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Protesters Clash Again With Police

May 19, 1991

KWANGJU, South Korea (AP) _ Thousands of protesters in Kwangju attacked riot police with clubs and pipes Sunday in some of the fiercest street fighting in three weeks of anti- government protests.

The pitched battles marked the anniversary of the 1980 Kwangju uprising in which at least 200 people died protesting a martial law government.

On Sunday, more than 15,000 students and workers shouting ″down with the murderous regime″ attacked police blocking a funeral march for Kang Kyung- dae, a 20-year-old student beaten to death by police on April 26.

At least 120 police and protesters were injured in 12 hours of fighting and the count was rising, the national news agency Yonhap said. Some of the injured were reported in serious condition.

The student’s death has touched off the largest anti-government demonstrations since President Roh Tae-woo came to power in 1988 and posed the most serious challenge yet to his rule.

More than 200,000 people staged violent protests around the country on Saturday that turned fashionable streets of downtown Seoul into battle zones. There also were protests in at least 20 cities.

Dissident students, workers and opposition politicians are demanding the resignation of Roh’s Cabinet, and there has been speculation Roh will reshuffle his ministers in coming days in response to the pressure.

To try to placate protesters after last month’s beating death of the student, Roh fired the minister in charge of police, and five police officers have been charged in the death. But protesters are demanding the arrests of the former minister and the national police chief.

The government faces six elections around the country in the next 20 months, including the next presidential election, and polls have suggested that the popularity of the government is at an all-time low.

In Kwangju, hundreds of police and protesters fought hand to hand on Sunday. Protesters using iron pipes and clubs beat riot troopers swinging shields and truncheons. Police fired volleys of tear gas and sometimes used the butts of gas-launching rifles to beat the protesters.

A four-lane highway was blocked for more than four hours while the fighting raged in and around the area. Columns of black smoke from piles of burning tires billowed into the air.

Anti-U.S. sentiment is high in Kwangju, a city 165 miles south of Seoul, because residents believe Washington condoned the military suppression of the 1980 uprising. The United States has denied the accusation.

The funeral procession for Kang, including family members and about 700 mourners, was trapped in the fighting and unable to move.

Protesters set fire to two police vehicles, including one armored multiple tear gas launcher. Roads were littered with rocks, firebombs and shapnel from tear gas canisters, and the air reeked with gas.

Organizers of the funeral procession had announced they would bury the student without holding final rites in Kwangju. Students and workers who had planned the rites complained that the decision meant giving in to the government and refused to accept it.

Roadside rites are traditionally performed in Korean funeral services at locations meaningful to the deceased. The government claimed dissidents were using the body for a political motive.

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