Archive for the Protest action Category

EDITORIAL: Excessive violence by police at Sewol anniversary events [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Police brutality, Police State, Protest action, south Korea, south Korean human rights hypocrisy on April 26, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Posted on : Apr.20,2015

With South Korean citizens organizing a series of events to commemorate the anniversary of the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry, the police seemed resolved to brutally put down these peaceful demonstrations and marches. The same government that did such a poor job of rescuing passengers on the ferry is wielding a terrible power as it tramples on the grief of the victims’ families and other South Koreans and as it suppresses the justified appeals for the truth.

During a memorial event on Apr. 16, the first anniversary of the sinking, the police responded with excessive force, sealing off Gwanghwamun Square behind a barricade of buses and firing tear gas at marchers. During this process, the mother of one student who died in the sinking sustained four broken ribs.

During the nationwide public assembly for the anniversary of the Sewol tragedy on Apr. 18, the police mustered around 470 vehicles and 13,700 officers to completely wall of Gyeongbok Palace, Gwanghwamun Square, and Sejong street intersection.

The police indiscriminately fired water cannons and tear gas and hauled off around a hundred members of the victims’ families who tried to protest the hard-line response. Reportedly, the police dragged off a university student by her hair. These are grim scenes that evoke the days before democratization [sic].

Citing the inconvenience to motorists caused by protestors marching down the streets and violence including attacks on police officers, the police insist that their harsh response was unavoidable. But there is nothing unusual about rerouting traffic in downtown Seoul because of various events, such as the marathon that was held last weekend.

Mourning a national tragedy and calling for a thorough investigation is protected by freedom of expression. If anything, in a democracy, this kind of expression ought to be protected more than any other kind of event.

If it were not for the excessive police response, no confrontations or physical clashes would have occurred in the first place. Even worse, using bus barricades to cordon off traffic and block demonstrations is a clear violation of the constitution, according to a decision by the Constitutional Court. The explanation offered by the police is no more than an excuse, and a flimsy one at that.

“The unnecessary use of force by South Korean police against families of the Sewol ferry tragedy is an insult to the victims and a violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” global human rights advocacy group Amnesty International said.

“The use of chemical irritants primarily to disperse peaceful protesters [. . . ] is unlawful under international legal standards,” the group also said.

It is mortifying to consider what the international community, which is observing the anniversary of the Sewol tragedy, will make of such a situation.

What’s the point of President Park diligently traveling to foreign countries? A single picture of police violently clamping down on citizens gathered together to mourn a national tragedy degrades South Korea’s international prestige at a single blow.

The surprisingly brutal attitude of the police would be inconceivable, were it not for the attitude with which the Park administration has responded to the Sewol disaster. If the government had made a sincere effort to get to the bottom of the tragedy, such a situation would never have occurred.

For an entire year after the accident, the government has stonewalled the launch of the Special Sewol Investigative Committee and delayed the salvaging of the sunken ferry. Finally, now that it is facing massive criticism and resistance, it has taken drastic measures to muzzle the public.

When these events are viewed in this light, it’s hard to shake the feeling that the rash behavior of the police was directed by, or at least received the tacit approval of, core figures in the current administration. The figures who came up with the idea of suppressing the protests must be identified and held responsible.

Edited by Zuo Shou

Editorial link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_editorial/687582.html

DPRK calls attack on U.S. ambassador to S. Korea “deserved punishment” [Xinhua]

Posted in Anti-USA protest, Diplomat, DPR Korea, Korean Central News Agency of DPRK, Protest action, south Korea, State Department, US foreign occupation, US imperialism, USA on March 8, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

PYONGYANG, March 5 (Xinhua) — The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Thursday called the razor-wielding attack on the U.S. ambassador to South Korea earlier in the day a “deserved punishment”, the official KCNA news agency reported.

