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Rival demonstrations greet Bush arrival

Aug 06,2008
On the first day of U.S. President George W. Bush’s two-day visit to Seoul, tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Seoul yesterday were divided into two sides: supporters and opponents. About 2,000 protesters yesterday took part in a candlelight vigil against lifting the ban on U.S. beef near Cheonggye Plaza.

During last night’s rally, organized by the People’s Conference Against Mad Cow Disease, protesters chanted, “Korea-U.S. beef negotiation is not valid.”

“We are always disappointed with Lee’s policy toward the United States,” said an official of the main organizer.

Earlier in the day, some 300 college students staged a beef protest around 1 p.m. at the same plaza, saying renegotiation of the beef import deal with the U.S. is needed. But the day did not belong to beef protesters alone.

Some 15,000 members of 347 pro-U.S. groups across the country, including the New Right National Union, Korea Veterans Association, and Korea Freedom League held their own assembly from 6:00 p.m. at nearby Seoul City Hall Plaza.

The pro-Americans welcomed Bush’s visit to Seoul, waving signs with the slogan “Welcome President Bush.” They also sang the U.S. national anthem, and many stressed that Korea has to maintain a good relationship with Washington.

“It is impolite to organize an anti-U.S. protest when the president of a friendly nation comes to Korea,” said Byun Cheol-hwan, an official of the New Right National Union.

Bush arrived in Korea just as the rival demonstrations began.

In Seoul, police dispatched some 16,000 policemen, including a well-trained special police team formed last week to prevent illegal actions.

The Korea National Police Agency deployed additional 7,000 policemen on all routes that Bush will use, as well as around the hotel where Bush and his wife are staying.

Police are on maximum alert to prevent beef protesters from interfering with the summit.

Bush is scheduled to have a summit meeting with President Lee in the Blue House this morning and meet with U.S. diplomatic and military officials stationed here before leaving this afternoon for Bangkok and then Beijing to attend Friday’s opening of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Police said that they will remain on high alert until Bush is gone.


By Park Sang-woo Staff Reporter [spark@joongang.co.kr]


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