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South Korean Radicals Rally to Protest Shooting Death

September 19, 1991

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ Radicals rallied outside a hospital today to protest a student’s fatal shooting by police and called for nationwide demonstrations against the government of President Roh Tae-woo.

Police said the death was an accident, but radical students and other dissidents accused the government of murder and pledged to hold more protests next week.

The fatal beating of a student during a demonstration last spring triggered weeks of violent demonstrations in Seoul and other cities, but the unrest calmed after Roh’s governing party won strong support from voters in elections.

Hundreds of protesters chanted anti-Roh slogans today outside the downtown hospital of Seoul National University, where the victim’s body was taken before dawn for an autopsy.

Students had battled police Wednesday to prevent them from taking the body from a smaller hospital in the southern part of the city, claiming government- led autopsies in previous deaths were used to whitewash police. But the victim’s family and student leaders allowed the autopsy at the larger hospital after the government agreed to include dissident doctors in the medical team.

Hundreds of students armed with firebombs and iron pipes stood guard outside the morgue. About 2,000 riot police were deployed around the hospital.

Dr. Lee Jong-bin said after the autopsy that the exact cause of death and other details would be released later.

The shooting occurred during radical demonstrations against South Korea’s joining the United Nations on Tuesday separately from North Korea.

Witnesses said Han Guk-won, a 27-year-old graduate student, was shot in the chest as he and his wife walked down a street as radical students attacked a police station with firebombs and rocks about midnight Tuesday. Han was not participating in the assault, they said.

The government expressed regret at his death, but said it would deal resolutely with attempts to create unrest. It was the first shooting death by police during a protest since the unrest erupted earlier this year.

Witnesses said three police officers tried to defend their station by firing tear gas and blanks to disperse about 100 protesters throwing firebombs.

One officer ran out of blanks and fired six live bullets from his revolver, one of which apparently hit Han, police said.

Prosecutors said an investigation was under way to determine whether the officer who fired the live bullets was acting in self-defense.

Update hourly