“The recent case amid mounting anti-Americanism reflects the mindset of South Korean people censuring the U.S. for bringing the danger of a war to the Korean Peninsula through the madcap saber-rattling,” the report said…

…Pyongyang on Monday blasted the U.S.-S.Korea joint annual military drills that run from March 2 to April 24, calling the exercises codenamed “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” “intolerable aggression moves.”

On the same day, an unnamed spokesman for the DPRK’s General Staff of the Korean People’s Army issued a statement, threatening to retaliate the military exercises with the “toughest measures” and saying the DPRK’s armed forces “are fully ready” to strike their designated targets.

Excerpted; full article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-03/05/c_134041720.htm

U.S. ambassador to south Korea attacked in protest against US-ROK war games, US’ division of Korea [Xinhua]

Posted in Anti-USA protest, Diplomat, DPR Korea, Japan, Korean Reunification, Protest action, south Korea, World War II on March 8, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

This article terms Kim Ki-jong, who slashed Ambassador Lippert, as “part of a progressive cultural activity group”. Compare with the south Korean liberal media outlet “The Hankyoreh”, which repeatedly referred to him in an article as an “extreme nationalist”. – Zuo Shou

by Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, March 5 (Xinhua) — U.S. envoy to South Korea Mark Lippert was injured on Thursday morning in a knife-wielding attack by a South Korean male assailant who shouted opposition to the ongoing U.S.-South Korea joint annual war games.

Lippert, U.S. ambassador to Seoul who took office last year as the youngest envoy for the post, was slashed in his cheek and hand with a knife blade at about 7:40 a.m. local time when he was preparing for a lecture at a venue in Sejong Cultural Center in central Seoul.

The assailant was Kim Ki-jong, 55, head of a South Korean progressive cultural activity group. In July 2010, Kim received a suspended two-year jail term for throwing two pieces of concrete at the Japanese ambassador to Seoul.

While being arrested, Kim shouted his strong opposition to “war exercises,” apparently indicating the South Korea-U.S. annual military exercises code-named “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle” that kicked off Monday.

Lippert was quickly taken to a nearby hospital to receive treatment on his cut in right face and in left hand.

The envoy…[is]…believed to be one of closest aides to U.S. President Barack Obama…

…Concerns spread that such an act of violence may worsen the South Korea-U.S. alliance. Worries recently emerged over ties between Seoul and Washington as comments by U.S. Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman on South Korea-Japan relations raised controversy.

Sherman said Friday that it would not be hard for “a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy, ” referring to frosty relations between South Korea and Japan. Her comments were interpreted as the United Sates taking sides with Japan in the issue on wartime history shared by Seoul and Tokyo.

The attack on the U.S. envoy represented an anti-American sentiment shared by some South Koreans that hostile U.S. policy on [sic] the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) may delay the reunification of the two Koreas.

Asked why he targeted the U.S. ambassador, Kim told reporters that the U.S. would “restore its reason” by his act, saying the South Korea-U.S. war games have prevented Korean families, separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, from being reunited. The assailant said he did the “right thing to do” as he has protested against war in the past 30 years…

Excerpted; full article link: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-03/05/c_134040669.htm
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Related article: “S. Korean lawmakers blame U.S. diplomat for comments on Seoul-Tokyo ties” [Xinhua] — http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-03/02/c_134030993.htm

Part-time workers occupy Seoul McDonald’s to protest 27 years of oppression [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in Protest action, south Korea on February 8, 2015 by Zuo Shou / 左手

One worker who allegedly was pushed out of her job due to union activity has sparked backlash against fast food giant

Feb. 4, 2015

The Part-Time Workers’ Union announced that it would occupy two Seoul branches of McDonald’s – located in Sinchon neighborhood and at Yonsei University – on Feb. 7.

“During the 27 years since McDonald’s opened its door in South Korea in 1988, it has habitually oppressed workers without showing any intention of correcting these practices. For that reason, we are taking the extreme step of occupying McDonald’s branches,” Lee Hye-jeong, secretary general for the union, said in a telephone interview with the Hankyoreh on Feb. 3.

