SEOUL, South Korea — Thousands of people chanted anti-globalization slogans in South Korea’s capital Sunday to protest this week’s Group of 20 summit. Part of the crowd attempted to march down nearby streets but were stopped by riot police, who fired pepper spray.
The protesters sang, danced and waved signs reading “We oppose the G20” at a large plaza near Seoul City Hall.
South Korea is hosting a gathering of leaders from the G20 advanced and developing economies Thursday and Friday.
Some protesters danced and played traditional Korean drums, while about 9,000 riot police and many police buses encircled the rally site to keep order. Police said about 20,000 people took part in the rally.
The rally was initially peaceful, but some protesters engaged in minor scuffles with riot police who tried to prevent them from marching through downtown streets. Riot police fired pepper spray at some protesters at the front of the crowd, forcing them back.
The protesters oppose globalization and say the G20 is not focusing on creating jobs or protecting social programs.
Labour activist Lee Chang-geun accused the G20 of failing to formulate meaningful measures to curb speculative financial capital and of pushing cuts in public spending on social welfare.
Activists plan to stage smaller rallies every day until the summit begins Thursday, he said.
In Manila, six Filipino activists who planned to join anti-globalization rallies in Seoul said they were denied entry by South Korean immigration officials on Saturday and forced to return home.
“We condemn the South Korean government and we demand that it apologize to us and remove us and others from its blacklist,” Josua Mata, one of the activists, told The Associated Press in Manila.
Calls to South Korea’s Justice Ministry seeking comment were unanswered late Sunday.
The G20 forum, founded in 1999, has taken on greater significance since the global financial meltdown and is seeking to reform the world economy to ensure stable growth and strengthen the financial system to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 crisis. It held its first summit in Washington two years ago.
South Korean police and military are on heightened alert to prevent any attempt by protesters, terror groups and North Korea to sabotage the summit. North Korea has a history of staging provocations when world attention is focused on rival South Korea.
The Korean peninsula remains officially at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.