City Hall. In attendance were parents of the six sailors who were killed last year in the Yellow (West Sea); Hwang Eun-tae, father of Hwang Do-hyun (one of the officers killed), had this to say at the rally:

My father was killed in the war by a bullet from a North Korean soldier, and now my son has also been killed by the North. The public commemorates the death of the two middle-school girls killed by a U.S. Army vehicle, but they do not remember the people killed by the North.
I was a bit curious about that myself. The Chosun also ran an editorial on the rally, which you can find here.
 
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