Dozens of protesters and police were injured in South Korea’s biggest protest yet over a US beef import agreement, police said yesterday.
A crowd estimated by police at 65,000 demonstrated in central Seoul on Friday night, the biggest rally so far over the beef issue.
Some marched on a road leading to the presidential Blue House, but they were blocked by a barricade of police buses.
Riot police later clashed with demonstrators as they stopped them trying to march to the presidential office through a back alley.
About 25 riot police were hurt and hospitalized, and protesters smashed the windows of four police buses, said an officer at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency without giving his name, citing office policy. The injuries were not critical, he said.
The officer had no information on the number of protesters injured, and rally organizers were not immediately available for comment. News cable channel YTN said “dozens” of protesters were hurt.
South Koreans have been taking to the streets for weeks to criticize South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for his handling of an April agreement with Washington to restart imports of US beef.
Many South Koreans fear that the beef deal fails to protect the nation from mad cow disease by allowing beef from older US cattle, considered at greater risk of the illness.
Protesters complain Lee has ignored their concerns about mad cow disease, has behaved arrogantly and has given in to US demands.
Presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said on Friday that all eight senior presidential secretaries — including himself and the presidential chief of staff — had offered to resign.
In South Korea, senior officials sometimes offer to step down during times of crisis to deflect or diminish criticism of an embattled leader.
The spokesman said yesterday it was not clear whether or when the president would accept the resignations.
South Korea’s government said last week it would begin allowing imports this week, but withdrew the plan at the last minute on Monday, apparently fearful of a public backlash.
The government also said it has asked the US to refrain from exporting beef from cattle 30 months of age or older.
Still, it stopped short of directly asking Washington for a renegotiation of the deal and failed to calm public anger.
President Lee said on Friday he would take a “humble attitude” and listen to the people, but ruled out any formal renegotiation, saying it might spark a trade dispute that could affect the country’s export-driven economy, especially the key auto and semiconductor industries.
Lee said he would seek other ways to keep beef from older cattle from entering the country, and that the US is “actively cooperating” with Seoul to find a solution.
US beef has been banned from South Korea for most of the past four and a half years since the first case of mad cow disease in the US was discovered in late 2003. Two subsequent cases were found.
Scientists believe the disease spreads when farmers feed cattle recycled meat and bones from infected animals. The US banned recycled feeds in 1997.
In humans, eating meat products contaminated with the illness is linked to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare and fatal malady blamed for the deaths of over 150 people worldwide, mostly in Britain.
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after