Ssangyong protest site near palace torn down

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Ssangyong protest site near palace torn down

The sit-in by laid off workers of Ssangyong Motor outside Deoksu Palace in central Seoul was packed up by the district government, which considered the protest an illegal occupation of public land.

The sit-in was begun last April in front of Daehanmun, the main gate of the palace, by workers who were laid off by the country’s smallest automaker in 2009.

At 5:50 a.m. yesterday, about 50 officials of the Jung District Office approached three tents where three protesters were sleeping and where they stored things used in their protest like bullhorns. Some 280 riot police from the Namdaemun Police Precinct were dispatched to prevent any scuffles between protesters and government officials.

The sneak raid took only 10 minutes to complete. After removing the tents and other materials, the Jung District officials created a flowerbed so the workers can’t rebuild their tents.

The three ejected workers informed their supporters by phone and about 20 protesters descended on the scene. After they bitterly complained, 17 were taken to a local police station for interfering with government officials in the execution of their duties.

“We notified the protesters to voluntarily disperse the sit-in because setting up a camp in a public space is an illegal occupation, but they never responded to our request,” Choi Chang-sik, head of the Jung District Office, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We have monitored the camp for days and judged that the time between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. was the best time for removing the camp.

“If they try to remove the flowerbeds and set up a camp again, we will take necessary legal action,” he said.

The sit-in was started last April 5 by workers fired by Ssangyong Motor and members of left-wing groups including the Korean Metal Workers’ Union. They set a memorial altar to commemorate workers who lost their jobs in Ssangyong’s large-scale lay off in 2009 and then died as a result.

It started attracting other anti-government protests, including residents of Gangjeong Village in Jeju who don’t approve of a government plan to build a naval base in their hometown.

Troubled Ssangyong Motor laid off 2,146 production workers in 2009.

For 77 days, from May 22 to August 6, 2009, members of Ssangyong’s labor union illegally occupied a factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi as a sit-in protest.

Protesters claim that a total of 24 labor union members or members of their families died or killed themselves after suffering from post-lay off stress and financial difficulties.

The Jung District Office previously tried to pull down the camp during the daytime after it was set afire by an arsonist, but the protestors successfully resisted.



By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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