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S. Korean Colleges Open Amid Rioting : Students Battle Police With Firebombs to Protest Government

September 01, 1987|Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — Universities reopened for the fall term today and immediately became battlegrounds for police and anti-government students. One campus fight with rocks, firebombs and tear gas lasted three hours.

As students demanded the ouster of President Chun Doo Hwan, leaders of the government party and the opposition worked on a timetable for a presidential election and peaceful transition when Chun's term ends in February.

Labor unrest that began in July continued to cripple the export-based economy, and hundreds of strikes for higher pay were in progress.

Fighting between protesters and riot squads began on the huge Seoul National University campus after a rally by 4,000 students. Police fired tear gas and charged behind shields during the three-hour battle.

Students hurled stones and threw firebombs that exploded in orange showers of blazing gasoline, shouting "Let's finish the military dictatorship!" and "Down with the murder regime!"

19 Other Demonstrations

The South Korean news agency Yonhap said about 10,000 students in all demonstrated at 19 other schools across the country. It did not say whether those protests were violent.

Hundreds of riot police were at the main Seoul National University campus gate when protesters tried to march into the streets.

Black armored cars with multiple launchers shot salvos of tear gas into the crowds and policemen fired gas canisters from rifles.

White clouds of the stinging, choking gas drifted over the campus and surrounding areas. Sobbing and moaning, students tried to flee the fumes.

Police were driven back repeatedly by waves of students armed with sticks, firebombs and rocks. Officers crouched behind their shields.

Radical student leaders have vowed to topple Chun's government and the size of the Seoul National University rally indicated strong support.

Students traditionally are in the vanguard of protest in South Korea. They led weeks of demonstrations that caused Chun to agree June 30 to opposition demands for direct presidential elections and other democratic reforms.

More than 10,000 Seoul taxi drivers struck today. City officials said the action involved 26% of the capital's drivers and disruption was minimal since most people use buses or the subway.

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