SEOUL, South Korea - Thousands of South Koreans, many wearing masks, marched in Seoul on Saturday against conservative President Park Geun-hye, who had compared masked protesters to terrorists after clashes with police broke out at a rally last month.
The march was organized by labor, farmer, and civic groups to protest what they say are setbacks in labor conditions and personal and political freedoms under Park. About 14,000 people turned out, police said. Police had initially banned the march for public safety reasons. But after reviewing a complaint submitted by organizers, a court threw out the ban Thursday, saying it infringed on protesters' right to assemble.
The demonstrators carried signs and banners with slogans that included "Park Geun-hye step down" and "Stop regressive changes to labor laws." Many donned white masks that covered the upper parts of their faces. They began the march on the same streets where a demonstration three weeks earlier drew about 70,000 people, the largest rally Seoul had seen in a decade.
Dozens of protesters were injured in clashes with police during the Nov. 14 demonstration, but there were no immediate reports of any clashes or injuries on Saturday. The march took the protesters to an area near a hospital where farmer Baek Nam-gi, 69, remained unconscious after falling down and hitting his head as police doused him with water cannons during last month's protest.
Organizers had vowed to keep Saturday's rally peaceful. Opposition lawmakers, Buddhist monks, and Christian priests and pastors joined the march to help prevent clashes with police.
Labor groups have been denouncing government attempts to change laws to allow larger freedom for companies in laying off workers and replacing them with non-regular employees, which policymakers say would be critical in improving a bleak job market for young people.
Farmers have expressed fear over the expected rise in the imports of Chinese agricultural products under a free trade agreement between South Korea and China, which was recently ratified by South Korean lawmakers.