Death of Farmer From Water Canon While Protesting Begins First Trial

Michael Song, Sept. 30, 2016, 9:50 a.m.

The first court session of a compensation suit raised by the bereaved families of late farmer Baek Nam-gi, who died months after being hit by police’ water cannon, was held Friday. The suit was raised in March against then National Police Agency chief Kang Sin-myeong, involved police officers and the state.

Baek, 69, was knocked unconscious after being hit at close range by police water cannon during a massive anti-government rally on Nov. 14. He was taken to a hospital, but never regained consciousness until his death Sunday. 

Authorities in charge have so far denied responsibility, and the court has issued a warrant to conduct an autopsy on Baek earlier this week. His family members and civic activists as well as a number of opinion leaders oppose the police move.

The compensation suit seeks approximately 240 million won in compensation.

Lawyers for a Democratic Society, also known as Minbyun, which has taken the case on behalf of Baek’s family’s side has contended that the case represents an abuse of power by the enforcement officers.

During the trial, the plaintiff’s side argued that the water cannon, which is required to be aimed at protestors below the chest, was aimed at Baek’s face, thereby commiting intentional gross negligence. The attorney asked to conduct an on-site survey of the water cannon vehicle in question.

The police’s side, on the other hand, said that an autopsy was necessary to figure out the exact cause of Baek’s death and that it would take responsibility if it was found to be responsible.

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