Photo: Interior Minister Lee Sang-min announces the new Bureau of Police. Credit: Ministry of Interior and Safety.
More than 190 police colonels held a meeting to protest the new Bureau of Police 경찰국 under the Interior Ministry 행정안전부. Police colonels 총경 are the chiefs of each police station and the highest-ranking frontline officer; there are approximately 650 police colonels in South Korea.
Around 40 colonels attended the meeting in person, held in Asan, Chungcheongnam-do Province 충청남도 아산, while others attended virtually, in defiance of the acting Chief of Police Yun Hee-geun 윤희근 경찰청장 직무대행 who ordered not to attend the meeting. Another 160 police colonels expressed support for the meeting by sending flowers.
In a statement, the colonels said: “The rule that allows the Interior Minister to direct the Chief of Police infringes upon the rule of law” and declared that the Bureau of Police was “a regression of history.” (See previous coverage, “Yoon Administration Revives Dictatorship Era Policing.”)
Interior Minister Lee Sang-min 이상민 called the meeting “a coup d’etat,” comparing it to the dictator Chun Doo-hwan 전두환’s overthrow of the government. Democratic Assembly Member Lee Jae-myung 이재명 민주당 국회의원 called that characterization, “a thief raising the club” 적반하장.
The Yoon administration placed on administrative leave Colonel Ryu Sam-yeong 류삼영 총경, chief of Ulsan Central Police Station 울산 중부경찰서장 who organized the meeting. Ryu retorted: “The Minister is demonstrating what happens if he had the power to appoint and fire police officials."