By Lee Minji
SEOUL, Sept. 25 (Yonhap) -- The police on Friday vowed to fully exercise their authority permitted by law to completely block illegal mass rallies planned by some conservative groups on an upcoming national holiday amid fears that the rallies may trigger another resurgence of the new coronavirus in the country.
At least 18 organizations have reported to the police on holding rallies across the country on Oct. 3, with one of them planning to bring together around 1,000 participants in central Seoul.
In a meeting with ranking police officials, National Police Agency chief Kim Chang-yong said the police will "completely block" the scheduled rallies "using all their power permitted by law."
As part of their response, Kim said the police plan to run a three-tier checkpoint system to prevent protesters from entering central Seoul and mobilize all possible forces and equipment.
Around 95 checkpoints are set to be in operation at major roads connecting highways to Seoul, with police checking vehicles that carry people who may take part in the rallies, according to Kim.
Regarding some organizations that announced plans to hold car parades instead of outdoor rallies, the police chief said they will also be strictly prohibited. Drivers taking part in illegal rallies will face fines and potentially have their driver's licenses suspended or stripped.
The remarks come amid concerns that rallies involving thousands of participants may trigger another resurgence in new coronavirus cases in South Korea.
Anti-government rallies held on Aug. 15, which was Liberation Day here, are blamed for a spike in cases that has driven the country's daily infections to three-digits in the past few weeks.
Thousands of rally participants gathered in Gwanghwamun in central Seoul, with at least 627 people testing positive for the virus in relation to the mass rallies as of Friday noon, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.
Despite the government's repeated warnings on holding rallies on Oct. 3, conservative organizations said they have no plans to call off the scheduled gatherings.
Earlier in the day, Choi In-sik, secretary-general of a conservative organization that played a central role in the Aug. 15 rallies, said the group will file a court complaint against the police's decision on banning rallies.
"Not permitting the Oct. 3 rallies is not to protect the lives of the people but to protect the administration," Choi said, stressing the group will not back down from "threats."
On Thursday, leaders of some other conservative groups said they plan to call off outdoor rallies but instead will hold car parades to voice their anger against the government.
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