South Korea police clash with protesters at ferry disaster rally
Demonstrators block main Seoul thoroughfare to mark first anniversary of tragedy
South Korea protesters clash with police at a rally marking the first anniversary of the Sewol ferry disaster in downtown Seoul. Photograph: Yon Hap/EPA
South Korean police clashed with thousands of protesters, blocking their way to the presidential palace, where demonstrators hoped to demand a more vigorous government response to a ferry disaster that claimed more than 300 lives a year ago.
About 13,000 police and 470 police buses were deployed in the area around Seoul’s main ceremonial thoroughfare and 100 protesters were arrested, a Seoul metropolitan police agency official said.
The rally, organised by a group representing families of the victims, was the largest in recent weeks as the country marked the first anniversary of the April 16th disaster.
Police said they used buses to barricade the marchers’ route to the presidential Blue House, and deployed a water cannon and pepper spray. Several police buses were damaged.
A fire department official said nine protesters and three police were taken to hospital, while three protesters received first aid at the site.
The rally began at midday on Saturday, with a crowd demanding the government allow an independent inquiry into the disaster and make an immediate decision to raise the Sewol ferry.
The ferry was on a routine journey from Incheon to the southern island of Jeju when it capsized while making a sharp turn and sank. Among the 304 victims were 250 students on a class trip.
The ferry was later found to have been structurally unsound and overloaded with cargo.
Anger still runs high among the families of victims. They say the government let them down again this week, by failing to announce a plan to raise the ferry by the first anniversary of the event.
President Park Geun-hye said the government would begin preparing to raise the 6,800-tonne ship, her clearest indication yet of a retrieval plan.
The country’s umbrella labour federation joined the rally and vowed to join forces with victims’ families to continue protests, calling for more rallies next weekend.