SEOUL — Hundreds of South Koreans took to the streets of Seoul on Tuesday for two separate demonstrations, one to show support for visiting President Donald Trump and the other to voice disapproval of the US leader amid concerns over North Korea’s nuclear threats.
Surrounded by thousands of police officers and a tight perimeter created by buses, hundreds of anti-Trump protesters rallied at a boulevard near the US Embassy, holding banners that read “No Trump” and “No War.”
The demonstrators accused the outspoken president of raising tensions with North Korea and pressuring Seoul to buy more US weapons. They also criticized him for pressing Seoul to re-do a bilateral free trade deal between the countries so that it’s more favorable to the United States.
Across the street, hundreds of Trump supporters waved the US and South Korean flags and held signs that read “Blood Allies Korea + US.” They chanted “USA!” when Trump’s motorcade passed by the two protest groups for a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House.
More than 15,000 officers will be deployed to provide security during Trump’s two-day visit and monitor the demonstrations, according to the National Police Agency.
Police had unsuccessfully attempted to block anti-Trump protesters from marching in streets near the presidential palace, with the Seoul Administrative Court ruling that such a ban would infringe on the protesters’ freedom of assembly. Dozens of anti-Trump protesters rallied near the presidential office earlier on Tuesday under the close watch of police.
“We oppose the visit to South Korea by Trump, who has heightened the fears of war on the Korean Peninsula,” said one of the protesters, reading from a statement.
The group, which calls itself the “No Trump Coalition,” also plans to protest on Wednesday near Seoul’s parliament, where Trump is to make a speech calling on the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea.
Pro- and anti-Trump protesters have been staging dueling but peaceful protests in Seoul in recent weeks ahead of Trump’s visit, reflecting a public deeply divided along ideological and generational lines.
Many South Koreans are concerned that Trump’s fiery rhetoric on North Korea, which has included threats of military options, is raising the risk of an unwanted war on the Korean Peninsula that could cost thousands of South Korean lives.