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Monday, August 16, 2004

CTV CA > Korean protesters clash with police > Associated Press

SEOUL — Hundreds of protesters clashed with police Sunday near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul during a demonstration against the country's plans to send more troops to Iraq.
"We are against war! We are against America!" the demonstrators chanted, ripping up a large replica of a U.S. flag before attempting to charge through police blockades. Officers in riot gear sprayed water at the demonstrators, who jabbed back with flag poles.
Those clashing with police were among about 5,000 demonstrators who converged on a street in the center of the South Korean capital to urge President Roh Moo-hyun to abandon the troop deployment.
"We are not foolish enough to let the government dispatch troops to Iraq. ... We are not that ignorant," they sang during the rally.
Meanwhile, Roh warned Sunday against "blind opposition" to the United States.
"This attitude seems to reflect the thinking that the United States is responsible for all the past, present and future problems of the Republic," he said during a speech marking the anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.
This month, South Korea began sending 3,000 troops to northern Iraq to join 660 soldiers already stationed in the country's south. In June, Kim Sun-il, a South Korean who worked for a company that supplies the U.S. military, was beheaded by militants after Seoul refused to bow to their demand to scrap the troop dispatch plans.
South Korea has portrayed the troop deployment as a way of strengthening ties with the United States and winning Washington's support for a peaceful end to the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programs.
The dispatch will make South Korea the biggest coalition partner after the United States and Britain.
The crowd of protesters, mostly students and union members, also called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea. The Pentagon has redeployed some of the 37,000 American troops based here to Iraq.


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