Posted August. 14, 2010 10:42,
Clashes between conservative and progressive groups are expected after a South Korean pastor returns Sunday from an unauthorized trip to North Korea.
The Rev. Han Sang-ryol, adviser to the left-leaning Peoples Solidarity for Social Progress, is expected to return to Seoul via the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom on the occasion of Liberation Day. He left for the North June 12 without permission from Seoul.
To welcome Hans return, the civic organization and two other groups will hold Sunday morning a prayer meeting for peace on the Korean Peninsula and improvement in inter-Korean relations at the parking lot of Imjingang Station in Paju, Gyeonggi Province.
Representatives of the groups told reporters at the United Christian Center in a statement Thursday, The Rev. Han visited North Korea to improve inter-Korean relations. So his visit shouldnt be seen as pro-North Korea or praising the North, adding, We urge the prosecution to withdraw its plan to prosecute him.
For their part, conservative groups will hold events blasting Hans visit near the Unification Bridge in Munsan, Gyeonggi Province. They will stage a performance in which a person playing Han will be bound with a rope and sent back to the North.
A council on restoration of national identity comprising conservative organizations such as the Korea Freedom Federation spoke to reporters Friday at the Korea Press Center. The government should sternly punish pastor Han for breaking the law and assisting anti-government activities by leftist organizations like the Peoples Solidarity for Social Progress.
Bong Tae-hong, head of the conservative group Right Korea, said, We cannot sit idly by and watch progressive groups hold welcome rallies for the Rev. Han. We will take counteraction by holding a news conference right next to them.
The expected clash between conservatives and progressives has put police on high alert. National Police Agency Commissioner General Kang Hee-rak held an emergency meeting Friday to deploy 1,500 police officers to areas near Imjingak Sunday to prevent trouble.
Prosecutors and the National Intelligence Service said they will arrest Han upon his return and handle the illegal activities of civic organizations in accordance with law and principles.
Aside from rallies at Imjingak, progressive groups will stage a rally to promote peace and urge finding the truth behind the Cheonan sinking at a plaza in front of Seoul Station at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Conservative groups will host their own demonstration against pro-North Korea and leftist forces at the bell pavilion Bosingak in downtown Seoul at 5 p.m. the same day.