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FactCheck: Does this photo show a protest against Covid-19 restrictions in South Korea?

Posts on social media have represented anti-government protests in Seoul as anti-coronavirus restrictions.

CLAIMS THAT HAVE gained traction online suggest that a recent rally in Seoul, South Korea attracted thousands of people protesting against Covid-19 restrictions.

The claims have been used by anti-restriction groups to paint a picture of global ‘resistance’ against measures to limit the spread of Covid-19, such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.

A rally took place in Seoul on 15 August, the anniversary of South Korea’s liberation from Japan – but Covid-19 restrictions were not the driving force behind it.

The Claim

A Facebook post, which has been seen 15,500 times since 17 August, has shared a photo of a protest in South Korea with the caption: “1000s protest in South Korea against tyrannical Pandemic restrictions, People are Rising.”

The caption included the hashtags “#Koreaprotests” and “#Scamdemic”.

Seoul Facebook Post

The post, which was made on an Irish Facebook page, has been reshared to a number of Facebook groups and pages against Covid-19 restrictions in the UK and US.

The claim has also been shared multiple times on Twitter.

Another post shared to Facebook has included South Korea in a collection of photos of protests in countries around the world.

The post appears to suggest that the photos included are of protests against Covid-19 restrictions. It includes a photo from a protest against masks and other restrictions that took place in Dublin on 22 August.

The post, which has been seen 33,600 times since it was posted on 27 August, is captioned: “What the media won’t show you. The world is awake and has had enough. #protests2020.”

The Evidence

The photo shared in the post is from Seoul.

A comparison of buildings and structures shown in the photo can be used to pin its location to a street at the south of Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul.

Google Maps South Korea Source: Google Maps

On 15 August, protesters held a rally in Seoul in the areas around the square and outside Gyeongbokgung Palace.

However, the city’s recent protest was focused on conservatives calling for President Moon Jae-in to resign.

The rally on 15 August was carried out by anti-government protesters on the 75th anniversary of South Korea’s liberation from Japan at the end of the second world war.

Conservative protesters called for the president’s resignation amid claims from some right-wing groups that the country’s general election in April was rigged and other complaints about the government.

Many of the protesters at the rally can be seen wearing masks.

The Korea Times, the oldest English-language daily newspaper in South Korea, reported that groups involved in protests on 15 August included the April 15 Rigged Election association, the Sarang Jeil Church, and the Freedom Union.

The Sarang Jeil Church has been highly critical of President Moon Jae-in, who they view as a communist under the influence of North Korea. 

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Speaking to the crowd at the protest, the church’s chief pastor Jun Kwang-hoon said that President Moon Jae-in was giving power over South Korea to the North Korean government and that the protesters had rallied over the last year to “oppose his crimes”.

He repeatedly raised the issue of the alleged election fraud and North Korea and said Moon Jae-in should apologise.

He also said that the president had “terrorised” the church with the “Wuhan virus”.

Separately from the anti-government organisations, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) protested on the same day for workers’ rights, and said it distributed masks among participants.

Ahead of the rallies, officials in Seoul had sought to prevent the Liberation Day protests, but they were permitted to proceed by the courts.

South Korea, which had largely gained control over Covid-19 since its first outbreak in the country, has tightened its restrictions in recent days due to a growing spike in infections.

The Verdict

Protesters did rally in Seoul on 15 August, but the claim that the protests were against Covid-19 restrictions misrepresent the protest.

Conservative protesters were rallying against the government and against President Moon Jae-in with multiple complaints, including claims about the president’s approach to North Korea and alleged fraud in the country’s recent general election.

As a result, we rate the claim that a rally was held in North Korea to protest pandemic restrictions: FALSE. As per our verdict guide, this means: The claim is inaccurate.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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