"This is U.S. property - get off it" - says U.S. Military
"Let's drive out the Yankee murderers" - say the Korean teenage girls
Photo from Jatonghyup (http://www.jatong.org)
By Yoo Changjae, Ohmynews Reporter
On June 20 of this year. a large group of South Korean junior high school girls faced down a group of heavily armed American troops at the Garison Camp Red Cloud of the US 2nd Infantry Division, located Yijongbu a few miles north of Seoul. The young girls were marching in protest of two of their school mates crushed to death by the Americans. The armed Americans told the tearful girls - "This is our land and get off it".
The marchers wanted to hand an open letter to the American commander of the base. The letter demanded the truth about the alleged accident and a public apology. The march was held exactly one week after Shin Hyo Soon and Sim Mi Sun, both students at the Sinyiju Junior High, were crushed to death by an American armored car while walking to a friend's birthday party. At about 17:10, seventy or so Korean civic activists gathered in front of the base, whereupon, the Americans closed the front gate shut. The activists claim that the Americans tried to silence them by bribing the victims' bereaved families with money. They also claim that the Americans spread a false rumor that the victims' families wanted more money. These actions of the Americans have angered the victims' families and their friends.
On the evening of the 19th, the Americans at the 2nd division camp held an unofficial briefing on the incident and 'proved' that the Americans did nothing wrong and that the dead girls were asking for it. They were being careless. The briefing officer showed charts and maps to buttress the American claim. The Korean activists were incensed at the American attempt to whitewash this tragic death of two young Korean girls and sprang into action. They formed a formal action group to (1) uncover the truth, (2) punish the guilty, (3) get public apology by the commander of the US troops in Korea and of the US ambassador in Korea, (4) ask for compensation to the bereaved families and (5) set up a memorial to the victims at the place where they were crushed to death by the Americans.
At about 18:30, the activists accompanied by several Korean news crews arrived at the American base and demanded to see the base commander. They were met inside the gate by a group of base employees in civilian cloth, who went into a shoving match with the protesters. The confrontation got intense and hostile and finally, Major Ono, in charge of civic affairs, came out to meet the activists. Ono told the angry protesters: "You are on an American property. Please get off it now and let's talk outside the gate". The crowd outside the gate calmed down somewhat by Ono's apparent willingness to talk things out.
Ono curtly stated that "You cannot see the base commander or the division commander or the 8th Army commander." The activists demanded that a responsible American officer sign for the open letter and guarantee that the letter will be delivered to the top American commander in Korea. This crafty Ono pretended that he would go along and continue the discussion outside the gate and the activists went along. As the they left the base, Major Ono disappeared and a unit of South Korean police herded the protesters off the base.
Ono's deception rubbed salts into the raw nerves of the protesters and they rushed 2-3 meters pass the gate and began to fight the base guards and the Korean police. Several of the Korean news crews were beaten up by the Americans.
At about 19:10, at least 180 students from the Yijungbu Junior High joined the marchers. The young teens shouted at the Korean police: "Police - you are Koreans, too and aren't you angry at the Americans for killing our friends? All we want is justice. Don't you live in our town and aren't you our neighbors, uncles and brothers?" The girls wept and shouted anti-American slogans and the crowd began to grow and more Korean police arrived. It was a tense moment - a powder keg about to blow. The Korean police was backed by more than sixty heavily armed Americans.
An armed KATUSA - Korean Augmentation to the US Army - defending the base told the protesters that he was just following the rule. Forty or so more Korean police showed up and threatened the protesters, but they stayed on and continued the protest. The girls sang arirang at the top of their lungs. One of their teachers said: "Until now I have told you to watch out for cars. I have not told you to watch put for American armored cars. I have never dreamed that a well-trained and controlled army would crush my students to death....".
As the teacher spoke, some of the Korean police rushed in and began to arrest those marchers still inside the camp. They were still trying to deliver the open letter. The crowd outside was even more enraged by the action of their own police and screamed at the police - "you hooligan police go away!". By 20:42, the Korean police managed to drag out all marchers off the base. Outside the gate, the marchers and the Korean police faced off.
A political leader spoke to the crowd: "We don't want to fight our police blocking our just march. We want to talk to an American representative and hear an American apology. The Korean police blocking us are our own brothers. You policemen, when you go home tonight, many of you will face your own sisters of Hyon Sun and Mi Sun's age. Why are you fighting us? We should fight the Americans together as brothers and sisters and make sure that no more young Korean girls like Hyon Sun and Mi Sun are killed by the Americans."
The girls repeated his word by word loudly amidst weeping. The politician then told the crowd to go home to fight another day. The girls sang "Our wish is unified Korea.." as they left the scene. The protest that began at 17:00 finally ended at 20:55. The open letter was left undelivered and no American apology was heard that day. The marchers plan to mount a large scale march at a later date.
Curiously few of the Korean news media have reported on the death of two young Korean girls by the Americans. No radio, no TV, no major news on this incident. There have been many incidents like this in the Yijungbu and Paju regions where major American bases are located. Americans in training exercises have trashed farm crops, damaged roads, blocked traffic for hours. More than 400 vehicular violations by American troops in Korea are reported each year, which accounts for 60-70% of crimes by the US military in Korea. Yet only ten cases have been brought to the court of law to date.
The Americans held a mock memorial service for the dead girls and raised a few bucks for the bereaved families. What is 'peace'? If we cannot live in peace in our own land because of the crimes committed by the Americans here in Korea, then there is no peace in Korea. The Americans say they are here to keep peace but the fact of the matter is that they are here to disturb the peace - they are here to ensure that we get no peace in Korea.
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