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(LEAD) Small rallies held in Seoul amid coronavirus concerns

Diplomacy 16:27 March 01, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- Some conservative groups went ahead with small street rallies in Seoul on Monday to denounce the Moon Jae-in administration amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

On the rainy day, the 102nd anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement against Japan's colonization of Korea, more than 10 members of a group staged a rally at around 11 a.m. in front of Gwanghwamun in the city center.

The group, which calls itself Freedom Korea National Defense Corps, had applied for approval of the gathering of roughly 50 people, but the Seoul Administrative Court limited the number of participants to a maximum of 20 due to worries about the virus spreading.

"Have coronavirus infections decreased through the extreme control of rallies?" it said in a statement. "We held today's rally to get our voice heard that the basic right of citizens shouldn't be annihilated on the pretext of disease control and prevention."

A group of protesters stages a rally at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on March 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

The court has upheld the Seoul city government's ban on large-scale demonstrations scheduled for the highly symbolic holiday.

The Our Republican Party, a far-right political party, had separate rallies across Seoul, each of which was joined by up to nine people. Some groups also pushed for press conferences on their positions or in-car protests in the Seoul districts of Gwanghwamun and Jongno.

Members of a conservative group stage in-car protests against the Moon Jae-in administration in central Seoul on March 1, 2021. (Yonhap)

The Seoul Metropolitan Police remained on high alert, with more than 7,000 officers deployed to prevent large-scale assemblies. They have fenced off roads and streets around Gwanghwamun Square.

No major clashes between police and protesters have been reported.

South Korea suffered a wave of coronavirus infections attributable to huge crowds gathering at the square on Aug. 15 Liberation Day last year.

Police fence off streets near Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul on March 1, 2021. (Yonhap)


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