Groups campaign against FTA, high tuition fees, Japan’s Dokdo claim
Various political and civic groups held rallies across Seoul on Monday, as the country marked the 66th anniversary of independence from Japan.
The groups, many of which were separated along ideological lines, sought to take advantage of the historical day as an opportunity to voice their views on a range of pending issues, including the free trade agreement with the U.S., college tuition cuts and Japan’s territorial claim over Dokdo.
One of the biggest rallies was organized by about 80 liberal civic and labor groups and five political parties at Cheonggye Plaza at 11 a.m. to celebrate Liberation Day and to voice their hopes for peace and unification of the two Koreas.
The event also called on the government to change its hardline stance toward North Korea and showed opposition to the U.S. FTA.
In the afternoon, a demonstration calling for the halving of college tuition was organized at Seoul Plaza by civic groups including Korean University Students’ Association and political parties.
“People should be freed from the financial burden of tuition costs and overall expenses in education,” one of the civic groups said.
They also declared that they would take measures against the government to realize the half-tuition policy and expand educational opportunities.
Oh Se-hoon (second from right) and other diginataries toll the bell at Bosingak in Jongno, downtown Seoul, Monday, marking the 66th anniversary of Korea’s independence from Japan. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Another rally denouncing Japan’s territorial claims on Dokdo was held in Pagoda Park in Jongno, where the Korean liberation movement started in 1919. At the event, liberal civic groups called on Japan to end its territorial claims on Dokdo and its claims about historical facts related to Korea. A corresponding event was held in Pyongyang simultaneously.
Conservatives also voiced their opinions on the day. About 100 rightwing groups including Right Korea and war veterans gathered in Seoul Plaza at 2 p.m. denouncing pro-North Korean groups. An unusual event was held by the conservative research center Kookhakwon. A flash mob was performed using the national flag in 19 cities nationwide Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul.
As rallies of the left and right were held in close proximity in central Seoul, police mobilized at crucial spots, pledging a stern response to unauthorized rallies.
Korean Confederation of Trade Unions held a pre-labor event on Sunday at Seoul Plaza with about 2,500 members attending.
By Lee Woo-young (firstname.lastname@example.org