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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Seoul's homeless fight back

Last weekend saw riots around Seoul Station (the central railway station), but it wasn't strikers or farmers protesting. This time it was the homeless who live in their hundreds in and around the station who fought with police after two homeless men were found dead in suspicious circumstances. Rumours apparently spread that the men had been beaten to death by the station's security guards. It seems that autopsies have since shown that the two men died from disease rather than violent causes, but for Seoul's homeless to react so strongly and with such suspicion suggests that they are frequently on the receiving end of violence from security guards.

It perhaps says something about South Korean society that even the most dispossessed and marginalised layer of society is able to take some form of collective action and show solidarity with one another.

Seoul city government is now responding in a fairly typically heavy-handed fashion by saying that it will force homeless people into a new shelter because "many taxpayers claim they have had unpleasant experiences or been inconvenienced by homeless people staying in public facilities such as Seoul Station."


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