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Tens of Thousands March in S. Korea Anti-Government Rally

  • VOA News

South Korean riot police officers spray water cannons as police officers try to break up protesters who tried to march to the Presidential House after a rally against government policy in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 14, 2015.

South Korean riot police officers spray water cannons as police officers try to break up protesters who tried to march to the Presidential House after a rally against government policy in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 14, 2015.

South Korean police detained 51 protesters and were seeking out others Sunday after violent clashes marred the largest anti-government demonstrations in Seoul in more than seven years.

Police said about 70,000 people took to the city's streets Saturday to protest the conservative government's push for labor reform and mandated, state-issued history textbooks.

The protesters marched from several locations in Seoul to an area near City Hall, with rallies stretching well into the evening. Police fired tear gas and water cannons as they clashed with marchers.

A 69-year-old farmer, Baek Nam-gi, remained unconscious at a hospital after he fell and injured his head as police doused him with water cannons near City Hall, said Cho Byung-ok, secretary general of the Korea Peasants League.

Video footage showed Baek lying motionless as other demonstrators struggled to drag him away while police continued to fire water cannons from atop buses.

Critics of President Park Geun-hye are demanding an end to what they see as her business-friendly labor policies, including those they say benefit businesses while keeping wages low, and others that make it easier for companies to fire activists.

Protesters also oppose a government decision requiring middle schools and high schools to use only state-issued history books beginning in 2017.

Conservatives have described current history texts as too left wing, while critics of the Park administration accuse it of deliberately seeking to distort the national narrative about the creation of the South Korean state.

Authorities said Saturday's protests were the largest since 2008, when demonstrators took to the streets of the capital to protest the import of U.S. beef products.

Some information for this report came from AP.

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