Far-right groups launch violent protests against PSPD

Posted on : 2010-06-18 12:01 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Experts say the Lee government’s forceful emphasis on patriotism and nationalism has cultivated an environment for extremist action
 June 17.
June 17.  

On Thursday morning, an official from the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) entered the pressroom of the PSPD’s headquarters in the Seoul neighborhood of Tongin. He told the reporters they should leave since they could be mistaken for PSPD members and harmed. Some of the reporters who had been covering the PSPD had already been cursed at by members of the Seoul chapter of the Korean Veterans Association, who had been protesting for four days in front of the headquarters.

PSPD has received a number of terror threats by conservative groups since June 15. They cannot work due to consistent threatening phone calls, and it has been difficult to enter and leave the office. Inside the office, which is surrounded by about 200 police officers, an announcement has been posted for people to close their blinds and for officials to refrain as much as possible from leaving the building. The conservative groups, who took turns protesting from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., shouted derogatory expletives at female PSPD members as they left the office, telling them to “Go into the arms of Kim Jong-il!”

About 200 members of the Korean Agent Orange Veterans Association, who held a demonstration in front of the PSPD headquarters, shouted, “Let’s wipe out the PSPD, an enemy group,” while pasting the building with water bottles and eggs. Attempting to enter the building, they struggled with police, and were even stopped by police when they sent a car laded with 10 soju bottles full of paint thinner and LPG canisters at the building. On Wednesday afternoon, conservative groups surrounded PSPD Policy Committee Director Kim Ki-sik as he left the office, grabbing him by the collar and striking him across the face.

Citizens and civic organizations have criticized the Lee Myung-bak administration, ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and conservative groups for intentionally witch hunting PSPD. This is not unconnected to said groups experiencing a backlash in the June 2 local elections when they tried to use the Cheonan sinking politically, and the fact that their “Cheonan diplomacy” has failed to yield clear results.

“China and Russia have continued to show a lukewarm response to the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution,” said PSPD Deputy Secretary General Lee Tae-ho. “If the Lee administration’s diplomacy fails, it is highly possible it will try to shift the blame onto PSPD.”

There are also those who see ominous signs of returning to a barbarous past in the attacks on PSPD by conservative groups.

“The government is going ‘all in’ in diplomacy regarding the Cheonan sinking to escape responsibility for the failure in the local elections, responding with a Cold War mentality of stressing patriotism and nationalism,” said Cho Dae-yeop, professor of sociology at Korea University. “The government’s moves go against the global trend moving to a post-Cold War mentality.” Cho also said, “It is very unfortunate that the police and conservative groups have contributed to this.”

“It seems conservative groups, who have developed a strong hostility towards North Korea and progressive forces over the last decade, have determined that with the launch of the Lee Myung-bak administration, a political and social environment has been created that allows for extremist action,” said Shin Jin-wook, professor of sociology at Chung-Ang University. “The current administration and ruling party, conservative media and New Right groups themselves say they do not deny democracy, but are encouraging ‘far-right terrorism’ by constantly throwing out issues that allow far right groups to engage in radical action.”

Meanwhile, in response to the illegal demonstrations in front of the PSPD, police say they will sternly deal with violations of demonstration laws. An official with Jongno Police Station said they have been in the process of acquiring photos of the people who brought dangerous materials, including gas canisters, and threw eggs at the building. He also said in the case of assault, they will investigate if they receive a complaint, and will measure the sound level and punish everyone for violations of protest laws if the noise goes beyond a certain level.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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