Posted : 2016-02-24 18:23
Updated : 2016-02-24 22:04

'Ghost protest' faces police scrutiny

A "ghost rally" using holographic images / Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul

By Kim Se-jeong

Police in Seoul are seeking to punish Amnesty International Korea for waging an anti-government "ghost rally" using holographic images, the first of its kind in Korea.

The international human rights group projected holographic images of protesters on a screen at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul, Wednesday, the eve of the third anniversary of President Park Geun-hye's administration.

In the 30-minute projection, holographic people chanted slogans like "Guarantee peaceful assembly" and "We are not illegal," also holding a banner reading "Assembly is a human right." Some walked in silence, wore masks and held flowers to their chests.

The holographic work ended with five participants urging the government to respect their constitutional rights.

Police officers were near the projection site, taking photos and videos of Amnesty International members who projected the images and people who gathered there to support the virtual protest.

The police had already warned the group that the virtual rally could violate the law on assembly and demonstration.

"If the event includes chanting indicative of a collective expression of opinion, it can be considered as a demonstration, and this means the rally would be illegal because the organizer did not report it in advance," said Lee Sang-won, commissioner of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Tuesday.

Violators of the law are punishable with two years in prison or a 2 million won fine.

"We will review the images thoroughly and the atmosphere in which the projection took place," a police officer, who identified himself as Kwon, said.

The police will first have to decide whether the hologram event is a demonstration or a cultural activity.

Amnesty International Korea received permission to use the square from the Seoul Metropolitan Government by reporting it as a cultural activity. The group originally planned a demonstration with live people near Cheong Wa Dae, but changed it to the holographic demonstration after the police banned it.

It is also controversial whether the law on assembly and demonstration can be applied to the people in the images.

Even though the police conclude it was an illegal, unreported rally, they will also have to decide who to punish ― the people in the images, the organizers, or citizens who gathered at the scene.

Amnesty International Korea insisted it had done nothing illegal and criticized the police for passing early judgment.

"This demonstrates that the police place their own discretionary authority above the fundamental right to assembly," the group said in a statement. The group also criticized the police for abusing their power.

The group planned the holographic protest with the aim to criticize the government which has been suppressing the constitutional rights of assembly and speech. The project drew immense interest from citizens, with almost 120 participants helping put together the holographic work.

This was the first holographic protest in Korea and the second internationally, following one in Spain.

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