Charges fly from both sides after large protest

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Charges fly from both sides after large protest

Authorities vowed Monday to crack down on outlaws after a large antigovernment protest Saturday, declaring that a special task force will be assigned to track down anyone who assaulted police officers or damaged their equipment.

National Police Agency (NPA) Commissioner General Kang Sin-myeong said some 150 officers will collect data from Saturday’s rally and seek financial compensation through a barrage of civil suits. Detention warrants will be sought for nine of the 49 people who were arrested during the protest.

Approximately 64,000 people from 53 left-wing labor groups and civic organizations gathered in downtown Seoul to demand the government reform the labor market in favor of blue-collar and temporary workers, retract the decision to reintroduce state-authored history textbooks, ban rice imports and crack down on Korean conglomerates.

At least 15 protestors were injured and sent to a nearby hospital for medical treatment; 113 police officers were wounded.

Some 40 members of farmers’ unions who participated in the rally held a press conference Monday afternoon in front of the NPA headquarters in Seodaemun District, central Seoul, blaming Kang for ordering the use of water canons.

Baek Nam-gi, a 68-year-old farmer from Boseong County, South Jeolla, was hit by water and collapsed, losing consciousness before being taken to a nearby hospital for a brain hemorrhage. He has yet to regain consciousness.

Referring to Baek’s condition as an example of’ “overreaction,” the protestors demanded Kang resign.

The opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) said Monday a group of selected lawmakers will look into the police’s use of force at Saturday’s rally, and vowed to punish top officials who gave the commands.

Moon Jae-in, chairman of the NPAD, accused the police of being “murderous” and claimed the Park Geun-hye administration has “violently suppressed” protesters.

BY KIM KYUNG-HEE, CHO HYE-KYUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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