Protesters hold massive anti-gov’t rally without clash with police

December 6, 2015
South Korean protesters attend an anti-government rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. Wearing white half-masks and carrying flowers and banners, thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Saturday against conservative President Park Geun-hye, who had compared masked protesters to terrorists after clashes with police broke out at a rally last month. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korean protesters attend an anti-government rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015. Wearing white half-masks and carrying flowers and banners, thousands of South Koreans marched in Seoul on Saturday against conservative President Park Geun-hye, who had compared masked protesters to terrorists after clashes with police broke out at a rally last month. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — Tens of thousands of protesters held a massive rally Saturday to protest the government’s move to adopt state history textbooks and push for labor reform and it ended without any clashes with police.

(Yonhap)

(Yonhap)

The rally, the second of its kind in three weeks, brought together about 14,000 participants who gathered at Seoul Plaza in central Seoul and marched peacefully, according to police. Organizers put the number at some 50,000.

The focal point of the rally was whether the rally would turn violent as some participants at the Nov. 14 one brandished metal pipes, clashing with police who fired water cannons at them.

A farmer still remains in critical condition after being knocked down by a police water cannon.

Organizers vowed to hold Saturday’s rally in a peaceful manner, while police also warned that they will take stern action if the rally turns violent.

An association of progressive civic groups said that holding carnations, participants marched toward the hospital where the 69-year-old farmer has been receiving treatment, praying for his fast recovery.

They also called on the government to stop its move to publish state history textbooks for secondary students and push for labor reforms that they say will make it easier for companies to dismiss workers.

“The people’s rally on Nov. 14 was so just,” Han Sang-gyun, the head of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), South Korea’s umbrella labor group, said in a video message. “The oppressive government cannot stop our fight. Let’s march in a stately and resolute manner.”

Han has taken shelter at the Jogye Temple in Seoul since the November rally. An arrest warrant has been issued for Han for organizing the illegal rally.

Some protesters called on President Park Geun-hye to step down, and there were demonstrators wearing masks in opposition to a group of ruling party lawmakers’ move to propose a bill aimed at banning the use of masks during rallies and protests.

The bill is being pushed to prevent demonstrators from hiding their identity with masks. Last month, Park compared Islamic State terrorists to protesters wearing masks.

Protesters are marching along Daehangno from Seoul Plaza in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, Saturday. Jongno district saw heavy traffic congestion due to the protesters who marched on roads. (Yonhap)

Protesters are marching along Daehangno from Seoul Plaza in Jongno-gu, central Seoul, Saturday. Jongno district saw heavy traffic congestion due to the protesters who marched on roads. (Yonhap)

About 30 opposition lawmakers, including Moon Jae-in, chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), watched the rally at Seoul Plaza, voicing hope for a nonviolent protest.

“Today should be the starting point of setting up a culture of peaceful rallies,” Moon said.

Around 500 religious leaders and followers from South Korea’s five religious groups held a joint service at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul, praying that the protest would be peaceful.

The ruling Saenuri Party said it was a relief that the rally ended without any violence and excessive use of force by police.

“It was a relief that the rally ended without clash,” said Shin Yee-jin, a party spokeswoman. “The demonstration underscores the need to set up a mature rally culture.”

The main opposition NPAD said that the government had unfounded worry that the rally would turn violent.

“We appreciate the rally participants for holding the protest peacefully,” it said. “Also we appreciate the police for letting the rally run peacefully by not setting up barricades with buses,” it said.

An official at the KCTU said that the labor group will seek to wage a general strike on Dec. 16 and hold a similar rally on Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, a group of conservative civic groups gathered in central Seoul to criticize their progressive counterparts for holding what they called an illegal and violent rally.

One Comment

  1. those cannons could

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