photo: Yonhap News Agency
The Olympic torch has come and gone through South Korea but not without surprises. The trip through Japan was marked with some outcry from groups that are critical of China’s policies in Tibet but Seoul was an entirely different matter since the most criticism against China’s human rights violations stems from its treatment of North Korean defectors that are caught in China and repatriated to North Korea despite the likelihood of prison if not execution, upon return to North Korea.
Seoul deployed close to 8,000 police to protect the torch relay through South Korea but it seems that China had mobilized up to 6,800 Chinese (estimated by police) who “shouted pro-Beijing slogans, with many of them running alongside the torch bearers”Yonhap. Clashes between those Koreans protesting the human rights record of China and the Chinese supporters were marked by thrown rocks and water bottles from the Chinese. NY Times. Other than one journalist struck in the head by a rock, no other injuries occurred.
One North Korean defector (Son Jong Hoon) who had tried to save his brother from execution in North Korea attempted to set himself on fire, in protest but was stopped by police.
Some Chinese did not understand why Korean activist groups were protesting during the relay:
The Olympics are not a political issue, I can’t understand why the Korean activist groups are protesting human rights or other diplomatic issues.
Sun Cheng, 22, a Chinese Korean language student in Seoul.
IMHO, Sun Cheng should go back to China since he does not seem to understand why others would be so concerned with human rights — and take about 6,000 of his fellows back with him where they will not be bothered with such extravagant concerns such as human rights or, for that much, legal due process.
Choe Sang-hun has filed a report with the NY Times and apparently groups of protesters were set upon by Chinese in Seoul:
When lone protesters demanded that China stop repatriating North Korean refugees, they were quickly surrounded by jeering Chinese. Near the park, Chinese students surrounded and beat a small group of protesters, news reports said.