But in a week when the WTO talks themselves were stultifying even to trade ministers, the South Koreans may have provided the only surprisethey displayed relatively good behavior. Many ended their protest march on the conference's opening day not by running amuck but by taking a dip: wearing orange life jackets, over 100 Koreans leapt into Victoria Harbour, floating just a few hundred meters from the convention center where the talks were being held. It was a peculiar act of protest, but it was bravethe polluted waters of the harbor haven't been safe for swimming in years. "I cannot swim," pear farmer Han Do Sook said later, struggling to explain the politics of his perilous plunge. "But right now, I feel as if the WTO is trying to make me swim without a life vest." A squadron of Koreans did make a break for the convention center later, but were repelled by riot police wielding shields and pepper spray. Homegrown radical and Hong Kong legislator Leung (Long Hair) Kwok-hung, who marched with the Koreans and was caught up in the tussle, summed up the experience: "I had a good time, apart from getting pepper-sprayed."
The good times couldn't last forever, and on Saturday the protests flared into violence. Scores of Koreans burst through police barriers and battled officers, who responded with fire hoses and tear gas. Despite the fighting, which left at least 40 injured, through Saturday the farmers still hadn't managed to disrupt the WTO meeting. But with talks inside mostly deadlocked, there wasn't much to disrupt.