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Date: Tue, 1 Oct 1996 16:29:53 -0500
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>>> Item number 9553, dated 96/09/26 17:19:36—ALL
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 1996 17:19:36 GMT
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From: Arm The Spirit <ats@locust.cic.net>
Subject: Documentation On Repression Against South Korean Student Movement

(Posted by Sarangbang Center for Human Rights in South Korea)

5,715 Students Arrested After 9 Day Protest And Police Brutality

By Minkahyup Human Rights Group for Prisoners Of Conscience, 26 September 1996



1. Current Status

2. Background

3. Police Brutality

—Excessive Force

—Illegal Arrests & Beatings

—Unprecedented Equipment & Strength

4. Government Use Of Police Subjugation

5. Biased Media Reports



This report was prepared by Minkahyup Human Rights Group for Prisoners of Conscience based on direct testimonies and eyewitness statements by students, families of the students, and other persons on the scene, and through the monitoring of the various national press reports.

1. Current Status

As of August 20, a record-breaking total of 5,715 students have been taken into police custody since August 12, and 94 of them have been formally charged. The majority are still under investigation, and some have been given lenient measures with fines, warnings, and summary sentences.

From August 14 to August 19 at Yonsei University in Seoul, approximately 4,000 students of ’Hanchongnyon,’ or the Korea Federation of University Student Councils were completely sealed off in the science building and the general building by some 12,000 policemen. Two helicopters hovered over the two buildings, pouring down liquidized and colored tear gas, and the 3,400 policemen blocking the entrance to the buildings fired tear gas grenades towards the students in the buildings. Some of the students on the roof of the building with umbrellas to avoid the liquidized tear gas from helicopters were appealing to the outside, saying Guarantee our safe return and we will disperse. The students also posted signs on the windows of the building, saying We wanna go home, and Mom, I’m hungry. Police’s complete blockade of all the 4 entrances to the university allowed no one in or out of the campus as the police cut off all supplies of food and medicine to the students for several days.

The 9 day confrontation between the students and the police came to end when the police stormed into the two buildings beating and arresting the students early in the morning of 20 August. At approximately 5:45 a.m. on August 20, 2 helicopters and 5,000 armed combat policemen began their operation on the students in the general building. They blocked off the main entrance to the building, as well as the access to the roof. The police, then, set fire to the barricade made by the students at the entrance and on the roof for defense, and the helicopters began pouring down the liquidized tear gas from the air. The smoke from the fire and the tear gas filled the whole building driving the students out onto the roof, where the students raised a white flag at about 6:15 a.m., for they couldn’t withstand the smoke and tear gas any more. However, even after the students’ surrender did the helicopters and the police continue pouring the fire tear gas upon the students. Finally, the police occupied the entire building, arresting some 1,800 students. Being arrested, the students were kicked and relentlessly beaten by police clubs.

Meanwhile, some 2,500 students in the science building began to escape through the west gate of Yonsei University at about 9:45 a.m. in an attempt to avoid any possible disasters with the explosives and dangerous chemicals in the building. The police having been caught off guard began mobilizing its forces into the hills and residential areas outside the west gate at approximately 10:10 a.m. The students who were unable to run away very far began hiding in the houses around the area. Then, the police proceeded to make illegal searches without warrants of private homes in the area, at times breaking down the doors with batons. Of the 2,500 students, some 1,000 students were captured in the process, and some 1,000 to 1,500 students are still on the run or in hiding from the police.

The students arrested on August 20 were taken to Yonhee Elementary School and Ewha Girls’ High School for investigation. Both schools were completely sealed off by the police, and the families looking for their sons and/or daughters were not allowed to confirm their sons/daughters whereabouts. During the initial interrogation by the police at the latter schools, with the exception of a few statements about their identity, the students were not allowed to speak and the police drew up the investigation report without any statements made by the students being interrogated. Thereafter, the 3,200 some students arrested on August 20 alone were incarcerated in some 30 police stations across the city.

The students under arrest have been denied legal counsel and family visitations. There are also reports of sexual harrassment of female students and police brutality during the investigation and interrogation of the detained students as well as during the arresting operations.

