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South Korean military planned crackdown on Park protesters

By Wooyoung Lee
South Korean military planned crackdown on Park protesters
Police set up barricades in front of the Seoul Central District Court on April 6, 2018, when the court is scheduled to sentence impeached former President Park Geun-hye. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, July 6 (UPI) -- The South Korean military considered using force to quell protesters calling for the resignation of former President Park Geun-hye when her corruption and influence-peddling scandal swept the nation two years ago, according to a report revealed by a Democrat lawmaker.

The report, disclosed by Lee Cheol-hee of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, includes the South Korean military's plan for declaring a martial law under which they are authorized to use military force to crackdown protesters.

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The report was written by the counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence military agency Defense Security Command in March last year and reported to the defense minister, according to Hankyoreh.

The report supposes a scenario in which massive protests happen across the nation when the court rejects the impeachment of the former President Park Geun-hye. It details a plan to mobilize military resources and soldiers, including 200 tanks, 550 armored vehicles, 4,800 armed troops and 1,400 special forces.

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Thousands of citizens took to the streets from October, 2016 to earlier last year, outraged by a series of corruption and influence-peddling cases of then-President Park Geun-hye. Protests continued every weekend calling Park to step down. In December, 2016, the South Korean Constitutional Court ruled Park to be removed from her office.

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"This plan reminds us the military crackdown on civilians during the May 18 democratic movement in Gwangju," said Lim Tae-hoon, director of the Center for Military Human Rights Korea, said in a press briefing Friday. Civilians in the city of Gwangju were brutally suppressed by the military in pro-democracy protests against the authoritarian government in 1980.

Earlier this year, the Seoul-based civic group revealed part of the South Korean military's plan for the crackdown on anti-Park Geun-hye rallies. It released the full military report on its website on Friday.

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Democrat Lee Cheol-hee said: "The candlelight protests were praised as an example of a peaceful demonstration without any signs of violence. The citizens exercised their own rights at the protests and the military viewed it as something they need to crush," in an interview with CBS Radio on Friday.

Last year, the German foundation of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) awarded a human rights awards to some 17 million Seoul citizens for their peaceful participation in candlelight protests, demanding investigations into the scandal and impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.

The Defense Ministry said Friday they would carry out an investigation into the report.

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"The Ministry will probe whether the report breaches the law," said Defense Ministry Spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo in a press brefing on Friday, Yonhap reported.

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