SEOUL, South Korea — A massive force of police fired tear gas Saturday to block dissidents from holding a banned protest rally over the alleged sexual abuse of a young woman during police questioning last month.
Dissident leader Kim Young Sam and lawmakers from the main opposition New Korea Democratic Party tried to force a path through cordons of 2,000 policemen to the Roman Catholic Myongdong Cathedral, where the rally was to be held.
The party said its vice president, Yang Sun Jik, was hit in the side by a tear gas shell and badly bruised. Dissident sources said police picked up at least 23 people for questioning.
Scores of dissidents, mostly students, reached the cathedral grounds and shouted speeches and slogans over outdoor loudspeakers, including, "Down with military dictatorship!" Police did not move onto the cathedral grounds.
Rally Called Off
The party finally called off the rally because of "indiscriminate firing of tear gas shells." About 50 party leaders returned to headquarters for an overnight sit-in.
The New Korea Democratic Party has been campaigning for democratic reforms in the government of President Chun Doo Hwan, who took power in 1980 during the unrest that followed the 1979 assassination of President Park Chung Hee.
The government had banned Saturday's rally on the ground that its goal was "fabricating and disseminating malicious false rumors" about the alleged case of sexual abuse.
The case involved a 23-year-old woman, Kwon In Suk, who the government said was questioned by police in early June in connection with a violent demonstration.
Kwon filed charges saying that she was sexually abused during questioning. The Chun government said her charges were exaggerated but confirmed that she was forced to remove her jacket and T-shirt and was beaten "in the breasts three or four times" on two occasions during the questioning.
The police investigator was fired and three of his superiors were suspended, police said.
The New Korea Democratic Party and other anti-government groups rejected the government report as "not convincing." Five dissident organizations demanded that the government reopen its investigation, and the opposition party said it also would investigate.