중앙데일리

Rallies will emphasize larger issues

Organizers fear a political hand in audit

June 14,2008
Protesters hold candles yesterday in front of Seoul City Hall to press the government to renegotiate the U.S. beef import deal and to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the death of two teenage girls hit by a U.S. armored vehicle in 2002. [YONHAP]
Another series of candlelight protests are just around the corner, according to the organizers who have staged a month-long protest against the government’s decision to open the Korean market to United States beef.
But the upcoming protests will focus not just on imported beef. Instead, they will deal with broader issues surrounding the nascent administration of President Lee Myung-bak, organizers said.
The issues include Lee’s idea to privatize public companies, build a grand canal across the country and reform public education.
“We are not only going to continue to demand that Lee renegotiate the beef deal, but we are going to add five more issues to the list,” said Ahn Jin-geol, a head of the coalition of 1,700 civic groups that backs the rallies.
The government’s decision to allow beef imports from cattle more than 30 months old a month ago has prompted huge protests. Such cattle are thought to be more vulnerable to mad cow disease.
Some of the shift has already begun. As the protests have grown to hundreds of thousands, it’s been clear that they’ve become something of a referendum on Lee’s administration.
Ahn said that protests will be staged today and tomorrow followed by one on Wednesday and another next Saturday. Protesters also plan to visit the National Assembly to demand renegotiation of the beef deal.

To commemorate the anniversary of the deaths of two middle school girls, Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon, who were run over by a U.S. military armored vehicle in June 2002, organizers held a rally last night. About 10,000 attended.
Some conservative civic groups have expressed concern that the rallies were turning into anti-American protests.
The candlelight protests have spread to Yeouido as well. Since Wednesday, a group of some 300 citizens sat in front of the headquarters of the Korean Broadcasting System chanting for President Lee and Choi See-joong, head of the Broadcasting and Communications Commission, to resign.
Hearing that the Board of Audit and Inspection has decided to conduct a special audit of the state-run KBS,
the broadcaster and its supporters claimed that action was an attempt to muzzle the press. A producers’ association from KBS released a statement that said members believed that “thousands of candles” will protect them.
On Daum, a Web portal, an online petition opposes the audit of KBS.
“Lee Myung-bak is appointing only his closest people as the heads of media outlets,” wrote an Internet user on a Daum board. “It’s a clear attempt to control the media.”
Citizen’s Coalition for Democratic Media, a civic watchdog on the press, is also holding an online petition to impeach Choi See-joong. So far, 1,800 have signed.
People also left protest messages on the Web site for the Board of Audit and Inspection. “It took less than a week for the board to decide that it will audit the state-run broadcaster,” a writer who introduced himself as “Choi Hui-jung” wrote on the board. “It has a political intent.”


By Chun In-sung JoongAng Ilbo /
Lee Min-a Staff Reporter [mina@joongang.co.kr]




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