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Farmer protesters rounded up

By Ser Myo-ja <myoja@joongang.co.kr>, JoongAng Ilbo, 21 November 2003

The Seoul police yesterday rounded up 102 protesters who allegedly were involved in violence at a farmers’ rally on Wednesday.

More than 70,000 farmers had gathered in Seoul to protest Korea’s free trade agreement with Chile and World Trade Organization talks aimed at lowering barriers to Korea’s rice market. Some of the demonstrators clashed with police.

Police said 30 riot police officers were injured. Protesters also burned two police buses on their way to the National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul. Police said they would find and strictly punish those involved in the arson.

Police said they would study photos taken at the rally in order to identify 10 protesters who allegedly used sticks to hit police officers and would seek warrants to detain the demonstrators today.

Figures were not immediately available on how many protesters may have been injured.

Grand National Party lawmakers criticized the agriculture ministry for failing to cope with the situation.

Lawmakers yesterday postponed deliberation of a special bill to ratify the free trade agreement with Chile, and analysts said that, given the strong resistance from farmers, it would not be easy for the National Assembly to endorse the pact.