What happened during Bush's visit in Seoul
5 March 2002
From: Gyung-Lan Jung
Greetings from Seoul!
I would like to inform you of what happened to some activists during a street demonstration against Bush policies at the time of his visit to South Korea. Many friends abroad have been wondering what is going on in South Korea and especially about the activities of Women Making Peace (WMP) with respect to our campaign for peace at this time of heightened war tension caused by Bush.
I put some outline of events during Bush's visit and Ms. Hyun-Sook Lee's injury and so on. Ms. Hyun-Sook Lee is a co-representative of Women Making Peace.
1. An outline of events
The members of WMP have carried on a variety of demonstrations and programs against war and violence since 911. We have raised the people's awareness of issues, their conviction against war, and their desire for lasting peace. We have promoted sending messages of this stand to President Bush and President Kim.
After Bush declared North Korea to be part of an "axis of evil" and used other inflammatory rhetoric interpreted by North Korea as insulting, we, South Koreans, have felt uneasy about the increased possibility of war on the Korean peninsula. The general level of anger and frustration with Bush and his administration is on the rise because of Washington's disregard for the hazards thrust upon us. WMP has declared its position and carried out daily one-person demonstrations prior to Bush's visit. (Korean regulations prohibit mass demonstrations near foreign embassies and other locations.) We also joined in planning and holding a mass open-air demonstration held with other NGOs, civic leaders, and church people during the Bush visit.
On February 20, 2002, Chongno-4ga (the name of a street) was filled with over 6,000 citizens including women, laborers, farmers and students. (Some students were prevented from joining by police.)
People from environmental, reunification, religious, and other organizations from all over the country were there. The participants proclaimed themselves adamantly against war and in favor of a permanent peace. They called on Bush to revoke his hostile stance toward the North. They declared opposition to an unequal world order based on neoliberalism and globalization. They objected to Bush's very visit to South Korea. This public gathering proceeded peacefully as a lawful demonstration permitted by the government. Women especially elevated the peaceful mood by sitting at the front of the stage with colorful dove-shaped pickets. (It was so beautiful!)
However, all of a sudden, the police came into the crowd of demonstrators when farmers were about to burn a small American flag made of paper. This action by the farmers was not part of the planned program, but the problem was the aggressive and violent action of the police. They hit participants with their shields and billy clubs. A few excited participants began to resist them, and the meeting fell into disorder.
2. On the injury of Hyun-sook Lee
Due to the violent and excessive action of the police, some participants were injured and bleeding. One of them was Hyun-sook Lee, a co-representative of WMP. She was beaten by police. Her glasses were broken, and she was bruised. Furthermore, she was seriously hurt on the left side of her face by something unknown. Members of WMP were very shocked by the blood that followed and took her to the emergency ward of a general hospital. She had over 50 stitches taken in the wound, a procedure lasting 40 minutes.
3. Following events
Reports on Lee's injury were carried by MBC (a major broadcaster in Korea) and Ohmynews (a web-based newspaper, www.ohmynews.com ) among others. The press criticized the violent action of the police.
Women Making Peace declaimed this violent action by those responsible for the well-being and safety of the people. They have called for just punishment of the guilty given the breach of security due peaceful and lawful demonstrators. WMP and other organizations visited Seoul police headquarters to meet the Seoul Chief of Police, but were denied access.
We, Women Making Peace, deplore the handling of this incident. We don't want any violence. We will continue to press for redress, and we will continue our efforts for peace through campaigns, statements, and nonviolent representation of our views.