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S. Korea cracks down on anti-U.S. beef activists

June 30, 2008|From the Associated Press

SEOUL — Police here today raided the offices of two civic groups that have led weeks of rallies against South Korea's resumption of U.S. beef imports, after the government said it would not tolerate illegal demonstrations.

Authorities confiscated materials and documents related to the rallies, an official at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said on condition of anonymity, citing policy. He did not provide further details.

The Korea Solidarity of Progressive Movement said police confiscated computers, placards, masks and other materials used during demonstrations, along with office documents unrelated to the rallies. One senior leader was taken away by police on charges of instigating violent protests, said group official Choi Ji-yong.

Activists, students and citizens have staged daily candlelight rallies in Seoul to voice fears about the possible health risks of U.S. beef, such as mad cow disease, following an accord in April to restart imports.

The protesters have been joined by a variety of liberal groups angered by the policies of the conservative new President Lee Myung-bak and have sometimes turned violent. The government earlier halted implementation of the April accord after weeks of protests and negotiated an update with Washington in June stipulating that the imported beef must be from animals younger than 30 months, believed to be at less risk of disease.

Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han said Sunday that those who instigate violent protests would be arrested. Police began enforcing a ban on rallies Sunday and arrested about 130 protesters; there were no serious clashes or injuries.

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