South Korean police yesterday banned an anti-government demonstration planned in Seoul next week, citing concerns the protest could turn violent, a spokesman said.
However, activists vowed to push ahead with the rally on Saturday next week outside Seoul City Hall.
Police acted under a law allowing them to ban street protests if there is a risk of them turning violent, the spokesman for the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency told reporters.
Police warned leaders of activist groups who defy the ban would be arrested, as would participants who refuse to disperse.
Critics say the conservative government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, a daughter of heavy-handed late South Korean president Park Chung-hee, is slipping back into authoritarian rule.
The ban was in line with a government warning on Friday of zero violence in street protests.
South Korean Minister of Justice Kim Hyun-woong said in a televised address that the government was determined to “eradicate” any public disorder and stressed that violators would “pay the price.”
Kim had issued a similar warning before a huge anti-government rally in Seoul on Nov. 14 that drew about 60,000 people and spawned numerous clashes between protestors and police who used pepper spray and water cannons.
The focus of the protests is quite wide, incorporating opposition to labor reforms, the opening of the agricultural market and plans to impose government-issued history textbooks on schools.
The president condemned the Nov. 14 protest as an effort to “deny the rule of law” and urged strong measures against those identified as inciting violence.
Park Geun-hye also said the wearing of masks by protestors should be prohibited, saying it was the sort of practice adopted by the Islamic State group, sparking angry reactions from opponents.
Her ruling conservative Saenuri Party on Wednesday proposed a bill in parliament to ban such masks.
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