NATIONAL

Seoul mayor says he will expel Park supporters’ tents from square

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : Mar 2, 2017 - 17:21
  • Updated : Mar 2, 2017 - 17:21
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Thursday denounced President Park Geun-hye’s supporters who had installed tents without approval in front of the Seoul City Hall to stage protests against the impeachment of the embattled leader, adding he may order the forced removal of the tents.

“Seoul Plaza, where pro-Park civic groups installed some 40 tents illegally without the city government’s approval, is a public space open for all,” said Mayor Park during a radio interview with CBS.

“They have been bothering citizens by making noise and eating food inside the Seoul Metropolitan Library, smoking around the Seoul City Hall building and even swearing at public officials and citizens, which I could no longer stand and reported to the police,” Park added.
 
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon on Wednesday speaks at a rally urging for the ouster of President Park Geun-hye. (Yonhap)

On Tuesday, Mayor Park wrote via his Twitter account that the city has reported seven members of pro-Park supporter groups to the police for illegal use of Seoul Plaza, causing a public nuisance and interference with a public official in the execution of his duty.

“Everyone should abide by the legal process based on the approval of the government office of administration or the court,” said Park, adding that the city government is considering the forced removal of those groups.

On Jan. 21, pro-Park civic groups moved in to Seoul Plaza to install tents and occupied the space without approval. They have been ignoring the city government’s continued requests to vacate the location.

With regard to the tents at Gwanghwamun Square set up in 2014 for Sewol ferry disaster victims, Park made it clear that those two groups of tents have different purposes.

“(Keeping the Sewol ferry tents) was a humanitarian measure, not a political one,” Park said, pointing out that it was the central government that had asked for the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s support on the issue.

A few months after the Sewol disaster in April 2014, bereaved families of victims of the ferry disaster occupied the square and staged a sit-in protest, after their requests to meet with President Park were thwarted. The city government started supporting them in July that year.

In June 2016, the city said it would gradually remove tents with the protesters’ permission, after City Councilor Sung Joong-gi raised the point that “Sewol protesters have been occupying the space for too long” while Gwanghwamun Square’s purpose is to serve as an area for citizens, rallies and events.

In 2014 and 2015, the city collected some 5 million won ($4,370) in fines from protesters for setting up three additional tents and a sculpture without the city’s approval. The remaining 11 tents were set up as city property.

Lashing back at the tent removal announcement, Parksamo -- a conservative civic group of the president’s loyalists -- pledged to file a suit against the Seoul mayor on abuse of power and obstruction of business.

“We will also soon begin a public recall on Mayor Park (seeking to oust him from his elected post),” said the group’s spokesperson through a written statement.

“Mayor Park, you have definitely made a wrong step, congratulations on that.”


By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)