The government yesterday pledged to "sternly" apply the law to Chinese demonstrators who were violent during Sunday`s Olympic torch relay.
"This matter calls for legal and principled action because it is an incident that has hurt our national pride," Prime Minister Han Seung-soo said during the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The Justice Ministry indicated that it would punish all such demonstrators, regardless of nationality.
"It is regretful that foreigners are engaging in violent demonstrations at a time when demonstrations by even Koreans have waned under the guidelines of the new administration. We believe the torch relay in Seoul may have ended peacefully if it were not for the violent demonstrations," said Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han.
Related government agencies will meet at the Seoul District Prosecution`s Office to discuss the possible legal penalties based on the evidence which the police are retrieving from recordings and testimony, Kim said.
Over 6,000 Chinese demonstrators, including students and even some who flew in from China, took to Seoul`s streets on Sunday during the 20-kilometer relay which was a prelude to the Beijing summer Olympics. Some Chinese clashed with local activists who rallied to protest the torch relay, citing Beijing`s discouraging treatment of North Korea defectors and the regime`s crackdown on Tibetans` rioting for independence.
Police records show activists who claim to have done nothing to provoke the Chinese demonstrators who allegedly assaulted quite a few of the Korean activists. Chinese demonstrators claim they were attacked by the Koreans.
China`s recent clash with the Tibetans has triggered a global protest against the symbolic torch relay, to which a growing number of Chinese people at both home and abroad have had violent responses.
The Foreign Ministry expressed its distress regarding the Chinese demonstrators on Monday, with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-joon conveying a protest to Beijing`s ambassador to Seoul, Ning Fukui.
Lee was yesterday expected to relay another message of Korean "regret" about the violence of some Chinese demonstrators, during a visit to China to coordinate an upcoming presidential tour. President Lee is scheduled to visit Beijing next month as a part of a series of overseas tours that started with his visit to the United States and Japan earlier this month.
Diplomats and experts were concerned about a possible fallout with China over the torch clashes.
"What I want to stress is that Chinese people, especially Chinese students here, have good feelings toward South Koreans," Chinese ambassador Ning told reporters.
On inquiries regarding whether the Chinese embassy will cooperate with the police investigation, however, Ning said that he did not have any details to share.
By Kim Ji-hyun