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Farmer struck by police water cannon dies

The South Korean farmer who was blasted by a police water cannon during a protest last year died Sunday, over 10 months after he was knocked unconscious, fueling debate over human rights and use of police force during rallies.

Baek Nam-ki, 69, reportedly passed away around 2 p.m. at Seoul National University Hospital, two days after his medical status deteriorated to critical condition. He had remained unconscious and hospitalized since Nov. 14 of last year after a direct hit from a police water cannon.

Citizens protest against autopsy of farmer Baek Nam-ki, who fell unconscious last year after being struck by a water cannon and died Sunday, in a demonstration in front of the Seoul National University Hospital. (Yonhap)
Citizens protest against autopsy of farmer Baek Nam-ki, who fell unconscious last year after being struck by a water cannon and died Sunday, in a demonstration in front of the Seoul National University Hospital. (Yonhap)


While an acute renal failure was the immediate cause of the elderly farmer’s death, the water cannon blast is believed to have led to Baek’s passing. He was diagnosed with a subdural hemorrhage after he was struck, which is usually associated with traumatic brain injury.

The Association for Physicians for Humanism said in a press conference Sunday that Baek’s condition can directly be attributed to the brain hemorrhage and skull fracture from being hit with the water cannon.

An emergency committee of civic groups for Baek said it would oppose any attempt to conduct on autopsy on the deceased, accusing the police of trying to dilute blame.

Jeon Jin-hwan, a doctor who is a member of the APH, told local media that the extended hospitalization and surgery would have had effects on Baek’s body.

“I suspect the (officials) will try to blame Baek’s death on an underlying disease, when the cause of his death is very clear,” he said.

Civic groups have filed suit against ex-police chief Kang Sin-myeong and six other police officials on charges of criminally negligent manslaughter, but police have denied it constituted excessive use of police force.

During a parliamentary hearing on Sept. 12, Kang refused calls for an apology and said it was “inappropriate to apologize just because a person was hurt or killed” during a protest. He added that an apology can be made only after causality and legal responsibility of the incident had been made clear.

Kang has yet to comment on Baek’s death.

No apology by any other government official responsible for Baek’s injury and death has been made to date.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)



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