About 40,000 South Korean students shouting, "Yankee go home!" fought hand-to-hand with riot police Saturday in the biggest protest in Seoul since President Kim Young Sam took office in February. Dozens of police and students were injured.
Demonstrations have escalated recently by activists seeking punishment for former presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo for a 1980 crackdown in the southwestern city of Kwangju that claimed about 200 lives. Dissidents say the toll was much higher.
"Execute Roh. Execute Chun," students chanted to drums and gongs.
They charge that Chun and Roh, as army generals, ordered troops to shoot civilians in Kwangju after seizing power in an army coup. They have demanded an investigation and are angry at Kim's appeal to forgive those responsible.
At one point Saturday, students overpowered about 100 riot police, kicked them and beat them with steel pipes. The police were forced to kneel on the pavement as they were insulted by protesters. They were released after being disarmed.
Students stacked helmets, batons and other police gear they seized and set them on fire in the middle of a major 10-lane boulevard.
Police fired tear gas whenever students tried to march toward the U.S. Embassy to try to deliver a statement demanding an apology from Washington for allegedly condoning the 1980 action.