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City ready for crowds on New Year's Eve

Dec 31,2002
A number of events are expected to take place in downtown Seoul tonight and authorities said yesterday it is taking steps to avoid problems.

The Pan National Committee, which has led recent protests against the current terms of the Status of Forces Agreement governing criminal jurisdiction over U.S. troops here, has announced a large-scale candlelight vigil to begin at 6 p.m. at Gwanghwamun, central Seoul.

The event, which the group called a "candlelight peace march," will be watched closely by the police. The National Police Agency said it will leave the protesters alone as long as they do not make a move on the U.S. Embassy, which is in the area. The police said if the crowd moves toward the embassy all traffic would be stopped along Sejongno, central Seoul's main thoroughfare, and the protesters would be contained.

At about 11 p.m., the candlelight crowd is expected to move toward the Jonggak area, where the New Year's bell will be rung, and continue the protest there after midnight.

The Pan National Committee said it expects upwards of 10,000 people to show up for the event; the group has arranged 400 volunteers to maintain order. The Seoul Subway Metropolitan Corp., which operates the city's subway lines No. 1 to No. 4, announced that its trains would run until 2 a.m. to accommodate revelers.

Despite threats of a surprise strike by the corporation's labor union, the company said the trains will be running.

The corporation said that if the Jonggak subway station is overcrowded with passengers because of New Year celebrations some trains would pass through the station from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. without making stops. The corporation also said downtown subway stations, including City Hall, Jonggak and Jongno 3-ga, would be operating with extra staff to ensure that passengers' needs are taken care of.

by Park Soo-mee




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