Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun (Yonhap)
Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun lashed out at conservative groups for planning to hold rallies on National Foundation Day early next month, warning that anyone caught hindering virus containment efforts will face stern punishment.
“We will exercise governmental authority given by the public without hesitation against activities that hamper antivirus measures and threaten the safety of communities,” Chung said Wednesday during a government COVID-19 response meeting.
Calling the plans “deplorable,” he directed police and municipal governments to counter them strictly in accordance with the law.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, nine groups applied for permission to hold a total of 33 protest rallies in downtown Seoul on Oct. 3. Police refused permission in every case.
But concerns remain that some groups may push ahead with their rallies, as they did Aug. 15, when tens of thousands gathered in the downtown Gwanghwamun area for National Liberation Day. As of Tuesday at midnight, 539 coronavirus infections had been confirmed among the Aug. 15 protesters and people who came into contact with them.
The conservative organizations that submitted protest permit applications to police include one led by Rev. Jun Kwang-hoon of the Sarang Jeil Church, which became the source of the country’s second-largest virus cluster. On Monday Jun was placed behind bars after a local court revoked his bail, ruling that he had breached the terms of his bail by taking part in the Aug. 15 rally. Jun stands accused of violating the election law.
Health authorities are on high alert as National Foundation Day falls during this year’s five-day Chuseok holiday season, which starts Sept. 30.
Chuseok, one of the country’s biggest holidays, traditionally involves mass migrations to people’s hometowns but this year the government has implored people to stay home to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We must prepare thoroughly for this time so that the cases of the May and August holidays will not be repeated,” Chung said.
By Park Han-na (email@example.com