SEOUL, Jun. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — Tensions were running high at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on Tuesday, as a far-right minor opposition party reinstalled tents for anti-government protests there hours after their demolition by municipal officials.
Early in the morning, the Seoul metropolitan government demolished tents set up by the Korean Patriots Party, now the Uri Republican Party, on the central Seoul square on May 10 to call for the release of imprisoned former President Park Geun-hye.
About 500 municipal officials, aided by 400 hired demolition workers, tore down two tents and a shade canopy before dawn after clashing with about 400 party officials and supporters who put up a fierce resistance against the forced demolition.
The demolition began at 5:16 a.m. after a city government official read a notice on the execution of an administrative order in front of the tent protesters, who then resisted by throwing plastic water bottles and other objects at the officials and demolition workers.
The demolition was completed after two hours and municipal officials cleaned up sections of the square formerly occupied by the tents.
According to officials, about 40 people were rushed to a nearby hospital, but none of them sustained serious injury. Police detained two hired demolition workers and two party officials for using excessive violence during their clash.
Five hours later, however, Uri Republican Party officials and supporters reinstalled three tents on the same spot at 12:40 p.m., while a group of about 60 municipal officials failed to restrain them.
Municipal officials said they will soon take another administrative procedure to again attempt to remove the illegal tents from the square.
The Korean Patriots Party, established by pro-Park supporters in July 2017, recently changed its name to the Uri (meaning our) Republican Party.
In addition to Park’s release, the party has also demanded a thorough investigation into the deaths of five protesters during outdoor rallies in 2017 against the impeachment of the former president.
Park, who was detained in March 2017 soon after her impeachment, has been sentenced to a 25-year prison term for power abuse and various corruption charges and an additional six years behind bars for coercing and accepting illegal funds from various government offices.
She filed for a suspension of her sentence in April, but a Seoul court rejected the request.
The city government has repeatedly threatened to demolish the tents on Gwanghwamun Square, defining them as an illegal facility under the ordinance on the management of the square.
The Seoul government, meanwhile, plans to ask the minor political party to pay for the demolition cost of 200 million won (US$173,000) and other expenses.