Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What next?

[Photo: some art students at a local Seoul university invented this brilliant piece of protest technology, and have been showing it off at the protests]

After Tuesday's huge protest (which Matt has a good post on here, along with another one on the history of protest in Seoul over the last 100 years), Lee's prime minister and cabinet announced their intention to resign, others are wondering how far the fallout will extend, as even conservative groups are criticizing the president, albeit in a neoconservative fashion that misses the cause of the protests. One thing seems sure: the protests are set to continue:

From the Herald:

Protests against U.S. beef imports and a wide range of government policies are expected to continue through the week as various civic groups plan to stage a series of mass rallies in downtown Seoul.

A coalition of about 1,500 civic groups called "the people's council for countermeasures against mad cow disease" will memorialize the deaths six years ago of two schoolgirls, at Seoul Plaza tomorrow.

They were accidentally run over in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province in 2002 by a U.S. military vehicle. This tragedy brought thousands of citizens to the streets, calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. troops in Korea. Candlelight vigils will be held along with the memorial service.

The coalition has organized the vigils since April 27 in reaction against the April 18 deal on U.S. beef imports, which demonstrators condemn for being made without "public consensus."

Also tomorrow, the Korea Cargo Transport Workers Union will go on strike. It is demanding that the government formulate countermeasures to lesson the burden created by soaring oil prices. The union has linked its planned walkout to the ongoing popular protests against the beef import deal.

On Saturday, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the biggest umbrella labor group, will vote whether and when to stage a walkout. Members of the KCTU have participated in the vigils.

Also on Saturday, a funeral ceremony will be held for Lee Byeong-ryeol in Seoul and other parts of the nation. Lee, 43, set himself on fire on May 25 in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, after calling for the toppling of the government. He died on Monday.

Marking the 8th anniversary of the June 15 inter-Korean joint declaration, various civic groups, including the KCTU, will hold a massive commemorative event.

On Tuesday, when 80,000 citizens, according to a police estimate, rallied in Seoul, the "people's council" set a deadline of next Friday for the government to determine whether to scrap or renegotiate the beef deal. The government response, therefore, could either mitigate or escalate the protests, observers said.

During Tuesday's rallies, as protesters and police exercised restraint to avoid violent clashes, vigils proceeded peacefully. No serious injuries were reported. However, police detained 24 sit-in protesters yesterday morning for obstructing traffic at the Sejongno intersection in central Seoul.

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