Security guards bearing sledgehammers stormed demonstration site with police before deadly fire broke out.


» Members of the “Committee against the Brutal Suppression of the Yongsan Demolition Protest” urge the government to fire Seoul Police Commissioner Kim Seok-ki at a press conference in front of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-dong on January 23. Earlier, two Democratic Party lawmakers released a recording of a police radio transmission that revealed police had engaged and armed security guards in its crackdown on the January 20 demonstration, which ended in the deaths of six people.

A recording of a police radio transmission made just before Tuesday’s deadly crackdown on a protest in the Yongsan district revealed that police armed and hired security guards to participate in a joint operation to evict tenants and protesters. The record, which contradicts the police’s assertion that it did not mobilize the contracted personnel, is expected to influence an ongoing investigation being conducted by the prosecution.

Lawmakers Kim Yoo-jeong and Kang Ki-jeong of the main opposition Democratic Party released the recording of the police radio transmission on Friday. “Before the crackdown on protesters began at dawn on Jan. 20, police had radio communication with security guards about its plans to conduct a joint operation,” a statement read by the lawmakers said. The recording was submitted by the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency at the lawmakers’ request.

According to the transcript of the radio transmission, at 06:29:42 on Tuesday a police officer said that, “With sledgehammers and other devices, the security guards will follow our unit and are preparing to remove the blockades on the third and fourth floors.” In response, another police officer said at 06:29:59, “Roger that. Along with four police officers, security guards with devices are in the process of removing obstacles between the third and fourth floors.”

The transcript shows that special police commandos and security guards armed with sledgehammers and other devices entered the building together on Tuesday. The security guards were then instructed to remove obstacles welded on the door to the rooftop, where protesters were holed up in a makeshift tower.

According to a police report on the situation in the Yongsan 4th Zone on that day, police stepped up the crackdown operation at 6:30 a.m., immediately after the radio communication was made, by sending police commandos into the building. The transcript supports remarks by witnesses and protesters who have said that the security guards reached the third floor of the building, where they threatened demonstrators with sledgehammers and then started a fire in order to send smoke up to the roof.

Police have maintained that the security guards exited the building before the police operation began.

Kim called on police to provide an explanation about the recording and accused police of “trying to hide and manipulate the explanation for the reasons behind the Yongsan tragedy.” Kim said she will not overlook the prosecution’s failure to investigate basic evidence such as the recording of the police radio transmission.

The “Committee against the Brutal Suppression of the Yongsan Demolition Protest” said in a statement made at a press conference Friday, “As it has been found that police carried out the murderous crackdown with the firm that was contracted, there should be a thorough investigation into the potentially inappropriate relationship between the police and the firm to assign responsibility for this tragedy.”

In response, police say they “are in the process of figuring out whether such things happened at the time of the crackdown operation.”

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