S. Korea gov't cracks down on protesters

June 30, 2008 at 9:24 AM
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SEOUL, June 30 (UPI) -- South Korean officials say they are instituting a "get tough" policy with anti-U.S. beef protesters, whose weekly vigils turned violent over the weekend.

South Korean Prosecutor General Lim Chai-jin told a gathering of the nation's most senior criminal and security prosecutors in Seoul that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is serious about ending the conflicts with demonstrators, who are angry at a decision to allow some U.S. beef imports into the country.

The protests evolved from peaceful candlelight vigils attended by thousands of people into a violent melee Saturday night, in which 200 demonstrators and 112 police officers were injured, the Yonhap news agency reported.

"If people who don't like a government policy take to the streets every time they want and do not refrain from violence, the freedom of all of us will be in serious jeopardy," Lim told the prosecutors, saying the government is vowing an "all-out crackdown" on protesters, both in the streets and on the Internet.

The government's move to crack down on demonstrators is an about-face from earlier efforts to apologize to citizens about mishandling negotiations with the United States on beef imports. It now allows beef imports from cattle under 30 months old.

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