MICHELLE NORRIS, host:
South Korea began the weekend with more street protests. Anti-government demonstrators criticized plans to resume imports of U.S. beef, afraid those imports may carry Mad Cow Disease. Pro-government groups, meanwhile, staged a counter-protest, warning that the political chaos could threaten national security.
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports from Seoul.
(Soundbite of siren)
ANTHONY KUHN: Downtown Seoul was gridlocked today by emergency vehicles, with their sirens blaring in solidarity with pro-government protesters. Hundreds of South Korean Army veterans march through the streets in full battle dress. They opposed protests against U.S. beef imports and against President Lee Myung-bak.
(Soundbite of protest)
KUHN: At one intersection, the old soldiers jostled with anti-government protesters. Retired South Korean Army Major, Mun Whi Whan(ph), said that the veterans had been itching to launch counter-demonstrations for days. He added that behind the anti-U.S. beef protests were communist forces loyal to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Mr. MUN WHI WHAN: Their real mission is to out - to destroy current government. Not only the (unintelligible) government, but entire the Korean democratic country - to be replaced by Kim Jong-il. We have every evidence. So we could not wait any longer.
KUHN: North Korean media have covered the anti-government protests in detail. This week, the ruling party's main news paper praised the anti-American beef movement as an anti-U.S., anti-fascist protest of the South Korean people to achieve democracy and unification with the North.
(Soundbite of protest)
KUHN: At Seoul City Hall, anti-government protesters mark the sixth anniversary of a traffic incident in which two U.S. soldiers stationed here hit and killed two local girls. The soldiers were tried and acquitted. Yu Yang Jay(ph) is a protest organizer.
Mr. YU YANG JAY: (Speaking foreign language)
KUHN: There are similarities between these two issues, he said. In both cases, the U.S. and South Korean governments ignored the people's opinions.
More protests, including a truckers strike over fuel prizes, are expected tomorrow.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Seoul.
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