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Long-delayed funeral for Yongsan fire victims held in Seoul

All Headlines 21:17 January 09, 2010

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- Funeral services were held Saturday for five squatters, 355 days after they were killed during a clash with police trying to evict them from a dilapidated building to be demolished for a city re-development.

The five, all tenants of the five-story building in Seoul's Yongsan district, were holding up on the rooftop when police tried to remove them. They were burned to death in a fire that erupted during the clash. One police officer was also killed.

The incident quickly became a political issue as critics accused the government of using excessive police power against underprivileged people which caused heavy casualties. Prime Minister Chung Un-chan was forced to offer an apology.

The funeral had been delayed due to differences over compensations between redevelopers and the families of the victims. After drawn-out negotiations, the two sides reached a settlement on Dec. 30.

About 5,000 people, including opposition politicians, attended the outdoor funeral. The funeral for the policeman killed was held last year, two days after the incident.

The funeral was followed by a massive street march by citizens carrying the coffins of the victims and large portraits of them.

"We are now able to bury those victims who have been in a cold storage warehouse for nearly a year. May they rest in peace," Lee Kang-sil, head of the organizing committee for the funeral said in his speech.

Jeon Jae-sook, widow of Lee Sang-rim, one of the victims, said, "I thank all of you for sharing the last moment of the dead. I hope such a tragic incident will not recur."
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