Police used water cannons to disperse protesters who staged a rally against the free trade agreement with the United States outside the National Assembly building on Friday, arresting dozens after physical clashes with them.
About 2,500 students, labor activists and farmers gathered in Seoul’s financial district of Yeouido earlier in the day, demanding renegotiation of the free trade pact they claim favors U.S. interests.
After the rally, some activists and students marched toward the nearby National Assembly and climbed over the wall to enter through the assembly compound’s back door, according to witnesses.
Some 200 riot police officers were mobilized to the assembly compound to break up the protesters, who were trying to break into the main building where a general session was underway. Police said they took 63 people into custody, including leaders of labor unions and college students.
“The Korea-U.S. FTA is an unfair agreement that adopts the broken American-style economic system that benefits 1 percent of (people),” some protesters shouted, holding picket signs that read, “No to S. Korea-U.S. FTA!”
The rally came as South Korea’s government and the ruling Grand National Party have been stepping up efforts to get the trade deal passed through the National Assembly as early as possible after the U.S. Congress gave its final approval earlier this month.