Trump’s visit sparks rallies for and against
Trump’s first stop on his two-day state visit was at Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, where residents and local civic groups gathered at 9 a.m. in front of the gates of the U.S. Army garrison with placards and flags.
A gathering of conservative civic groups welcomed the president, celebrating the South Korea-U.S. alliance and holding up the countries’ flags. The Pyeongtaek Community Leaders Association hung a large banner that read, “We wholeheartedly welcome U.S. President Trump’s visit to Pyeongtaek City.” Tourist buses also brought in conservative activists from other parts of the nation, including Busan and the North Jeolla region.
Police said over 1,800 members of conservative civic groups visited Pyeongtaek that day.
When large vehicles entered the U.S. base, they chanted, “We love Trump!” They also held signs saying, “We Love Trump” and “Never talk with murderer Kim Jong-un,” referring to the North Korean leader.
A group of some 20 liberal activists also held a rally near the garrison’s gate, calling out, “No war, no Trump.”
According to Pyeongtaek police, there were six rallies and street marches registered by conservative groups and one liberal rally. In order to prepare for a potential clash between activists, police had 17 squadrons on standby. Each squadron has 70 to 80 officers. Trump arrived at Camp Humphreys just before 1 p.m., and President Moon Jae-in made a surprise visit ahead of his arrival.
Protesters also gathered in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, protesting Trump’s visit and calling for peace, while voiced support for the U.S. leader. A group of 220 liberal civic groups calling for collective action for “No Trump” held a press conference at 11 a.m. and later marched to Gwanghwamun, rallying some 100 meters (328 feet) from the Blue House.
The Gwanghwamun rallies peaked a little after 3 p.m., as Trump’s motorcade passed through Sejong-daero to the Blue House for a summit with Moon. Activists shouted, “No Trump, no war! Yes to peace!” Their voices echoed across the plaza, where the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is located, and where hundreds of police stood ready. Ahead of Trump’s arrival, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency rejected most of some 50 applications for rallies filed by 220 civic groups to protest his visit.
On Tuesday morning, the 21C Korea College Students’ Union held a press conference near Gwanghwamun opposing Trump’s visit, expressing youths’ concern for his reckless rhetoric regarding North Korea and that his visit will only make tensions between the North and South worse.
“Wherever U.S. President Trump goes,” the student group leaders said in a statement, “he threatens war and his objective in visiting Korea is clear - to bolster the alliance between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan and to pressure us to partake in his policy of confrontation.”
The group added, “We request a halt to the dangerous military confrontation against the North… We need to protect our sovereignty and peace.”
Other activist organizations and religious groups, including Won Buddhists, also protested various issues such as the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) deployment and unfair pressure regarding trade deals and arms sales.
Conservative activists welcoming Trump also carried signs, just across the street from the liberal protesters, which read, “We love you and America. Welcome Mr. President Trump.” Some extremists even called on Trump to “bomb” Kim Jong-un.
Some 700 conservative activists, including supporters of the ousted former President Park Geun-hye, also gathered in front of Ilmin Museum of Art in Jongno District and around Daehanmun, Deoksu Palace’s main gate.
Maii, a 24-year-old man from South Carolina who moved to Korea a month ago, joined the protests in Gwanghwamun, with a “No War, No Trump” sign pinned to his backpack.
“I came here to show support for the organized efforts against warmongering demagogues like Trump,” he told the Korean JoongAng Daily, “who has created a dangerous situation for both North and South Korea.”
Maii said this was his first rally here, and that the sheer number of police standing guard and blockading the streets was “intimidating,” but added that he was impressed there were no altercations.
He added, “The people of the Korean Peninsula are victims to Trump’s warlike rhetoric, and the representatives of the U.S. government should not condone but condemn such attacks. Our inaction puts people’s lives in danger.”
As he spoke to the reporter, a pair of older women in hanbok, carrying Korean and American flags, told Maii in English, “Don’t listen to them [the protesters]. We support Trump!”
BY CHOI MO-RAN, KIM MIN-WOOK AND SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]