SEOUL May 26 South Korean police aim to cut
back on the use of water cannons and buses to rein in
protesters, an official said on Friday, a move that could
eliminate sometimes harsh crowd control tactics that have led to
at least one deadly incident in recent years.
The government of liberal President Moon Jae-in, which took
office on May 10, has ordered a review of how the police force
approaches protection of human rights, calling for specific
steps to improve its record.
The National Police Agency will present its proposal on
halting the deployment of water canons and police buses to a
panel that advises the government on formulating policy, an
agency official said.
"I believe we will be given guidelines and direction
regarding the matter," the official said, adding that the
presentation of the proposal would be made on Saturday.
The official declined to be identified because he was not
formally authorised to speak to the media.
Police tactics in South Korea have often drawn criticism
from local and international rights groups for being harsh and
overly aggressive, often involving the deployment of more
officers than protesters attending the rallies, for example.
In particular, the use of water cannons, often at close
range, has been cited as endangering protesters' safety.
In 2016, a 68-year-old farm activist, Baek Nam-gi, died in
hospital after being struck by a water jet at a violent protest
rally and losing consciousness in a fall.
The Yonhap news agency quoted a human rights officer of the
national police force as telling a workshop the police plan to
change protest response guidelines to exclude the use of water
cannons and police buses to isolate protesters.
Moon this week sought an improvement in the status of the
National Human Rights Commission, whose recommendations are
non-binding, but he did not propose specific steps. To make the
recommendations binding would require parliamentary approval.
(Reporting by Yuna Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Clarence