Court tells protestors to compensate Seoul city

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Court tells protestors to compensate Seoul city

The Seoul city government won a lawsuit yesterday against nine protesters who interrupted its May festival a year ago, when a local court ordered the festival spoilers to pay 200 million won to the city in compensation.

The nine protesters interrupted the opening ceremony of Hi Seoul Festival 2009 on May 2 last year, prompting the civil suit by the city government. At the time, they occupied the main stage at Seoul Plaza in front of city hall to commemorate the first anniversary of the anti-government rally over the resumption of U.S. beef imports in 2008. The ceremony was forced to be canceled.

“The protest was illegal, and it is not within the range to be protected under the constitutional freedom of assembly,” the Seoul Central District Court said yesterday in its ruling.

It was the first ruling that held both leaders of an illegal protest and participants responsible for damages.

”The Seoul city government had to cancel the opening ceremony of the festival, and the city has the right to seek compensation from mere participants, not necessarily leaders,” the court said. “Seeking compensation from mere participants of an illegal protest is not an excessive oppression of the freedom of assembly.”

The court also said the people have no duty to accept rallies that are clear threats to public order because of violence, threats or arson.

The nine sued protesters, along with 50 others, occupied the stage during the opening ceremony, shouted slogans and waved flags. After the city called off its event, they screamed in triumph and continued their rally. They also kicked police officers who tried to stop them.

The Seoul city government sued for 235 million won in compensation for physical damage and the tarnished reputation of the city.


By Choe Sun-uk, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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