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Funeral to be held for activist farmer 37 days after death

The funeral for activist farmer Baek Nam-gi will be held Saturday, 37 days after he died following a long coma after being struck by a police water cannon in an anti-government rally last year. 

According to Baek’s family and supporters on Wednesday, a funeral is planned for Baek at Seoul National University Hospital, where he died Sept. 25. A memorial ceremony is scheduled for Friday night.

The coffin will leave the hospital at 8 a.m. Saturday and a funeral mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. at Myeong-dong Cathedral in Seoul, led by Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung, archbishop of Seoul. A memorial service will then take place in Gwanghwamun Square where last year’s anti-government rally took place.
The funeral altar of Baek Nam-gi (Yonhap)
The funeral altar of Baek Nam-gi (Yonhap)
The committee will bury the deceased at a cemetery in Mangwol-dong in Gwangju, where the democratic fighters of the May 18, 1980 uprising are entombed.

Baek’s funeral has been delayed due to a confrontation between the bereaved family and police over whether to conduct an autopsy in order to determine the exact cause of his death. While the family opposed the post-mortem examination, authorities pushed for it with a court-issued warrant.

Police last week officially withdrew the plan.

The cause of Baek’s death has been the subject of heated debate between his family and authorities.

While Baek’s doctor at the Seoul National Hospital stated illness as the cause of death, many civic groups and his family argue he died due to an external cause. They claim he died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a direct blast from a police water cannon at the rally last year. 

Baek died after 317 days in a coma. 

“The attempts by police and the prosecution to perform the autopsy on the person who died fighting against government authority disturbed the bereaved family from paying reverence to the deceased,” the groups claimed.

They also demanded a thorough investigation into his death and that preventative measures be taken to avoid future use of excessive force by the police.

By Jo He-rim (