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(LEAD) Court upholds ban on mass anti-gov't rallies on Hangeul Day

National 21:21 October 08, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details throughout)

SEOUL, Oct. 8 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court on Thursday upheld a decision to ban anti-government rallies in downtown Seoul on the national Hangeul Day holiday in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Seoul Administrative Court overturned requests by two conservative civic groups and the ultra-conservative Our Republican Party to rescind a decision by the police and the Seoul Metropolitan Government to ban mass anti-government protests that were announced for Friday in Gwanghwamun Square in the capital.

"If 1,000 people from across the country gather at the rally and make close contact with one another, the spread of the infectious disease seems unavoidable," the court ruled.

The government has taken a hard-line stance against public rallies after anti-government protests on Aug. 15 were partly blamed for a flare-up in new virus cases.

Police officers patrol Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul on Oct. 2, 2020, a day before a planned drive-thru demonstration by conservative groups. (Yonhap)

On Saturday, the government physically and legally blocked anti-government protests that were previously announced, prompting protestors to resort to limited "drive-thru" rallies using cars after winning conditional court approval.

The government has issued warnings against illegal anti-government rallies planned by conservative groups on concerns that the mass gatherings could hamper the country's efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

In light of repeated government warnings against mass protests, several conservative groups announced plans to stage limited drive-thru rallies again on Friday and Saturday.

On Thursday, South Korea added 69 COVID-19 cases, including 60 local infections, raising the total caseload to 24,422, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Health authorities have warned that the country could see an uptick in COVID-19 cases after the five-day Chuseok holiday that ran through last Sunday.

Police buses are placed surrounding Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul on Oct. 3, 2020, to deter abrupt and illegal rallies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Yonhap)


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