Olympic torch inflames more protests in Seoul

THE Olympic torch relay wound its way through Seoul yesterday as thousands of police guarded it against demonstrators trying to disrupt the event to protest against China's treatment of North Korean refugees.

About an hour into the relay, a North Korean defector poured gasoline on himself and tried to set himself on fire, but police stopped him.

Son Jong Hoon, 45, led an unsuccessful public campaign to save his brother from execution in the North, where he was accused of spying after the two met secretly in China.

Earlier a protester rushed towards the torch and tried to unfurl a banner calling for China to respect North Korean refugees' rights. Dozens of police whisked him away.

Some 8000 officers, on horseback, riding bicycles, in buses and on foot, deployed across the capital to guard the torch on its 24km run.

Hundreds of Chinese carried a large Chinese flag, and some wore red clothes, chanting "go China, go Olympics!"

Scuffles broke out between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators criticising Beijing. The students threw stones and water bottles as some 2500 police tried to keep the two sides apart.

The torch arrived in Seoul from Japan, where there were minor attempts to halt the run but Chinese supporters outnumbered those protesting against the event.

The torch was scheduled to be flown to North Korea for its first-ever run in the communist country. Disruptions were not expected in an authoritarian state that tolerates no dissent.

Copyright © 2008 AP

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