2. Background

Hanchongnyon had scheduled to hold a pan-national reunification rally at Yonsei University for 3 days from August 13-15. This reunification rally has been held annually since 1990 for the purpose of discussing the issue of reunification with various organizations and individuals from South Korea, North Korea, and Koreans residing abroad in commemoration of August 15 - liberation of Korea from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.

It has been reported that Hanchongnyon had repeatedly requested to see the Reunification Minister and related ministers since late July in order to hold a peaceful assembly. On August 13, when the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Education announced their measure to block the event, Hanchongnyon appealed to President Kim Young-sam to be able to hold a peaceful rally.

However, on August 9, the authorities announced their decision to hold such Hanchongnyon rallies illegal, and to deal strictly with the various rallies scheduled to be held by Hanchongnyon in preparation for August 15. Thereafter, it was announced that the Hanchongnyon reunification rally would be completely sealed off and dealt with absolute strictness as an illegal event.

Consequently, beginning on August 10, the government dispatched 177 squads, totalling 21,000 police officers, around the area of Yonsei University, completely sealing off the campus. Then, on August 13, the police blocked off the 8 lane road in front of the university to disperse the scheduled event. Meanwhile, the police made random illegal searches and inspections of regular citizens in the area of the university, arresting youths who had nothing to do with the event.

On August 13, some 3,000 students penetrated the police blockade and entered the university, and on August 14, several thousands of additional students succeeded in entering the school. With a total of approximately 7,000 students, the reunification rally commenced on the campus of Yonsei University on August 14.

However, on the same day, the government authorities dispatched some 6,000 armed police officers and 12 helicopters into the university in order to put a stop to the event. As a result, some of the students on campus were taken into custody. Since then, the police and the students have been on a stand off.

On August 15, with the continuous pouring of tear gas by police helicopters and police ground forces gaining increasing amounts of material reinforcement and support, not only were more students getting injured, but it was realistically impossible to continue with the event. Consequently, at approximately 3:00 p.m., Hanchongnyon officially announced its decision to stop the remaining program of the event and disperse.

However, the authorities announced that it would inspect all participants of the event, mobilizing more material reinforcements. At approximately 5:00 p.m. on August 15, the students, chased by the police, escaped into the science and general buildings of Yonsei University.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to arrest all the students who had escaped into the two buildings, the police began to pour tear gas over the two buildings with helicopters, mobilizing some 7,000 police officers and heavy machinery, such as construction cranes and drillers. This situation continued until approximately 10:00 p.m. on August 16.

In the morning of August 17, while the police had receded to immediately outside the main gate to the campus, the students came out of the two buildings and cleaned the campus, holding a small rally around 11:00 a.m. to disperse and go home. However, the 7,000 police officers made a surprise attack, entering the campus with tear gas bombs. The students again escaped into the two buildings. The majority of the students were injured in the process, and 214 students were taken into police custody.

The police succeeded in gaining control of the campus within 30 minutes of their surprise attack, and for the 3 days thereafter 12,000 officers surrounded the two buildings.

The police continuously fired tear gas bombs, also pouring tear gas from helicopters, inspite of the fact that the students in the two buildings were not armed and had absolutely no weapons. Moreover, beginning on August 17, the police prohibited any food or medicine from entering the two buildings. Consequently, the majority of the students trapped in the two buildings, injured and starved, had no access to medicine or food, and were suffering from exhaustion and dehydration.

Also, on the evening of August 17, the police requested the school authorities to cut off all electricity and water to the two buildings. However, when the school authorities refused, the police requested the Korea Power Co. and Seoul water supply facilities to cut the electricity and water.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. on August 17, the police searched and seized 7 university campus offices of Hanchongnyon, including Korea University, Pusan University, and Chosun University, with 27 squads totaling 3,500 officers.

In addition, beginning on the night of August 15, the authorities stationed some 5,000 police officers across the country at 201 bus terminals, toll gates, and check points, carrying out random illegal inspections, in order to arrest any students that may have escaped from Yonsei University.

3. Police Brutality

a. Excessive Force

In the 9 days of continuous police subjugation between August 12 and 20, it is difficult to obtain an exact figure of the number of students injured by the use of police force. There are countless students injured by being caught under police shields, tear gas bombs, and rocks thrown by the police.

