Our Republican Party sets up its tents once again

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Our Republican Party sets up its tents once again


Tents set up by the far-right Our Republican Party on Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Sunday. The Seoul Metropolitan Government issued a warning for the tents to be removed. [NEWS1]

A far-right political party agitating for the release of imprisoned former president Park Geun-hye re-erected tents in Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Saturday, eight days after it voluntarily moved them to a smaller square nearby to welcome visiting U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Our Republican Party set up four tents in front of exit No. 9 of Gwanghwamun Station behind the Yi Sun-shin statue, a few feet away from their former place in front of the statue. The Seoul Metropolitan Government gave the ultra-conservative party until Sunday 6 p.m. to remove the tents, warning of an administrative order if they don’t. It was unclear whether that meant the office would take them down by force as it did late last month. The government made no clear action as of press time Sunday evening.

The party first set up tents at Gwanghwamun Square from May to June without receiving permission from the Seoul government to call for Park’s release and denounce the progressive Moon Jae-in administration. Park was impeached in 2017 and sentenced to 25 years in prison last year for corruption and power abuse.

The predecessor of the Our Republican Party was the Korean Patriots Party, which was established in August 2017 by former members of the Saenuri Party who stood by Park even after a corruption scandal led to her impeachment, removal and trial for corruption and abuse of power. Park was part of the Saenuri Party, which changed its name to the Liberty Korea Party in February 2017 to distance itself from her. The Korean Patriots Party changed its name to the Our Republican Party late last month following its own internal strife.

After weeks of wrangling over the tents in Gwanghwamun, the Seoul government demolished them on June 25 through an administrative order, leading police, Seoul government officials and workers specially hired by the city for the task to scuffle with Our Republican Party members.

The party repitched their tents at the same location later the same day. On June 28, a day before Trump was set to arrive for a two-day visit, they relocated the tents to Cheonggyecheon Plaza, saying they were temporarily moving due to security reasons and because they wanted to welcome Trump to Seoul.

On June 30, soon after Trump left Seoul for the demilitarized zone to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Seoul government placed 80 sizable potted trees in front of the Yi Sun-shin statue to block the party from illegally setting up the tents again.

Including the four tents that the Our Republican Party installed behind the statue on Saturday, the party has a total of 12 tents around the area. Two are at Cheonggycheon Plaza and six are in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

The party said Sunday it would end its “tent battle” on the conditions that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon apologizes for hiring workers to remove their tents on June 25 and the National Assembly carries out “a truth-finding probe” behind the “death of five people on March 10, 2017,” who they claim died while being “suppressed” by riot police during a protest it organized to support Park Geun-hye.

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