01/02/2009, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA

New Year demonstrations in Seoul against the government’s “dangerous” laws

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
More than a hundred thousand people, including media and teachers’ unions, take to the streets in a candlelight protest against President Lee Myung-bak’s policies on media, security services and school admission.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – More than a hundred thousand people demonstrated against the dangerous laws introduced by the government of President Lee Myung-bak whom they accuse of taking the country into anti-democratic direction. These “vicious” laws concern media freedom, the security services and a new nationwide scholastic achievement assessment test or ilje gosa, rejected by many educators and parents as discriminatory.

On New Year’s Eve thousands of protesters gathered for a candlelight vigil in many public venues set aside to usher 2009, a protest tactic used last year (pictured, June protests against law allowing US meat imports). Even the Bosingak bell tower on Seoul’s Jong-no (Bell Street) was the scene of a demonstration.

Online meeting places like the Anti-MB Café, the Society of Candlelight Demonstration Arrestees and Citizen Action to Eradicate Traitorous Groups spread the word to get out as many people as possible.

Trade unions like the National Union of Media Workers (NUMW) and the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union (KTU) also joined the initiative.

Using candles demonstrators wrote protest slogans on the streets against the policies promoted by the government of the Grand National Party, which holds a comfortable majority in parliament.

About 160 police squads were also deployed in the Bosingak area to monitor the protest.

“Today’s candlelight demonstration is a warning that if they continue to ignore the will of the people, they will be judged for it in due time,” said walk supervisor Rev Jeong Yeon-gil.

NUMW members took part in the demonstration to protest against the government’s media laws, pledging they would continue their action in early 2009.

About 2,000 union members had gathered in front of the National Assembly building on Wednesday afternoon for a general strike assembly to protect democracy against what they see as a media grab.

In the evening, they met in front of the Korea Press Center on Sejongno Boulevard for a candlelight demonstration to inform people about the purpose and goals of their action.

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