On 27 August 2011, during a peaceful protest against Free Trade Agreements (FTA) inside the ICAAP conference site, Korean and international participants were subject violent abuse at the hands of the South Korean police.
During the FTA protest, some community members noticed plainclothes security inside the venue taking pictures of them. The conference participants challenged one of those security officers and demanded to know what he was doing, and that he erase the photos. An argument ensued, and tempers flared. The officer, who was only later identified as a police officer, refused to tell conference participants why he was taking their pictures without permission, and failed to identify himself as a police officer.
When conference participants tried to protect their fellow community members from being dragged away by the initial small group of police, more security personnel arrived and used increasing levels of force against them. After a violent struggle and the intervention of international conference participants, the plainclothes security retreated outside, but moments later joined uniformed police and tried to violently remove and arrest a number of Korean activists who had participated in the protest. In the chaos, only one person was forced into a police car, a young Korean public interest lawyer, Suh Yeon Chang, who works with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group GONG-GAM.
After her release, Chang said the police did not inform her of the reason for the arrest, which is illegal according to the South Korean criminal law. Even after reaching the police station, Chang said, the police refused to inform her of the reason for the arrest.
More than 100 conference participants (including people living with HIV (PLHIV), sex workers, drug users and transgenders) surrounded and lay down in front of the police car to stop the police car. During an hourlong standoff, dozens of conference participants were physically abused by police and security staff. Several women and transgendered women were dragged by police and in by these violent police actions, and their clothes were ripped. Finally, riot police arrived and, using even more violence, dragged and beat conference participants until the police car containing the lawyer could leave.
As a result of the police violence, three people were taken to hospital and at least a dozen more were injured, including many PLHIV. Though the lawyer was later released without being charged, the police also went to the hospital and threatened at least one of those hospitalized with criminal charges. Repeated questions as to why both the lawyer and the activists were being arrested went unanswered, and no charges have been filed.