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Police vow anti-FTA crackdown following reported assault of police chief

Hankyoreh, Seoul

Police vow anti-FTA crackdown following reported assault of police chief

A police officer in uniform who entered a crowd of protestors was reportedly struck on his face and shoulders, escalating KORUS FTA-related controversy

By Park Tae-woo 

28 November 2011

Controversy is raging over an assault on the Seoul Jongno Police Station chief by participants in a candlelight vigil demonstration in the city’s Gwanghwamun area Saturday.

Police said they plan to take stern action against the suspects, calling the illegalities and group violence a serious threat to public order.

According to accounts from police and protest organizers Sunday, a group of demonstrators attacked Jongno Police Station chief Park Geon-chan during a protest against the ratification of the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday night. The demonstrators reportedly struck Park on his face and shoulders.

Park had entered a crowd of demonstrators along with five or six plainclothes officers to discuss a dispersal of the protest with representatives of the five opposition parties, including Democratic Party (DP) Lawmaker Chung Dong-young and Democratic Labor Party (DLP) Chairwoman Lee Jung-hee, who were near the stage at the time.

Some participating citizens began jeering at Park, who was in uniform at the time, and around 10 to 20 agitated demonstrators took his hat and struck him on his head and shoulders. Other demonstrators attempted to stop the assault, urging the perpetrators to “calm down.”

During the alleged assault, Park’s insignia was reportedly removed and his glasses broken.

Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency chief Lee Kang-deok held an emergency press conference where he said, “The illegalities and violence of the protest against the FTA are posing a serious threat to social peace and order, with a police chief being subjected to assault in the course of his duties.”

Lee said police planned to take stern action against the perpetrators as well as the organizers and orchestrators of the protest.

The Jongno Police Station launched an investigation of the case, detaining a 54-year-old individual identified by the surname Kim on Sunday morning at their home in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, on charges of obstruction of official duties based on video evidence from the scene.

Citizens’ Solidarity for Human Rights Secretary General Oh Chang-ik said, “It is difficult to understand why a police chief insisted on entering a crowd of agitated demonstrators when many other means existed for contacting the lawmakers.”

“While this does not seem to have been premeditated, it is unacceptable for demonstration participants to use violence,” Oh added.