- Police fired water cannons on the protesting crowd in downtown Seoul on June 1, 2008.
Seoul Times | 2 June 2008
Anti-Lee Myung-Bak protest
Riot Police Trample Coed Repeatedly in Seoul
Harsh Police Suppression Provokes Beef Protesters
By Grace Kim
South Korean police’s brutal suppression toward ever-growing anti-US beef demonstrations by its citizen became the key issue as the confrontation between police and protesters got more fierce.
Tens of thousands of South Korean citizens in downtown Seoul alone volunteerd to join the candle-light protest as President Lee Myung-Bak lifted the ban on the US beef import despite the strong oppsition from the people. The crowd included teenagers, college students, young mothers with kids, and even pregnant women.
Numerous peaceful protesters were injured by the riot police who indiscrimately fired water cannon over the crowd chanting "Down with US beef import" and "Down with President Lee Myung-Bak."
The protesters became angrier as a video clip of a college coed getting her head trampled by the ruly riot policemen got released on the internet.
According to Chosun.com, Seoul National University music major student Lee Na-Rae was beaten by police during the police suppression against the latest candle-light protest in recent years in Seoul on June 1, 2008.
Kukmin Ilbo Cookie news released the video clip of the beating that showed the police kicking Lee’s head two times when Lee was trying to go under the police bus during the rally.
"It happened between 2:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. in the morning on June 1 at the parking lot near Kyungbok-gung," said Lee in Chosun.com. "I ducked myself under the bus after getting beaten by the police but the bus was suddenly starting up so I had to come out again. Although the video clip doesn’t show, another policeman struck me again and that was when people tried to help me out."
The video clip provoked people to blame harsh police suppression against demonstrators and prompted many students to leave enraged reactions on the homepage of Seoul National University.
The spokesperson of the police station said Seoul National Police Agency is currently examining the case, according to Chosun Ilbo.com. ’If the case comes out to be true, the fair disciplinary punishment will be applied to the related police officers."
South Korean government agreed in April to resume U.S beef import, which was banned for about five years due to appearance of mad cow disease first reported in Washington in 2003.
The protests against Lee Myung-Bak government’s determination of resuming U.S beef import emerged as marches toward Chungwadae, presidential house, and peaceful candle-light protests in Seoul as well as other major cities in the country.
The initially peaceful candle-light vigil has now been turning into anti-goverrnment and anti-President Lee Myung-Bak demonstrations. Hundreds of protesters approached Cheongwadae in Seoul several times for the last couple of days. They were pushed back by the special police unit members.
Though belatedly, the South Korean government is mulling on the partial cabinet reshuffle in a bid to sooth the angry people.
But experts predict that the anti-government protests would be even larger and stronger unless South Korean government revokes its decision to resume the US beef import.