Anti-U.S. military activists take to the streets of Seoul
Organizers are planning a large mass rally to take place at Jongmyo Park next Saturday.
Source :  Base21
by Terry Park/Staff Reporter
Seoul, Korea--Activists from two organizations held a petition drive dubbed "Citizen Action Day" in downtown Seoul yesterday demanding the United States military disclose the entire truth of the June 13th incident in which two junior-high school students were fatally struck by a military amourmed vehicle near Camp Red Cloud.
Members from the Gwanghwamum Citizen/Netizen Organization and Jatonghyup (Peace and Reunification Movement) gathered in front of the YMCA in Jongro to educate the people of Seoul of what happened several weeks ago and the ongoing struggle to demand justice for the girls, their families, and a significant change to the U.S.-ROK relationship.
People were asked to sign a petition demanding a full disclosure of the incident, just compensation, an apology by President George W. Bush, and a radical change to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The SOFA is the controversial agreement between the U.S. military and the South Korean government that affords U.S. soldiers who have committed a crime against South Korean citizens a large measure of protection. Activists are demanding that Sgt. Mark Walker and Sgt. Fernando Nino, both from the army's 2nd infrantry division, be turned over to Seoul authorities.
The tragic deaths of Shin Hyo-soon,13, and Shim Mi-sun, 13 were not covered or barely mentioned by major newspapers and television stations in South Korea and the United States until well after the incident occured. Some speculate World Cup fever, which was at its height at the time of the incident, as well as the much-publicized Yellow Sea naval battle between South and North Korea, contributed to the media blackout of the incident. This is why activists have taken the struggle from Uijeongbu to the downtown streets of Seoul. "We want the truth to be told," said Gong Dong-Gil, an activist from Jatonghyup. "Those who know about the incident are very angry."
This was evident by the stunned and angry expressions of passerbys viewing a photo gallery displaying graphic scenes of the girls' crushed bodies, U.S. soldiers pushing back angry protestors, and classmates, still dressed in their school uniforms, holding up the black-and-white funeral photos of their deceased friends, sadness and anger welling up in their eyes. It was clear that some were hearing about and seeing up-close the incident for the first time; for others, it was a shocking visual representation of the violent consequences of stationing 37,000 heavily-armed U.S. troops in South Korea. Ironically, the soldiers entrusted to supposedly protect the life and liberty of local citizens are themselves granted a high-level of legal protection when having threatened or ended the lives and liberties of South Korean people, or in this case, of two 13-year-old girls, who were only walking to their friend's house for a birthday party.
A traditional funeral altar was set up next to the photo gallery. People were invited to light an incense stick and bow several times in front of the enlarged death photos of the two girls, as is customary in Korean Confucian culture. Black ribbons were also passed out to be worn in the memory of the girls.
Meanwhile, in Uijeongbu, about 40 minutes north of Seoul and near the site of the fatal incident, approximately 1,000 people protested Saturday evening in what is becoming a weekend ritual of anti-U.S. demonstrations.
Organizers are planning a large mass rally to take place at Jongmyo Park next Saturday. They expect at least 5,000 people to appear.
A Buddhist monk pays his respects to the deceased schoogirls
A man on his way to a hike lights an incense stick for the schoolgirls
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