“Even though problems connected with McDonald’s employment of part-time workers came to light last year, McDonald’s has given no indication that it means to address these problems. By occupying the branch, the union means to send McDonald’s a message: we are watching you, and we will not remain silent if you continue to treat your part-time workers with cruelty,” said Lee.

“Another objective of the demonstration is to show part-time workers that they don‘t have to put up with heavy-handed behavior and that they can achieve solidarity and report unfair behavior through the union,” she added…

Excerpted; full article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_international/676823.html

‘South Korean workers strike again’ – Feb. 25, 2014 [Workers World]

Posted in Corporate Media Critique, DPR Korea, Labor strike, Police State, Protest action, Seoul, south Korea on March 17, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Deirdre Griswold on March 6, 2014

Imagine a general strike of 200,000 workers — and not one word about it in any of the world’s so-called free press. What a breathtaking admission that these so-called “news media” are nothing but propaganda organs for big business.

Look it up — the one-day general strike on Feb. 25 in south Korea. The only place you can find pictures and an explanation of what happened is on websites connected to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. There you will see amazing photos of the enormous rallies held in downtown Seoul and other cities. You’ll also see pictures of solidarity rallies held by unionists in other countries.

But you won’t find a word about the strike on the sites maintained by the Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc.

This strike was called for two main reasons: to try to stop the planned privatization of public services and health care by the right-wing government of Park Geun-hye, and to protest the regime’s illegal intervention and fraud in the 2012 general election.

The conditions that led to the general strike included a massive government assault on the railroad workers. On Dec. 9, the Korean Railroad Workers Union went on strike against privatization plans that would threaten their jobs, benefits and services. Immediately, the government fired 4,000 workers and announced a plan to hire 660 strikebreakers.

On Dec. 16, hundreds of police surrounded and invaded the headquarters of the KRWU in an attempt to arrest union leaders. Workers in the union building tried to keep the police from entering their offices, and after hours of pushing and shoving, the police had to leave empty-handed.

However, the government continued to seek the arrest of the leaders and levy steep fines on the union, so on Dec. 27, 100,000 workers marched and rallied in Seoul in support of the KRWU.

The railroad strike was called off on Dec. 30, after the National Assembly agreed to set up a subcommittee on railway development that would take advice from experts, including the union, in order to come up with a plan to prevent privatization in the short term. However, the struggle continues against a government committed to big business’s agenda of austerity and layoffs.

Hardly a day passes that there isn’t some article in the U.S. corporate media attacking the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — socialist north Korea. But when it comes to reporting on the workers’ struggle in U.S.-occupied south Korea, their eyes and ears are closed and their mouths shut.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/03/06/south-korean-workers-strike/

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Token photo article on general strike from south Korean liberal paper, The Hankyoreh [한겨레]:’Pres. Park, can you hear us shouting?’ – http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/625900.html

To cling to power, ROK’s Park administration resorts to force [The Hankyoreh / 한겨레]

Posted in INS, Protest action, south Korea on January 1, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

December 23, 2013

By Jeon Jong-hwi, Im In-tack and Lee Jung-gook, staff reporters

The Park Geun-hye administration, which has maintained an “uncommunicative and proud of it” approach on contentious social issues, is ramping up its use of force and rejecting dialogue.

In the latest development, police stormed the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) on Dec. 22, the fourteenth day of an ongoing strike against railway privatization. It was the first time authorities had been sent into the KCTU since it was legalized in 1999.

The police were there to execute arrest warrants for nine members of the leadership for the Korean Railway Workers’ Union (KRWU), but the individuals in question weren’t there. Instead, the 136 KCTU officials and members who fought back against the police were rounded up and arrested.

