Organizers of antigovernment rally fire back at Moon

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Organizers of antigovernment rally fire back at Moon

Organizers of the Aug. 15 antigovernment rally in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, and representatives of the politically controversial Sarang Jeil Church — the two largest coronavirus clusters Korea is now facing — slammed President Moon Jae-in in a joint press conference Tuesday, saying they would “legally represent” anyone fed up with the administration.
 
The conservative activists accused Moon of inciting public hatred toward protestors of the Aug. 15 rally and congregants of the Sarang Jeil Church in Seongbuk District, central Seoul. They claimed that daily new infections of the coronavirus have increased because the Moon government was intentionally increasing testing on people related to both clusters and “indiscriminately forcing” people to be examined against their will.
 
The activists asserted that the coronavirus spread has grown because the central government designated Aug. 17 as a special holiday and encouraged people to take the day off, which, in the words of the activists, was “a bad signal.”  
 
Instead of taking responsibility for the misjudgment, the critics said the administration was unjustly blaming the Sarang Jeil Church congregants and Aug. 15 demonstrators, making them “scapegoats” for the government’s failed measures to prevent the spread of the disease.  
 
Aug. 17 was five days after the first patient at the Sarang Jeil Church tested positive for the coronavirus. Health authorities at the time warned it could lead to a major cluster. Over 300 congregants are believed to have joined the Aug. 15 rally, many of whom later tested positive for the virus.
 
Health authorities strongly believe church members spread the disease to the protesters. About 20,000 people from all over the country are estimated to have taken to the streets in Gwanghwamun that day, when Korea celebrated Liberation Day.
 
By Tuesday at noon, the Sarang Jeil Church cluster had reached 1,083 cases, according to data released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The Aug. 15 rally cluster had 419 cases, which excludes congregants of the Sarang Jeil Church.
 
The Tuesday press conference was their eighth joint press conference, held amid growing conspiracy theories among right-wing critics who claim the government has been purposefully giving out positive test results to anyone linked to the Sarang Jeil Church or the antigovernment rally.  
 
Health officials have adamantly denied this, saying the false rumors only hamper their efforts to subdue the outbreak.  
 
BY PARK HYUN-JOO, LEE SUNG-EUN   [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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