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1987: S Korea clashes over student death

VIDEO : Police clash with demonstrators in Seoul

South Korean police have made hundreds of arrests in the country's biggest demonstrations for six years.

Rallies went ahead across the country to commemorate the recent death in custody of student Park Chong-choi, in spite of yesterday's warnings by President Chun Doo Hwan.

Mr Park, 21, a linguistics student at Seoul National University suffocated during police interrogation for alleged pro-communist activities on 14 January.

The ruling Democratic Justice Party claimed dissidents were using the memorial services as an excuse for violent and illegal political rallies.


"Our anger at the present regime has reached a point no longer bearable"

Spokesman, New Korea Democratic Party

Organisers of the demonstrations - including church, labour and student groups as well as the political opposition - claimed they just wanted to honour Mr Park.

The government had ordered the country's 120,000 police to tighten security in readiness for the memorials.

Police arrested 2,400 suspects and placed a dozen leading dissidents under house arrest last night.

In response to the police mobilisation a spokesman from the main opposition party, the New Korea Democratic Party, said: "Our anger at the present regime has reached a point no longer bearable."

Up to 30,000 riot police lined up to face as many as 20,000 demonstrators in the streets of the capital, Seoul, in three hours of confrontations.

Police were trying to prevent the crowds from reaching the main memorial mass at the Catholic Myongdong Cathedral.

Smaller demonstrations took place in 17 provincial cities including Pusan, Kwangju and Taegu.

No major incidents were reported but there were sporadic outbreaks of violence as protestors threw petrol bombs and stones at the police, who responded with tear gas.

Official sources said 34 police were injured and they made 799 arrests nationwide - 740 people were detained for further questioning.

There were no figures available about how many civilians were injured.

In Context
There were further demonstrations in memory of Park Chong-choi on 3 March, when 300 Buddhists tried to hold a service.

This time about 30,000 riot police confronted 5,000 demonstrators and made 600 arrests.

At the trial of the two police officers charged with murdering Mr Park in May 1987, three more officers were implicated and subsequently charged.

In response to allegations of a cover-up President Chun Doo Hwan dismissed his prime minister - Lho Shin-yong - and three other senior ministers.

After further civil unrest President Chun was forced out of office and replaced by the liberalising, anti-corruption presidency of Roh Tae-woo.


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