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SKoreans Hold Anti-Government Rally    04/24 06:26

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Thousands of anti-government protesters marched 
in cities across South Korea on Friday, denouncing the labor policies of the 
increasingly unpopular President Park Geun-hye.

   The rallies were orchestrated by one of the country's two major umbrella 
labor unions. They come about a week after police clashed violently in the 
capital Seoul with demonstrators critical of the government's handling of a 
ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

   Park Seong-shik, a spokesman from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, 
said that a rally Friday attended by about 10,000 people in Seoul was held 
without significant conflict with police. Thousands of police officers, dressed 
in fluorescent yellow jackets, some carrying riot shields, marched through the 
streets near the Seoul City Hall to keep the demonstrators in check.

   Labor organizations are critical of policies they say will reduce wages and 
job security as well as being unhappy with a revised pension system for 
government employees and the economic dominance of family-owned conglomerates 
known as chaebol.

   "The Park Geun-hye government must shift from current policies that serve 
only chaebol," KCTU President Han Sang-goon said during the rally.

   Sporadic clashes were reported in other cities, including Daegu, where 
police used water cannons to disperse protesters occupying a road. There were 
no immediate reports of injuries from the clash.

   Another large rally is planned in Seoul on Saturday when unionized workers 
plan to join groups supporting the families of the ferry disaster victims. They 
have been calling for the government to allow a more thorough investigation 
into the cause of the sinking.

   A total of 304 people, most of them students from a single high school, died 
when the ferry Sewol sank off South Korea's southwest coast on April 16, 2014.

   Prosecutors blamed negligence by crew members, excessive cargo and improper 
storage for the sinking, along with slow rescue efforts.

   Relatives of the victims say the investigation was insufficient and have 
called for the establishment of an independent committee to look more deeply 
into the government's responsibility for the sinking and the high death toll.

   Dozens were injured in the clash between demonstrators and police on 
Saturday.


(KA)


 
 
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