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Jun. 21  2018
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Protestors demonstrate for peace on the peninsula as Bush prepares for South Korea visit

Religious, labor, and student activists march in the face of heavy police presence as the author of the "axis of evil" speech comes to town.

Source  :  BASE21






















△ (Photo from Tongilnews Jang Dong-ryol)

By Terry Park, BASE21 staff reporter
parkterry@hotmail.com


As the clock ticks towards U.S. President George W. Bush’s impending arrival to South Korea on Tuesday as part of his East Asian diplomatic tour to promote his so-called “war on terrorism” and other related concerns, demonstrations against the U.S. military’s presence on the peninsula and their increasingly belligerent stance towards North Korea in the wake of Bush’s inflammatory “axis of evil” speech have intensified in the past week. On Friday, a member of Hanchongryon, a radical university-wide organization, was arrested for burning an American flag at a famous Seoul downtown monument near the heavily-guarded U.S. embassy. At the same time, an alliance of religious, labor, student, and housing groups held demonstrations near Yongsan Army Base in Itaewon district.

The heavy riot police presence used a number of draconian tactics to intimidate, harass, and separate groups of protestors from their comrades, as well as denying them access to streets and entrances to the base, squeezing them onto the sidewalk. The first protest this reporter witnessed was a small twenty to thirty-person demonstration near the Samgakgi subway station. It was organized by an apartment tenants’ rights group fighting for housing and land rights (Yongsan sits on a huge swath of valuable land in downtown Seoul), and within a few moments of arriving, several plainclothes cops approached him and his friend and demanded to know their purpose, whether we were reporters, Korean or American, to see our identification, and finally requested that we go to the police station.

A larger demonstration was organized by the Korean Catholic Peace Network. The prayers, hymns, and peaceful yet determined stance of the protestors was a stark contrast to the lines of riot police clad in dark blue and shields with sharpened edges. Small, sporadic scuffles broke out, but there no injuries on either side. There was also an unconfirmed report that a Catholic laity priest was arrested.

Raised banners were sprinkled with both anti-Bush messages such as “Bush is the enemy of the people” and the traditional Korean solidarity reminder, “All together!” Several priests and nuns, including Father Moon, the famous and ubiquitous anti-war warrior, were roughed up and forcefully carried back to the sidewalk for the mere crime of stepping onto the street. When the protest moved to the city hall area, the former site of Japanese colonial power and the present throne of its Korean inheritors, police parked large riot buses in front of the protestors to prevent the many onlookers from looking at the boisterous contingent and their anti-Bush, anti-Missile Defense System slogans and mock caricatures of Bush. Later on, protestors unveiled a large black cross, covered in barbed wire and plastic white missiles tipped in dripping blood. Space, spectacle, and visibility were the performative themes of conflict.

According to Sister Kim Gun-Ja, the goals of the demonstration were peace on the peninsula, strong objection to Bush designation of North Korea as a supporter of terrorism, and resistance to the Missile Defense System. Several foreigners joined the protest. Father Russ Feldmeier, an American from Maryknoll who later read an English message addressed to President Bush, commented, “As a Catholic and as an American, I desire for peace, and this is why I am here to show my solidarity with the Korean people.” Father Ronal O’Keeffe, an Irishman of the Missionary Society of St. Columban said, “You don’t promote peace by saber-rattling,” referring to Bush’s now-infamous “axis of evil” speech. “If you want peace, you must work for justice and reconciliation.”



△ (Photo from Tongilnews Jang Dong-ryol)




△ (Photo from Tongilnews Jang Dong-ryol)




△ (Photo from Tongilnews Jang Dong-ryol)




△ (Photo from Tongilnews Jang Dong-ryol)

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