NATIONAL

Conservative groups backtrack on plans for Oct. 3 rally

By Ko Jun-tae
  • Published : Sept 24, 2020 - 15:20
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2020 - 18:00

Leaders of conservative groups announce Thursday that they are calling off the protests scheduled to take place in Gwanghwamun on National Foundation Day during a press conference in front of the National Assembly in Seoul. (Yonhap)
Some conservative groups are backtracking on their plans to hold mass anti-government rallies in central Seoul on Oct. 3, in the face of coronavirus concerns.

Former Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Moon-soo and other conservative figures announced Thursday that they were calling off the protests scheduled to take place in Gwanghwamun on National Foundation Day and asked other right-wing groups to follow their lead. Instead of street protests, they will hold a car parade of about 200 vehicles, they said.

“Even though we [wish to] express our anger toward the Moon Jae-in administration’s evil deeds and mistakes, we should not get caught in the coronavirus trap set by the government,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

“The Moon Jae-in government’s coronavirus politics is reaching its peak by using the Gwanghwamun rally to frame right-wing civic groups as the main villain of spreading COVID-19.”

The government has vowed to respond sternly to mass rallies in accordance with laws and regulations after earlier ones held at the same place on Liberation Day, Aug. 15, were blamed for causing a resurgence in coronavirus cases across the country.

Thousands of people from across the country gathered at the August rallies, also organized by right-wing groups, and hundreds of coronavirus cases were subsequently detected and linked to the participants.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun reiterated Thursday the government’s firm stance on the planned Oct. 3 protests, saying the government would deal sternly with any form of gathering, even a car parade.

“The upcoming Chuseok holidays are a critical time for us to contain the virus spread. The government urges all citizens to refrain from unnecessary travel and social gatherings and observe social distance,” he stressed.

In Seoul, the city government has banned outdoor rallies with 10 or more people over infection risks. Police warned earlier that they would use all means allowed to stop the rallies and ensure public safety and order.

In their statement, former Gov. Kim and other rally organizers said they will file an administrative lawsuit if the authorities move to block their car parade, which they said does not violate the antivirus rules.

Nine vehicles will be grouped into one team and drive around together to avoid the 10-person rule, it added. As of Wednesday night, 18 organizations had reported plans to police for a combined 76 rallies of 10 or more people on Oct. 3.

One of the rally organizers, the one that led the Aug. 15 rallies, said it will push ahead with its plan, which it expects will draw more than 1,000 participants.

Kim and the other figures who called off their planned rallies said they will engage in discussions with other rally organizers to prevent conservative gatherings on National Foundation Day.

“It will take some time and discussions for all conservative organizations to reach an agreement,” Kim said. “We will continue working to stop the rallies.”

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)