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General meeting of police personnel called for to protest 'police bureau' plan

This undated file photo shows the National Police Agency. (Yonhap)
This undated file photo shows the National Police Agency. (Yonhap)

A police officer called Tuesday for a general meeting of all 140,000 police personnel to protest the planned establishment of an interior ministry bureau overseeing the law enforcement agency, upping the ante in the escalating standoff with the government.

Kim Seong-jong, senior inspector at Seoul Gwangjin Police Station, said in a post on the police intranet, that the meeting had originally been planned to involve senior inspector- and inspector-level officers but has now been expanded to include all ranks.

The meeting will take place Saturday in Asan, 86 kilometers south of Seoul, he said.

"The meeting has been changed into a general meeting of all 140,000 police officers thanks to the enthusiastic wishes of front-line police colleagues," Kim said, adding at least 1,000 officers are expected to join the meeting.

He said the meeting will be livestreamed to the public on YouTube.

Front-line police officers have been up in arms against the envisioned establishment of the police bureau that will give the interior ministry the authority to oversee key personnel and policy decisions for police. Police officers protest the move would compromise their political neutrality and accountability.

Last Saturday, about 50 senior superintendents across the nation held a meeting in Asan to protest the plan, with some 140 others attending online, in an unprecedented collective action, despite repeated warnings from the government to desist.

Since then, the government has strongly condemned their collective action and disobedience, and temporarily suspended one of the participants from duties for organizing the gathering. Interior Minister Lee Sang-min even compared the gathering to a "coup" by an organization handling firearms.

On Tuesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol denounced the police protest as a "serious breach of national discipline."

The interior ministry has argued the envisioned police bureau is necessary, because police are set to take on more investigative roles from the prosecution and it will bring structure to what was previously an opaque command system wielded by the now-abolished office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. (Yonhap)

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