Tuesday, August 5, 2008
SEOUL, South Korea — Police fired water cannons at thousands of protesters Tuesday as U.S. President George W. Bush got a volatile reception in South Korea at the start of his Asian trip.
Duelling demonstrations reflected mixed sentiments in South Korea, where public opinion surveys remain generally positive about America, though many people decry Washington for a variety of issues.
Bush will meet Wednesday with President Lee Myung-bak for the third time since the conservative, pro-American leader took office in February.
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Some 18,300 police were on high alert with riot gear and bomb-sniffing dogs to maintain order during Bush’s brief visit, the National Police Agency said.
About 30,000 people gathered in front of Seoul City Hall for an afternoon Christian prayer service supporting Bush’s trip. Large South Korean and U.S. flags were held aloft by balloons overhead along with a banner reading, “Welcome President Bush.”
As evening approached, an estimated 20,000 anti-Bush protesters gathered nearby. Police turned water cannons on them as they tried to move onto the main central downtown boulevard, telling the crowd that the liquid contained markers to tag them so they could be identified later.
“I don’t have anti-U.S. sentiment. I’m just anti-Bush and anti-Lee Myung-bak,” said Uhm Ki-woong, 36, a businessman who was wearing a mask and hat like other demonstrators in an apparent attempt to conceal his identity.
Twelve demonstrators were arrested, along with another 12 at an earlier attempted demonstration near the military airport where Bush landed, police said.
This article was posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 12:02 pm