On 22 December 2013, over 4,000 South Korean riot police stormed the headquarter of the nation's second largest trade union center– an unprecedented event in the country's post-dictatorship history which shows how determined the current regime is in clamping down on labor and democratic organizations.
It was not only the sheer scale of the crackdown which surprised people, but also these three facts that further enraged the already furious South Korean net users: the police break-in was done without search warrant [ko]; a progressive newspaper building's facilities have been damaged along the way; and police obstructed a peaceful protest that citizens held in support of these union workers.
Despite making a scene such as the photos below show, police have failed to capture their targets who are accused of leading the latest rail workers’ protests and were thought to be hiding in the building. Here are tweets shared widely by Korean net users:
현 정권이 노동자 몇 명을 잡기 위해 수천명의 경찰병력을 동원한 것을 보니 지간히 급하고 현 상황이 두려운 것 같군요. 집권 1년만에 벌써 말기 증상을 보이고 있습니다. pic.twitter.com/dtiC8AQMeg
— 백찬홍 (@mindgood) December 22, 2013
The current regime dispatched several thousand police to capture a handful of labor workers. It shows how desperate and fearful they are about the current situation. It is just a year since they grabbed power, but what we see now are the typical symptoms of a lame-duck regime.
기자분들을 알아야 합니다] 이 곳은 경향신문사 건물입니다. 춰재와 촬영은 고맙지만, 지금 경찰이 짓밟고 있는 이 곳이 여러분들의 동료가 있는 신문사 건물이란 사실을기록해주십시오. 그리고 항의해주십시오! pic.twitter.com/uGuxgNFOad
— 이창근(lee chang kun) (@Nomadchang) December 22, 2013
You journalists need to know this. This building happens to be also a place shared by the Kyunghyang Newspaper [*note: Nation's top progressive media outlet vocally criticizing the current administration]. Although we are thankful to you guys for covering this news, please document the fact that this building is where your fellow journalists stay. And protest with us!
“1.수배자 찾는다고 밀고 들어갔는데 수배자 없음. 2.그나마 영장이 있으면 우겨볼 수 있는데 사실 영장도 기각된 상태. 3.그러면서 허가된 집회를 방해한 상태. 4.집회 참가 시민들에게 최루액을 직사로 뿌리는 사진까지 찍힘.” 국민에 대한 선전포고
— 몸치장군 (@7l_o) December 22, 2013
[summary of what happened] 1. They broke into that place, claiming they were looking for their wanted men. But they were not there to begin with. 2. If they had warrants, they could be able to make excuses (about their forced entrance), but actually it turns out their warrant request was denied. 3. Then yet again, they obstructed ‘legal’ protests. 4. Later, it was caught on camera that these riot police used pepper spray on citizens. This is a proclamation of war against the people.
Once tweets of police's violent clampdown went viral online, many citizens in the city joined to fight with these struggling labor union workers. @sinbi2010 reported [ko] that over 20,000 citizens gathered voluntarily within few hours and clashed with police. Below are photos of the citizens’ clash with the police later that day.
— 헷섿 #바보가꿈꾸는세상 (@giraffeC8) December 22, 2013
<Urgent! SOS (distress signal)> We need to besiege the Park Junior's army. [referring to President Park Geun-hye who is a daughter of ex-president Park Chung-hee] @kyhal55: Please everybody come out. Please, citizens come out.
(17:03) 경향신문사 방향으로 가려는 시민들을 인도에서 막고 있는 경찰들..”폭력경찰 물러가라”를 외치며 대치중.. pic.twitter.com/NGXwXfaSEO
— 주먹이운다 (@jumeok_) December 22, 2013
(on 5:03 pm) Police have blocked citizens who are moving in the direction of the Kyunghyang newspaper building. Now they are chanting ‘Go away you violent police’ and confronting them.
Police now face legal issues [ko] ahead as civic groups and human rights lawyers are preparing for a package of lawsuits.
경찰은 민주노총 압수수색 영장이 없습니다. 체포영장만으로는 잠긴문을 뜯고 들어갈 수 없습니다. 더구나 법률상 제3자인 민주노총과 경향신문사의 시설물을 부수고 들어간 건 주거침입에 해당하는 중죄입니다. pic.twitter.com/IPZhKcpvMB
— 김형석 (@songbag) December 22, 2013
Police had no search warrant for the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). An arrest warrant is not legally sufficient for them to break into a place after tearing down locked doors. Moreover, legally speaking, the fact that police broke into the building shared by KCTU and the Kyunghyang newspaper by destroying their facilities, constitutes a felony of home invasion.