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Protesters destroy portraits of US ambassador in South Korea

Protesters demonstrating against American demands that South Korea pay more in defense spending destroyed portraits of the U.S. ambassador to the country Friday, Reuters reported.

U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris has become a politically controversial figure in the country amid President Trump’s push to get South Korea to pay billions of dollars more towards funding the 28,500 American troops stationed there. Protesters from several youth groups reportedly cheered as his portraits, printed on blocks of tofu and acorn jelly, were smashed.

“Harris out! We are not a U.S. colony! We are not an ATM machine!” the demonstrators chanted outside of the U.S. Embassy.

Trump has demanded that Seoul pay as much as $5 billion more per year, according to South Korean officials. The country currently contributes approximately $900 million per year.

Another protest is scheduled for Saturday outside of the embassy to call on U.S. leaders to withdraw calls for funding increases. Police confirmed to Reuters that they have warned protesters not to bring hazardous or defamatory materials. They planned to “restrict the protests if they cross the line.”  

The protesters originally planned to decapitate an effigy of Harris, but they limited the protest after police warnings.

Talks between U.S. and South Korean officials are scheduled in Seoul next week. South Korea hosts the third-largest amount of U.S. troops, behind Japan and Germany, and the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in Pyeongtaek covers over 14.7 million square meters, according to Reuters.

“How is it possible for a tenant to ask for five-fold increase in rent from its landlord?” Kwon Oh-min, a Youth Party representative, said outside the U.S. Embassy Friday. Earlier this year, dozens of university students climbed into the grounds of Harris’s residence in protest of America’s presence in the country.

Across the street from the protests, a counterprotest of pro-Washington demonstrators reportedly hit people wearing masks of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in with toy hammers, Reuters reported.

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