Rallies are small and wet on March 1 in Seoul

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Rallies are small and wet on March 1 in Seoul

Members of the conservative group Freedom Korea National Defense Corps rally in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul on Monday in commemoration of the March 1 Independence Movement of Korea. [NEWS1]

Members of the conservative group Freedom Korea National Defense Corps rally in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul on Monday in commemoration of the March 1 Independence Movement of Korea. [NEWS1]

Conservative groups held scattered anti-government rallies in a rainy Seoul on Monday to commemorate the March 1 Independence Movement.
 
The Freedom Korea National Defense Corps and far-right political party Our Republican Party hosted rallies of less than 10 people in various locations including the Gwanghwamun Square area, Tapgol Park and several subway stations.
 
Health authorities restricted the number of participants per rally to fewer than 10 in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Violators of the rule faced fines of up to 3 million won ($2,680).  
 
In a statement on Sunday, the Interior Ministry asked groups to cancel rallies if possible, and, if not, to keep the rallies to fewer than 10 people, refrain from eating together before and after, and wear masks.  
 
“We don’t want to repeat the outbreaks that followed the protests in August,” Sohn Young-rae, a spokesperson for the Central Disaster Management Headquarters, operated by the Interior Ministry, said in press briefing Sunday.  
 
Big anti-Moon Jae-in administration rallies in Gwanghwamun Square in August led to a wave of outbreaks in Korea. At the time, thousands of people took part, packing the square, resulting in at least 650 cases that could be traced to the rallies and another 1,173 cases traced to a church in Seoul, many of whose members participated in the rallies. These cases were big parts of the second wave of outbreaks in Korea.
 
As many as 1,670 groups informed police they would host rallies in Seoul on Monday.  
 
Expecting scuffles with the demonstrators, around 6,000 police officers were dispatched to Gwanghwamun Square, near subway stations and other locations where rallies are held in Seoul, according to the police.  
 
Members of the Our Republican Party, which last July set up tents near Gwanghwamun Square demanding the release of imprisoned former president Park Geun-hye, hosted a press conference in front of the Shinsegae Department Store in Jung District, central Seoul on Monday morning.
 
“We want our President Park Geun-hye back,” the protesters changed in unison during the conference. “We don’t want this nonsense government.”
 
The party’s members divided into groups of less than 10 to rally in front of subway stations in Seoul.
 
Not all rallies were hosted by conservative groups. The liberal People’s Democratic Party held a rally on Gwanghwamun Square on Monday morning calling for the government to rescind the National Security Act. Some liberal groups in Korea have criticized the act for possible infringements of individuals' rights.  
 
Some rallies previously reported to the police were canceled due to the rain. No serious scuffles between protesters and police were reported as of press time Monday.  
 
BY PYUN GWANG-HYUN, ESTHER CHUNG   [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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