There are also students, who are close to losing their sight, by rocks and blows fired directly upon the students. Kim Hyun-ki (age 21, 2nd year Yonsei Pre-Med student) was hit by a rock thrown by a riot police on the night of August 16, and received surgery on his left eye at Yonsei Medical Center. However, he is still in danger of losing his sight. Also, at approximately 3:00 p.m. on August 17, Tak Soo-keun (age 24, 4th year Daejon Baptist Theology University student) was directly hit by 2 tear gas bombs on his left eye and his chin. He was immediately taken to the hospital, but is also in danger of losing his sight.

On August 12, Oh Seung-joon (age 22, Donga University student) had his ribs broken by a direct hit; on August 14, Jung In-sung (age 21, Daejon Technical University student) was injured on his head by police beatings; and on August 15, Kim Jae-hong (age 21, Yonsei University student) had his head cut open by a police baton in a physical struggle.

Meanwhile, beginning on August 13, the police, having completely sealed off all entrances to the university, prohibited the entrance of ambulances to escort those who had been seriously injured. At approximately 10:30 p.m. on August 15, the police prohibited the entrance of an ambulance from Dankuk University Hospital to move Kim Soon-ku (age 20, 2nd year Dankuk University student), who had been injured on his head by police beatings.

The majority of the students who had been trapped in the two buildings on campus suffered from exhaustion, dehydration, diarrhea, and infections due to the inability to treat injuries from lack of medical supplies.

According to a Yonsei University medical student, who had been giving first aid treatment to injured students within the science building, many of the students passed out due to the continuous pouring of tear gas for 4 hours between 4:30 and 8:40 p.m. on August 15. Some of the students had heart seizures, and one female student had a momentary heart failure.

He continued, I had to treat approximately 400 students a day, and those who suffer from skin blisters and burns due to the tear gas number over 1,000 as of August 16.

On the night of August 17, the doctors of the Humanitarian Doctors Association and medical personnel from various medical centers demanded the allowance of medical supplies for the treatment of injured students, but were ignored by the police.

b. Illegal Arrests & Beatings

Beginning on August 10, the police made random illegal inspections of students, residents, and regular citizens in the area around the university, making illegal arrests of some and beating others who resisted the arrest with metal pipes and police batons.

Beginning on August 12, the police forcibly halted buses and automobiles passing in front of the university, making illegal arrests of persons on the vehicles. On August 14 at approximately 11:00 a.m., the police stopped a bus (bus #130), and made 9 students, who had nothing to do with the event at Yonsei University, get off the bus. The students were taken to the police station, and illegally detained for 2 days.

Also, the police enforced brutality upon reporters and journalists on the scene, firing upon the citizens protesting the use of violence by the police. At approximately 2:00 p.m. on August 17, 20 police officers in plain clothes from the Pusan District Police Administration surrounded Kim Won-jang (reporter of Korea Broadcasting Co.) in front of Yonsei University Student Hall, beating him on his face and his waist. At the time, Kim was in the process of documenting a scene where the police were using metal pipes and throwing stones at the students in the subjugation procedure.

At approximately 5:00 p.m. on August 17, while the police was carrying out search and seizure of 7 different universities across the country, they also arrested students on these campuses.

The police illegally arrested students without confirming whether they had participated in the rally, and on August 15, the police took into custody some 20 students from a train station.

Moreover, in the process of arresting students, the police regularly use violence without provocation, beating them on the head and kicking them. With the continued arrests of students, there is fear of ill-treatment both during the arrests and during the period of detention.

c. Unprecedented Equipment & Strength

The present situation with Yonsei University has been record breaking in many respects. As of August 20, there have been more than 5,000 arrests, and the number of tear gas bombs used is staggering.

According to figures compiled by the police, between August 12-18, the police have used some 7,000 bombs, including tear gas bombs, averaging to 1,000 a day. Moreover, after the Kunkook University situation in 1986 and the Pan-national Reunification Rally in 1994, this is the third time the police have mobilized helicopters in suppressing an assembly. It is unprecedented for 12 helicopters to have been used. The number of armed police officers averages to a minimum of 18,000 to a maximum of 21,000 per day.

4. Government Use Of Police


Beginning with the announcement of Prime Minister Yi Soo-sung on August 9 on the decision of the related ministers to consider Hanchongnyon’s reunification rally illegal and to deal with it with utmost severity, on August 16, it was announced that Hanchongnyon would be completely dissolved.

