South Koreans lined the streets leading to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to welcome U.S. President Donald Trump, while some came out to protest the American leader and his tough rhetoric on North Korea.
An excited crowd of South Koreans greeted U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday for his first visit to Seoul, waving American and South Korean flags, singing the Star Spangled Banner, and chanting “U-S-A!”
Some celebrated Trump’s tough rhetoric on stopping North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, while others came out to show support for the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
One banner held up with a character of Trump read in English “Bomb the North Korea!” Other signs said “Bomb on Kim Jong Un & His Gangsters!”, “Please don’t Withdraw the U.S. Army,” and “Welcome to Korea Trump!”
“I came here to welcome the president of the nation that is our ally and blood brother and helped South Korea during the Korean War,” said 75-year-old Jeong Soon-Il. “I must come here as President Trump is supporting South Korea under threat from North Korea.”
One group of demonstrators held photos of Trump and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was jailed on corruption and bribery charges.
“The reason why I am here today is to welcome President Trump and to ask him to release President Park Geun-hye from prison, “ said 56-year-old Kim Min-hyang.
The group of more than 100 marched toward Gwanghwamun Square, where anti-Trump protesters gathered. But they were stopped by police at the corner of the intersection, resulting in some shoving and yelling.
Police blocked off the square from pedestrian traffic to control the crowd and surrounded the protesters with buses to block what officials saw as a potentially embarrassing scene as Trump’s motorcade drove past.
A small group protested Trump’s visit across from the Gwanghwamun gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, with slogans, prayers, and speeches against the U.S. military presence in South Korea.
The same tough talk on the North that has won the U.S. leader praise among many in South Korea has fueled concern and anger among others.
Protesters on Tuesday held signs and banners reading “START PEACE TALK!”, “NO! WAR”, and denouncing the U.S. THAAD missile defense system recently deployed to defend South Korea from North Korean attacks.
One man held a placard reading "Dotard Trump, Stop Nuke War Provocation!" "Dotard" refers to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's insult to Trump after he threatened in his September United Nations speech to "totally destroy" North Korea if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies.
“I think President Trump is a person who is creating tension on the Korean peninsula,” said 50-year-old Kim Jong-hee, a resident of Seongju where the THAAD has been deployed. “If he wants peace in the world as a president of the most powerful nation, he should come out for negotiation for unconditional talks with North Korea. And I would like him to clarify that there will be no war on the Korean peninsula,” she added.
A few anti-Trump protesters clashed verbally with police, and engaged in some minor shoving, but most were peaceful.
Seoul police were out in full force for Trump’s visit and protests were more restricted than during past visits by state leaders, South Korean media reported.
The number of police and demonstrators dwindled into the evening.
Despite the protests, the vast majority of South Korean demonstrators on the streets Tuesday welcomed the leader of a nation that, in the eyes of many here, has helped ensure peace in South Korea for decades and, they hope, for decades to come.