|Two South Korean photojournalists were grabbed by the collar, thrown to the ground and kicked and punched by about 15 Chinese security guards around 11 a.m. at a business exhibition venue in Beijing. / Yonhap|
By Park Si-soo, Kim Rahn, Choi Ha-young
BEIJING/SEOUL – Chinese security guards assaulted Korean photojournalists covering President Moon Jae-in's state visit to China during an economic event in Beijing, Thursday.
Korea's foreign ministry made an official complaint to its Chinese counterpart, and asked the Chinese authorities to investigate the case. The latter launched investigation in the evening.
According to witnesses, the incident took place at around 10:56 a.m. when Moon was looking around Korean companies' booths at a Korea-China economy and trade partnership event in the China National Convention Center and moving toward another hall there.
As Moon and his security left the first hall, Chinese guards blocked Korean reporters and photojournalists from following the President. While journalists scuffled with the guards and told them they needed to follow Moon, the Chinese guards grabbed a photographer from the Hankook Ilbo, Koh Young-kwon, by the collar and pushed him to the floor.
Koh was unable to stand for a while. Another photojournalist taking photos of the scene had his camera taken from him.
After the short clash, the journalists were allowed to move to the second hall, but about 15 other guards prevented them from entering again although the journalists showed their press IDs which proved they could enter.
As Lee Chung-woo, another photojournalist from the Maeil Business News, protested, the guards took him aside, surrounded him and hit him with their fists. One guard kicked Lee's face while he was on the ground. The guards did not listen to Korean staffers from Cheong Wa Dae who were trying to stop them, witnesses said.
|Two South Korean photojournalists were grabbed by the collar, thrown to the ground and kicked and punched by about 15 Chinese police officers around 11 a.m. at a business exhibition venue. / Yonhap|
Most of the Korean security staff were not at the scene as they were with Moon, but a couple of them tried to stop the melee.
The two photojournalists were moved to Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where Moon is staying, for emergency treatment by the President's medical team. Koh was suffering from back pain, while Lee's eyes were swollen and he was bleeding from both nostrils, according to witnesses. The latter said he had dizziness and nausea, so he was taken to a hospital for MRI and CT scans, a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
It is unclear yet whether the guards were police officers or private security hired by KOTRA for the event, as the Korean authorities are still identifying them. Private security guards there were also supposed to follow guidelines given by the Chinese police, according to the official.
The Korean government made a strong complaint about the incident to the Chinese authorities through diplomatic channels. As the two photojournalists want punishment of the guards involved, it also asked the Chinese government to investigate the case, planning to provide necessary medical certificates and photos of the scenes as evidence today. The relevant Chinese authorities launched investigation at around 9 p.m., he said.
Chinese state media slams S. Korean media reports
In the meantime, Chinese state-run media Huanqiu Shibao sharply attacked South Korean media reports, claiming they were spreading a "pessimistic analysis" of President Moon's state visit to Beijing.
An editorial Wednesday, the first day of Moon's four-day trip to China, responded to some South Korean media reports that forecast a fruitless bilateral summit slated for Thursday as no joint press conference will be held.
Earlier, Cheong Wa Dae said the two leaders will not issue a joint statement, saying the two countries did not have a consensus on current issues, apparently due to Seoul's deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system.
"China made meticulous arrangements for the warm reception of President Moon," the Huanqiu Shibao editorial reads. "However, some South Korean media spread a pessimistic analysis claiming the Chinese government ‘downgraded' respect for the President and ‘did not give him due courtesy.'"
Calling the media reports "narrow-minded," the state-run outlet reported on China's stance over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
"The issue has become the biggest obstacle to the Bejing-Seoul relationship. The two governments partly reached an agreement on how to solve the problem, but some differences remain unsolved. The fact that the two sides will not issue a joint statement is a reflection of the differences."
Lee Chang-ju, researcher for the Korea Logistics Forum, said the provocative editorial mirrors lingering domestic concerns in China. The Huanqiu Shibao has been outspoken in defending China's national interest.
"If the two countries had issued a joint statement focusing on economic cooperation without mentioning THAAD, South Korea would have viewed it as a full-fledged solution to the THAAD, which China cannot accept," Lee said
An unprecedentedly large number of top businessmen accompanied Moon's visit, showing the administration's desire to revamp bilateral trade. However, this is not the time to address the economy for China, according to Lee.
"Distrust remains in China about Seoul's stance in October ― not to join a U.S.-led missile defense system, not to deploy more THAAD batteries and not to join a Seoul-Washington-Tokyo alliance," Lee said.
Seoul has said they were not promises but just the government's current position.
The two countries' media outlets exchanged barbs before Moon's departure. Regarding Moon's interview with China Central Television (CCTV) aired Dec. 11, South Korean media pointed out its "intentional omission" of Moon's remarks, in an apparent attempt to induce his clear-cut commitment to the agreement signed in October.
Some parts of the broadcast interview were different from the transcript distributed by Cheong Wa Dae to South Korean reporters. The CCTV omitted Moon's quote, "the agreement is nothing new," in order to make it look like a fresh one. Moon's description about North Korea as an "economically underdeveloped country" was also removed from the interview, possibly to not irritate its ally.