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SEWOL DISASTER: Protests intensify over failures

Publication Date : 26-05-2014

 

Despite South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s repeated apologies and drastic reform proposals, a growing number of people are participating in protests against the government’s failures during the Sewol ferry disaster.

Students, parents with small children and even foreign nationals took part in massive demonstrations in central Seoul on Saturday to commemorate the victims of the sunken ferry and to urge Cheong Wa Dae to take responsibility for its failed operation to save those onboard the sunken ferry Sewol.

About 30,000 people held a candlelight vigil this week, according to Park Sung-sik, spokesman of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, while the police say the rally had about 8,000. KCTU is one of two labor umbrella groups here that organized the weekend rally. The Korean National Police Agency said it had dispatched about 13,000 riot police.

“The number of rally participants has steadily grown to around 30,000 a week. Unlike other rallies, we see a growing number of young kids with parents joining the rally,” Park said.

“We are going to hold rallies every Saturday and will share the plans online and on social media,” he added.

The weekend demonstration was filled with protesters wearing masks and black T-shirts that carried angry words directed at the government and the media. Many were holding pickets reading, “What did you do during the golden time?” and “We demand an independent probe into Sewol.” Students and parents of the victims shed tears and denounced the government’s poor initial response.

“Stop saying that you have failed to protect us,” a girl said on the platform.

Some protesters clashed with the police later in the evening as they attempted to head toward Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office, some blocks away from the Cheonggye Plaza where the rally was held.

The protesters claimed about 2,000 people marched toward the Blue House to urge President Park to step down, but soon collided with police who were blocking the entire street toward the office, they said. The police ordered the protesters to disperse. But as they refused to do so, the riot police forced them onto the sidewalk, saying what they were doing was illegal, they said.

During the collision, one protester was injured and transported to a hospital nearby. The police also took about 30 protesters on charges of using violence against the police. They were taken to four different police stations and are being questioned. The list of protesters taken by the police included KCTU officials and high school students. The police said some of them had been released.

 

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