SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters -- South Korean riot police stormed university campuses across the country Wednesday in surprise raids aimed at dismantling a radical student organization, a national police spokesman said.
Altogether 347 students were detained in an operation in which about 12,000 police hit 23 universities in major cities and provinces, including 11 campuses in Seoul, the spokesman said.
Police also combed the offices of Hanchongryon, the Korean Federation of University Student Councils behind recent bloody protests demanding reunification with communist North Korea.
They seized 10 truckloads of steel pipes and gasoline-fueled fire bombs, leaflets and literature supporting the communist ideology which were to be used in demonstrations, the spokesman said.
Capitalist South Korea, still technically at war with the Stalinist North since the 1950-53 Korean war, bans communist activities under its national security law.
Hours after the police raids, government security officials discussed measures to deal with Hanchongryon, a Seoul prosecution official said. The officials pledged to disband the student federation and agreed to launch a joint investigation to quell the federation and leftist elements pulling strings behind it, he added.
Since its inauguration in 1993, Hanchongryon has been blamed for fomenting hundreds of violent student demonstrations, including outlawed rallies earlier this month at Seoul's Yonsei University.
Police detained more than 5,000 students and nearly 400 Hanchongryon members were formally arrested in week-long violent protests to back demands for reunification with communist North Korea. Riot police finally crushed the protests on August 20.
Hanchongryon claims it has several hundreds of thousands of members under its umbrella, but police said only thousands are taking part in its activities.
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