South Korean veterans denounce North
North Korea accuses South of using civilians as 'human shield'
Hundreds of war veterans rallied in downtown Seoul on Saturday, calling for retaliation against North Korea for bombarding a South Korean border island earlier in the week.
Among the crowd were about 70 former special forces troops, wearing white headbands, who scuffled with riot police in front of the Defence Ministry to protest against what they called the government's weak response to the attacks.
The former naval servicemen pummelled police with wooden stakes and sprayed fire extinguishers. They also burned a North Korea flag, along with a picture of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Several hundred police pushed back with shields.
A similar protest was held in the port city of Incheon on the mainland. Demonstrators with knives shredded a North Korean flag.
North Korea, meanwhile, accused South Korea of using civilians as human shields around artillery positions on Yeonpyeong island, which was attacked last Tuesday, leaving two marines and two civilians dead.
The comments Saturday came on the eve of U.S.-South Korean military exercises in the Yellow Sea that have enraged the North and worried neighbouring China.
North Korea's state news agency said that although "it is very regrettable, if it is true, that civilian casualties occurred on Yeonpyeong island, its responsibility lies in enemies' inhumane action of creating a 'human shield' by deploying civilians around artillery positions."
The North said its enemies are "now working hard to dramatize 'civilian casualties' as part of its propaganda campaign, creating the impression that the defenceless civilians were exposed to 'indiscriminate shelling' all of a sudden from the North."