Korean police may be denied use of fire hydrants during demonstrations

Korean police may be denied use of fire hydrants during demonstrations

A group of South Korean politicians are moving to restrict police from using fire hydrants for their water cannons, following the recent death of a Korean farmer, Baek Nam-ki.

68-year-old Baek Nam-Gi died on 25 September after a 10-month fight at the hospital for a severe injury that he sustained from the high-pressure water cannon used by the police.

The  activist and farmer, who had spent years fighting for the rights of the rural poor, was at a massive rally on the streets of Seoul on 14 November 2015, protesting against the government’s agricultural policies.

The police water cannon struck directly at him, knocking him down and causing him to smash his head on road. He was subsequently taken to Seoul National University Hospital, where doctors operated on him to stop the bleeding in his brain. He remained in a coma from then until the day he died.

Korea Times reported Thursday, on Wednesday (5 October) that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said he was considering not allowing the police access to fire hydrants near protest sites. South Korean police would usually ask permission from the district fire station where the demonstration is held for the use of fire hydrants.

Park said, “The water from the fire hydrants is for fighting fire; it is hard to tolerate allowing police to use water to suppress protesters.”

And a city official said, “It is a serious problem that the police water cannon killed a person. We’re currently discussing ways to limit their water access, reviewing whether it is against the law to do so.”

Rep. Kim Chung-woo of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea also supported the mayor’s idea, he proposed a revision to the existing Fire Services Act to restrict police from using fire hydrants for water cannons, ‘which can cause damage to people.’

The country current law forbids using fire hydrants without proper cause; police say using them for water cannons is a proper cause. Kim argues that fire hydrants should be used only for fire fighting, rescue and anti-terrorism activities.

Civic groups have joined the move; the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy staged a campaign in front of the National Police Agency in Seoul on 29 September, to urge the police to stop using water cannons. An alliance of civic groups supporting Baek moved for the same during a press briefing on Thursday.

The public who were outraged about the farmer’s death, supported such moves. A police officer told The Korea Times quickly responded by saying, “Responding to crowds of protesters with water cannons is a widely accepted method around the world,” He added, “Blocking the water supply won’t stop further casualties among protesters. Instead, it will cause more frequent and violent physical confrontations between the police and protesters, and more casualties. I can guarantee that.”

In Singapore police don’t use water hydrants to disperse crowds, they use riot trucks or commonly referred to as “Ang Chia” (red trucks). The Police Tactical Unit (PTU) is a paramilitary specialist unit of the Singapore Police Force and comes under the direct command of the Special Operations Command.

The water cannon mounted on the riot trucks can be seen in the photo.

It is the main anti-rioting and disaster-management unit of the Singapore Police Force, they are also called upon to handle cases of serious crime in progress, particularly cases involving firearms.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments