Acquittal of two U.S. soldiers leads to massive protests, Bush apology
Since last Thursday, nearly daily protests have taken place in front of U.S. military bases all over South Korea in response to the recent acquittal of two U.S. soldiers involved in the deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls last June.
Source :  Base21
by Christian/Base21 Media Activist
Since last Thursday, nearly daily protests have taken place in front of U.S. military bases all over South Korea in response to the recent acquittal of two U.S. soldiers involved in the deaths of two South Korean schoolgirls last June. The soldiers were tried in a U.S. military court, prompting calls for the removal of the United States Forces in Korea (USFK), who's 37,000 soldiers post a dangerous threat to the peoples of both Koreas.
The source of this new wave of anti-U.S. protests is a tragic accident on June 13th in Hyochon Village near Camp Red Cloud, 15 miles north of Seoul. Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun were walking to a friend's birthday party when they were struck and killed by a 45-ton armored U.S. military vehicle. The extremely bloody pictures of the scene were quickly circulated around the country, prompting a few conspiracy theories. Some talked seriously about an act of revenge for the lost soccer game by the U.S. team during the World Cup.
The decisive moment of the nation-wide outrage was the immediate claim of innocence made by the USFK and the plan to bring the two suspected drivers back to the U.S. After some months of militant protests across the nation against that plan, the U.S. military finally agreed to hold the trial in South Korea, but only in a U.S. military court.
Thursday's decision was exactly what everyone here expected: the acquittal of the vehicle's driver, Sgt. Fernando Nino, by a U.S. military court in Dongducheon. He was found not guilty of negligent homicide.
Afterwards, the response was also expected: more then 700 protesters tried to storm Camp Casey and clashed with 1,800 riot cops. "We demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops--they're murders!" protesters shouted.
"We cannot accept the verdict, which was made unilaterally according to the unfair Korea - U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)," said Kwon Yeong-gil, presidential candidate of the Democratic Labor Party.
On Saturday, the second soldier involved in the incident, Sgt. Mark Walker, was unsurprisingly acquitted by the same U.S. military court. The two U.S. servicemen left Korea for the United States Wednesday, Yonhap reported.
Meanwhile, presidential candidates from every party each declared that, if elected, they will change, as ruling Millennium Democratic Party candidate Roh Moo-hyun put it, the "deeply unjust SOFA." Also, more than 1,000 high school students and other youth gathered in front of Yongsan base in Seoul and demanded the complete withdrawal of the U.S. military from the Korean Peninsula.
According to the South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo, a group of students threw Molotov cocktails over the gate of a U.S. base in Daebang-dong on Monday. "Other Koreans found less violent ways of expressing their protest against the non guilty verdict," JoongAng Ilbo reported on Tuesday. In Shinchon, a university area, and also in downtown Seoul, many shops, pubs and restaurants have refused to serve Americans until the Nino and Walker are tried in a South Korean court. Near Seoul뭩 City Hall, a western-style bistro put a sign on it뭩 window saying, 밃mericans are not welcome!"
A group of student activists cut a barbed-wire fence and entered a U.S. military base on Tuesday, staging a protest against the acquittals, JoongAng Ilbo reported on Wednesday.
Fifty three university students broke into Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi province, around 1 p.m. after cutting wire entanglements surrounding the U.S. 8th Army's 2d Infantry Division headquarters.
The students shouted anti-American slogans, demanding that the acquitted GIs be retried in South Korean courts. "There was no violence, however, and after 30 minutes, all the intruders were arrested by the police." so the South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo.
And yesterday, international and domestic press wires reported that U.S. President George W. Bush officially apologized for the deaths of the two schoolgirls. "Just this morning, the President sent me a message asking me to convey his apologies to the families of the girls, to the government of the Republic of Korea and to the people of Korea," U.S. Amb. Thomas Hubbard said in a press conference.
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