South Koreans protest against labour policies

Thousands of South Koreans gather to protest conservative President Park Geun-hye

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

South Korean protesters attend an anti-government rally in downtown Seoul, South Korea on Dec. 5, 2015

Updated Dec 6, 2015

Thousands of South Koreans gathered in the country's capital Seoul on Saturday to protest against President Park Geun-hye, following his comparison of masked protesters to terrorists over the clashes between protesters and police during a rally last month.

According to police, around 14,000 people participated in the gathering that was organised by farmers, labour and civil groups demanding better labour conditions as well as protection of personal and political freedoms under Park’s administration.

Despite the fact that police banned the demonstration for public safety reasons, a court threw out the ban due to organisers’ complaints.

Protesters with white masks carried banners that read "Park Geun-hye step down" and "Stop regressive changes to labour laws."

The demonstration took place on the same street as the Nov. 14 demonstration, which gathered 70,000 people, the largest rally Seoul had seen in a decade.

Dozens were injured in clashes with police on Nov. 14. However, there were no injuries or clashes reported on Saturday.

Police use water cannons to block South Korean protesters following a large rally against the government in downtown Seoul on November 14, 2015

Organisers kept their promise of peaceful demonstrations on Saturday. Opposition lawmakers and leaders of the religious communities also participated in the demonstration to help avoid clashes between protesters and police.

Critics pointed out that the use of heavy tear gas, water cannons and pepper spray by police officers to break up the demostration put lives at risk on Nov. 14 by using force without any reason.

However, the Korean government blamed the violence on "militant protesters" who attacked police officers and vandalised police buses.

On the other hand, Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong said that the government is ready to make "any kind of sacrifices" to stop violent protests, while President Park compared the masked protesters to terrorists.

"Masked protests should be banned. Isn't that how the Islamic State [DAESH] does things now, hiding their faces?" President Park said at a cabinet meeting last month.

Labour groups have been accusing the government in their attempt to change labour laws to allow larger companies more freedom. Also, farmers have expressed their concerns on the expected rise of imports on Chinese agricultural products under a free trade agreement between South Korea and China.

TRTWorld and agencies