S Korean po­lice ban anti-gov­ern­ment rally

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

SEOUL: South Korean po­lice yes­ter­day banned a anti-gov­ern­ment demonstration planned in Seoul next week, cit­ing con­cerns the protest could turn vi­o­lent, a spokesman said.

But activists vowed to push ahead with the rally next Satur­day out­side City Hall. Po­lice acted un­der a law al­low­ing them to ban street protests if there is a risk of them turn­ing vi­o­lent, the spokesman for the Seoul Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice Agency told AFP. Po­lice warned lead­ers of ac­tivist groups who defy the ban would be ar­rested, as would par­tic­i­pants who re­fused to dis­perse.

Crit­ics say the con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Park Geun-Hye, a daugh­ter of the late heavy-handed ruler Park Chung-Hee, is slip­ping back into past au­thor­i­tar­ian rule. The ban was in line with a gov­ern­ment warn­ing on Fri­day of zero violence in street protests. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Kim Hyun-Woong said in a tele­vised ad­dress that the gov­ern­ment was de­ter­mined to “erad­i­cate” any pub­lic dis­or­der and stressed that vi­o­la­tors would “pay the price”.

Kim had is­sued a sim­i­lar warn­ing be­fore a huge anti-gov­ern­ment rally in Seoul on Novem­ber 14 that drew around 60,000 peo­ple and spawned nu­mer­ous clashes be­tween pro­tes­tors and po­lice who used pep­per spray and wa­ter can­non. The fo­cus of the protests is quite wide, in­cor­po­rat­ing op­po­si­tion to la­bor re­forms, the open­ing of the agri­cul­tural mar­ket and plans to im­pose gov­ern­men­tis­sued history text­books on schools.

The pres­i­dent con­demned the Novem­ber 14 protest as an ef­fort to “deny the rule of law” and urged strong mea­sures against those iden­ti­fied as in­cit­ing violence.

Park also said the wear­ing of masks by pro­tes­tors should be pro­hib­ited, say­ing it was the sort of prac­tice adopted by the Is­lamic State group, spark­ing an­gry re­ac­tions from op­po­nents. Her rul­ing con­ser­va­tive Saenuri Party on Wed­nes­day tabled a bill in par­lia­ment to ban such masks. —AFP

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