After convening an emergency meeting of its central committee, the KCTU declared a “genuine campaign to bring down the Park administration,”…

The government’s attack on the KCTU was a signal of how anxious it is to end the KRWU strike, which has drawn out to become the longest in South Korean railway history. As popular support for the anti-privatization strike remains high, the situation appears poised to escalate into a more general anti-privatization campaign in areas like healthcare and education. With the “front lines” of the privatization furor now parked on the railway, the government appears to be trying to break them down as quickly as possible.

Previously, Park called the strike a “groundless action that shows a lack of trust in the government’s promise not to privatize.” Police and prosecutors promised to enforce the law rigorously.

“There seems to have been a strategic decision by the hard line bureaucrats in the Blue House,” said Cho Hee-yeon, a professor at Sungkonghoe University’s graduate school of NGO studies. “Crushing the privatization strike is the only way to keep the unions in check, and they would also be able to push the next phase of their policy.”

“In short, they see it as a great opportunity,” Cho said.

Indeed, unions are among the best organized areas in South Korean society for speaking out on social issues.

Another of the government’s aims is to draw a clear line that extends beyond the KRWU to all members of the labor community who oppose the administration’s policies. While the KCTU, KRWU, and civil society in general have proposed setting up a “social dialogue” framework to address the key issue in the privatization furor – the establishment of a KORAIL subsidiary – the government’s response has instead been an ostentatious use of force. In effect, it has shown that it intends to respond to the debate by putting physical force ahead of dialogue.

“The government should be the ones initiating dialogue,” said a KRWU source on condition of anonymity. “Instead, they’ve issued what amounts to a declaration of war. They refuse to even recognize the body that is the supreme representative of unions, viewing it as an enemy instead.”

Some are saying the administration’s militant response is a reaction to having its legitimacy called into question. From this position, the actions are intended to break a deadlock that has been going for nearly a year since Park took office.

It’s a year that has seen one problem after another for the administration. Already facing a challenge to its legitimacy due to the election interference by the National Intelligence Service and the military’s Cyber Command, it has had to deal with a backlash over backpedaling on its basic old age pension election pledges, the privatization controversy, and charges of “targeting” former Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook.

“These actions come in the context of questions about the administration’s legitimacy, after it emerged that the election that brought it into office was unfair, along with a loss of popular support over the backpedaling on election pledges,” said Catholic University of Korea professor Cho Don-moon.

“They can’t win the people over, and they’re trampling on the right to pursue stability and happiness,” Cho added. “What happened today shows just how weak the administration’s legitimacy is.”

The KCTU’s declaration of a campaign to “bring down the administration” comes two years and one month after the ruling Saenuri Party (NFP) single-handedly pushed the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement through the National Assembly in Nov. 2011…

Full article link: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/616601.html

“Korean Conspiracy Trial” – Neo-fascist witch hunt against Unified Progressive Party in ROK [Counterpunch]

Posted in Corporate Media Critique, INS, Protest action, south Korea on January 1, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

December 25, 2013

by GREGORY ELICH

It made worldwide news when Lee Seok-ki, representative in the South Korean National Assembly, was arrested on charges of treason. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) fed media outlets with a transcript of a meeting that Lee attended, which appeared to reveal plans by the Unified Progressive Party to take up arms against the South Korean government in the event of war with the north.

The release of the transcript came at the height of national protests against interference by the NIS in the national election of December 2012. The Unified Progressive Party (UPP) was at the forefront of the anti-NIS demonstrations, and the furor that resulted over the accusations against Lee and the UPP succeeded in stifling mass protests.

In a sense, Lee Seok-ki and his six co-defendants have been tried twice; first in a trial by media, in which inflammatory news accounts based on one-sided details and misinformation provided by the NIS convinced a majority of South Koreans that Lee was guilty as charged.

It appears that the second trial, now underway in a Suwon district court, may yield a quite different result, based on the unravelling of the prosecution’s case…

Full article link: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/25/korean-conspiracy-trial/