Protests, Counter-Protests Spread in South Korea Today in Seoul, right-wing veterans of the Korean War staged a counter-demonstration, claiming that the tens of thousands of Koreans who have been protesting plans to import U.S. beef are being used by North Korea's communists. Meanwhile, protesters observed the sixth anniversary today of the deaths of two South Korean girls who were run over by a U.S. military vehicle.
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Protests, Counter-Protests Spread in South Korea

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Protests, Counter-Protests Spread in South Korea

Protests, Counter-Protests Spread in South Korea

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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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