Action threatened against antigovernment rally organizers

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Action threatened against antigovernment rally organizers


Seoul police declared Sunday that it would take legal action against the key organizers of an antigovernment rally on Saturday, saying the demonstration was “unconstitutional” for straying from its originally stated purpose.

Authorities did not disclose Sunday who would be held responsible for the latest rally, which was held in conjunction with a series of mass protests in recent months against the conservative President Park Geun-hye government. The organizing committee consists of 53 left-wing labor unions and civic organizations.

While blowing horns and banging on tambourines, some 2,500 people marched in downtown Seoul to protest the arrest of Han Sang-gyun, the leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions who could face an extremely rare sedition charge for an earlier antigovernment movement.

The last time local authorities charged a person for sedition was in 1986. Violators can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The protesters held banners and signs calling for President Park to step down and were guided by organizers to shout politically charged chants. Police originally allowed the organizing committee to hold what it said was a cultural festival in Gwanghwamun Square, as stated in the official registration submitted by one of the left-wing groups.

The plan to hold other antigovernment rallies in Seoul Plaza and Seoul Station Plaza that day was thwarted when police turned down the group’s request.

Saturday’s so-called cultural festival, titled Soyo, is based on a combined abbreviation of soran and yoran, which are synonymous Korean terms meaning “disturbance.” Soyo is also a Korean term for sedition. Protesters marched with boisterous musical instruments to fit this definition.

Seoul police said in a statement that the gathering was a “disguise” for an illegal rally that failed to pass registration procedures.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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