After sit-in, protesters meet Park

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After sit-in, protesters meet Park

Some 200 people staged a sit-in at Seoul City Hall on Thursday to protest the city’s ongoing residential redevelopment project.

The New Town Project, initiated by former Mayor Oh Se-hoon, has faced an angry backlash from some local residents who say the project hasn’t benefited them. Critics of the project say that they do not want to move out of their old homes, while other critics say that the government pays for the construction of new apartment buildings but then forces local residents to pay for other infrastructure projects, such as for parks and roads.

The upset citizens went to City Hall’s annex building in Seosomun-dong, central Seoul, at around 4 p.m. Thursday and demanded a meeting with Mayor Park. About 20 of the protestors stayed overnight in the lobby. Some scuffled with city officials when they tried to take an elevator to go to Park’s office on the seventh floor. Park refused to meet with them and escaped the building.

“We know the mayor can’t solve the problem by himself,” said Go Eun-bok, 57, one of the sit-in protestors. “I just wanted to confirm the new mayor’s pledge to overhaul the project.”

The protesters dispersed on Friday at noon when the mayor finally met them in the lobby. Park told them that he had not changed his position to review the New Town Project and that he would invite residents within a week to City Hall to talk with them.

Shouting “Hurrah, Mayor Park!” the protestors left.

“We didn’t call the police because we know the mayor’s style as a former civic activist,” a Seoul Metropolitan Government official said. “But we have a hunch that this kind of thing will occur frequently in the future.”

It’s not the first time the new mayor has met with protestors. On the same day as the sit-in protest, Park met people with disabilities to end a 80-day protest at Seoul Plaza. The demonstrators had been protesting the city’s move to stop offering aide for the disabled for free to help them with their daily lives, such as taking baths. While the city recently tried to charge a fee for those with higher income, protestors argued that the service should be offered for free to all disabled people.

Park, in his meeting, promised to provide the service for free, and protesters left on Thursday. The Seoul Metropolitan Government will now spend an additional 270 million won ($242,369) annually for the service.

No Jae-seung, a conservative civic activist, said, “If Park satisfies every demand made by citizens, the city government’s budget will be devastated like Greece or Spain.”

By Lee Han-gil, Kim Hee-jin []
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