It was also announced on August 13 by the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Education in a national address that all measures within the limits of the law will be mobilized to secure control of the leaders and instigators of the rally.

Although Hanchongnyon had announced on August 15 of its decision to cancel all remaining events and disperse, the government authorities continued to subjugate the students, announcing that it would investigate all participants of the rally and that it would completely dissolve the national student representative body, ’Hanchongnyon.’

On August 16, a spokesperson of President Kim Young-sam’s New Korea Party announced that it would bring charges against the leaders of Hanchongnyon in order to cut its power from the roots, and on August 17, Choi Byoung-gook, the chief of security of the National Prosecutor’s Office announced that all organs and organizations under Hanchongnyon will be investigated to see if they are anti-state organizations, and in effect, Hanchongnyon will be dissolved. Also, in a cabinet meeting held by President Kim Young-sam, it was announced that Hanchongnyon will be dissolved from the roots, and the participants of the rally will be caught and investigated no matter what.

On August 18, the National Prosecutor’s Office announced its decision to investigate all the students in the two buildings and criminally charge them with invasion of private property and use of fire bombs, as well as making a complete and thorough investigation into all the regional and national Hanchongnyon officers in connection with the rally.

In response to the students who have demanded for their safe return home, the police continued to state on August 19 that there can be no negotiations with criminals.

5. Biased Media Reports

Since the beginning, the media has been making biased reports. The Korea Broadcasting Station (KBS) reported that As a result of extreme and violent demonstrations, having gone beyond the limits of the student movement, the university campus, a peaceful environment for education, has turned into a war zone, and that The presence of the demonstrators has completely paralyzed the city. (August 14, KBS 9:00 p.m.)

Also on August 14, KBS reported an interview with a police officer dressed in plain clothes, disguised as a regular citizen named Choi Jung-won. He expressed, An event like this must be crushed from the beginning, and students are nothing but communists. After the interview, the same man was seen in the news broadcast among the police carrying out search and seizure of the school.

It is said that such reports are not the product of actual reporters on the scene, but the product of high level officials in the broadcasting companies. On August 16, the KBS Labor Union announced that the reports made within August 14-15 had characteristics similar to censored reports made during the past military regimes. In the same statement, the union expressed doubts about whether the stations were actually independent of government control, and disclosed that editors of the various sections had made specific instructions to the reporters regarding the content of the report, such as ’describe the students as guerrillas; describe the school as a war zone; etc, at times writing 2/3 of the reports.

In addition, televisions and newspapers such as Chosun Daily Newspaper utilized the opinion sections and the editor’s columns to describe Hanchongnyon as a pro-North Korean organization, attempting to overthrow the South Korean government, justifying and encouraging the use of police violence and government policy.

Moreover, although the students had ceased to be in direct confrontation with the police forces since late August 16 by being completely sealed off into the campus buildings, the news reports continuously broadcasted scenes of students clashing with the police, portraying the students as violent radicals without a cause.


Not only is it a complete violation of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly for the government to disband a peaceful rally and dissolve a national student representative body, but the current policy taken by the police in disregarding all humanitarian measures of allowing food, water, and medical supplies for the students cannot be justified under any means.

The right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly, both guaranteed and stipulated under international human rights instruments, have been completely disregarded in the attempt to dissolve the Hanchongnyon reunification rally and the organization itself, which has resulted in nothing but violence prompted by the security forces.

With the continued arrests of students, there is fear of ill-treatment by the police in the process of arrest and while in detention.

Ill-treatment of detainees cannot be tolerated under any circumstances, and the right to legal counsel must be guaranteed.

The events of the past week will be recorded in history as an occasion of the abuse of police forces in an unprecedented scale.

Minkahyup Human Rights Group for Prisoners Of Conscience
2FL, 592-7 Changshin-2-dong, Jongno-ku
Seoul 110-542
Tel: 82-2-763-2606 fax: 82-2-745-5604

Sarangbang Center for Human Rights in South Korea
Choyang Bldg. 3FL, 71-12 Kalwol-dong Yongsan-gu
Tel : 82-2-715-9185, Fax : 82-2-715-9186
E-Mail: rights@interpia.net