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South Korea's Chinese unfurl pride as Olympic torch passes

Flag-waving youths flooded Seoul Sunday, outnumbering North Korea and Tibet protesters.

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Massive security: A densely guarded Olympic torch toured Seoul Sunday, as large crowds of Chinese youths waved flags in support.

Choi Je-Koo/AP

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– Thousands of young Chinese demonstrators put on a rousing, if controversial, show of national pride Sunday as the Olympic torch passed through Seoul en route to Beijing for the 2008 Games.

A sea of Chinese flags greeted the opening of the relay in Seoul's Olympic Park, far outnumbering the flags of Tibetan activists as well as signs denouncing China's policies toward North Korean defectors.

As the march began from Olympic Park in southern Seoul, Chinese youths responded with jeers and taunts, then hurled rocks at those protesting China's policies on Tibet and North Korea. Thousands of police officers battled to keep the demonstrators away from the torch, amid intermittent scuffles between protesters on the way to an elaborate ceremony on the square in front of City Hall.

The display of Chinese patriotism offended many Koreans, including protesters as well as passersby who wondered whether such behavior was appropriate on Korean soil.

"It's truly a shame on China what they did today," says Park Jie Hae, with Justice for North Korea, dedicated to pressing for human rights for North Koreans. "They were too aggressive. They don't have any idea about human rights."

North Koreans carried signs focusing on China's policy of sending North Korean refugees back to North Korea rather than admitting them as refugees. "China's cruelty kills Olympic spirit," said one sign.

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