중앙데일리

Seoul police plan crackdowns on illegal street demonstrators

Pigmented water to be used to mark extreme protesters

June 28,2008
Following days of violent clashes between demonstrators and police on streets of downtown Seoul, law enforcement authorities warned yesterday they will seek arrest warrants for key rally organizers.

“In the latest rallies, demonstrators shot acid at the police using water pistols and threw bricks at them,” said Han Jin-hee, chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. “The use of violence has crossed the line. It doesn’t feel like a democratic country anymore.”

Han vowed to root out violence from the protests.

“We will, of course, break up demonstrators by shooting water cannons,” Han said. “If there are any extreme actions, we will shoot pigment containing water to mark the protesters so we can round them up at the scene. The instigators of the violent protests will be chased even to their homes and arrested,” Han said.

The Seoul police chief also warned that police may use tear-inducing additive with the water cannons if the protesters succeed in crossing police barriers.

In an attempt to end the protests, the Seoul Metropolitan Government removed 27 tents that were built illegally by rally organizers from Seoul City Hall Plaza. About 50 workers and 2,000 riot police removed the tents, which had been used as the headquarters of the civic groups’ alliance, the People’s Conference Against Mad Cow Disease.

About 400 protesters tried to physically block the removal, but failed. About 10 people who violently resisted were taken to a police station for questioning.

The city said it gave the organizer yesterday a noon deadline to leave City Hall Plaza, but the protesters did not cooperate, causing the police to forcibly evict them.

Police also said yesterday that they sought warrants to further detain two key members of the rally organizer on charges of violating laws governing assembly and demonstration. According to police, Ahn Jin-geol, 35, was suspected of inciting protesters to march toward the Blue House from May 13 to 25. Yun Hee-suk, 32, was accused of instigating a movement to oust President Lee Myung-bak by acting as a host for the candlelight vigils.

The police also applied for warrants to arrest eight others who are known as leaders of the anti-U.S. beef import rallies. Subpoenas were sent to two more activists.

Police say they arrested one protester early yesterday morning after another overnight rally. Police used water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters in central Seoul.

Seven United Democratic Party lawmakers and 10 aides formed a human shield to separate the protesters and the police. Representative Ahn Min-seok said he was assaulted by the police, although he had identified himself as a lawmaker.

Police disagreed. It was Ahn, they said, that actually assaulted three officers.

“We began collecting evidence to investigate this case,” Seoul police said yesterday.

Ahn’s punching a police corporal was captured by the video record of Joins TV, an Internet broadcaster affiliated with the JoongAng Ilbo. The footage was posted on the JoongAng Ilbo’s Internet site.

In another incident, a group of protesters detained a police detective for nearly an hour.

Around 1:20 a.m., Oh Myeong-hwan, a detective from the Namdaemun police precinct, attempted to arrest several protesters who vandalized the Koreana Hotel in central Seoul. He was soon surrounded by about 30 demonstrators. Lee Deok-wu, an attorney from the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, which represents the rally organizer, appeared 20 minutes later. Kim Won-jung, chief of the Namdaemun police, also arrived.

“The people nabbed Oh because they thought he was a kidnapper,” Lee said. At the time, Oh was not wearing his uniform.

“We will investigate this, so let him go,” Kim told the protesters.

Oh was released around 2:10 a.m.

At nine warehouses outside Seoul, inspectors began checking U.S. beef shipments under the new quarantine regulations. The inspection began at 10 a.m. yesterday by opening up packages and checking to see if the meat contained any substances that are not allowed under the safeguards.

The inspection of the U.S. beef shipments was halted last October.

Meanwhile, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions continued its efforts to block the meat from leaving cold storage warehouses in Busan and Gyeonggi Province. Scuffles were reported in Busan as activists fought against riot police as they attempt to stop a vehicle from leaving the port. After they confirmed that the cargo was salmon imported from the United States, they let the truck go.

In Yongin, protesters fought violently with the police as they attempted to enter the warehouse. After three hours, the demonstrators left.

Prime Minister Han Seung-soo visited a warehouse in Yongin around 10:54 a.m. to survey the inspection. No clashes were reported as the riot police blocked the demonstrators from approaching the site.

The Constitutional Court yesterday said three petitions challenging the Agriculture Ministry’s publication of new quarantine regulations to resume U.S. beef imports to Korea will be reviewed by the full nine-member panel. It remains to be seen when the court will make a ruling.

Normally, it takes an average of 20 months for a petition to be ruled upon.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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