SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun pleaded with conservative civic groups Wednesday to withdraw plans to stage massive anti-government rallies in early October as the country is struggling to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The prime minister warned once again that the government will deal sternly with any illegal mass rallies to avert transmission risks.
"I request that the concerned groups roll back their rally plans," Chung said in a regular government COVID-19 response meeting.
"It is hard to understand ... some organizations are sticking to plans to hold rallies on National Foundation Day (on Oct. 3) even though the government is paying high prices for the (virus) resurgence triggered by the Aug. 15 Liberation Day rallies," according to the prime minister.
As of Tuesday, more than 580 COVID-19 cases have been traced to the Liberation Day rallies.
Several right-wing civic groups have pledged to launch mass rallies with 10 or more protesters in central Seoul on Oct. 3 in defiance of the Seoul city's ban on such rallies in light of the recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
"If the (planned) rallies are pushed ahead, the government will respond sternly in accordance with law and regulations in order to protect the lives and safety of people," the prime minister noted.
On Monday, the Seoul metropolitan government extended a ban on rallies of 10 or more people to midnight on Oct. 11, as early October, which includes five national holidays, is expected to be the biggest challenge to the nationwide efforts to curb COVID-19 cases.
More than 100 applications for rallies have been submitted to the police, and about 400,000 people are expected to participate, according to the city government.