Workers join demonstrations against U.S. military
Catholic sisters and members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the second-largest labor confederation in south Korea, joined a growing chorus of voices expressing their outrage at the recent U.S. military verdict that acquitted two soldiers involved in the deaths of two Korean schoolgirls last June.
Source :  Base21
by Terry Park/Base21 Media Activist
Seoul, Korea--Women workers and the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the second-largest labor confederation in south Korea, joined a growing chorus of voices expressing their outrage at the recent U.S. military verdict that acquitted two soldiers involved in the deaths of two Korean schoolgirls last June. Both groups held separate but simeoultaneous demonstrations near the U.S. embassy in downtown Seoul on Thursday afternoon amidst heavey police presence.
Around thirty women from the Korean Women's Trade Union (KWTU) and other labor unions and peace organizations dressed in traditional white funeral clothes mourned the deaths of Shin Hyo-soon and Shim Mi-sun, who were walking to a friend's birthday party when they were struck and killed by a 45-ton armored vehicle participating in an American military exercise. A traditional drumming group performed at the rally, which took place across the street from the U.S. embassy.
The women activists echoed the main demands of anti-U.S. military activists and politicans--the revision of the U.S-Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and a direct apology from President George W. Bush. An apology from Bush was given last week by U.S. Ambassador Thomas C. Hubburd but was denounced as inadequate since it did not come directly from Bush himself.
In the case of the SOFA, which governs the legal status of U.S. troops stationed in south Korea and has been revised twice, the women activists condemned the unfair agreement for allowing violent crimes committed off-base such as that occured last summer to be tried in a U.S. military court instead of a south Korean court. However, despite demands even from President Kim Dae-Jung and all of the presidential candidates to revise the agreement, hopes for even minor changes for greater interrgative powers by south Korean prosecutors look bleak: the Korea Herald reported that U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ruled out any changes to the treaty after he met with South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jun in Washington on Thursday.
Jean Maloney, an American Maryknoll sister who has participated in the peace movement in south Korea since 1953 said, "I am ashamed and embarrassed to be an American. We stand for justice and democracy, but when we go to other countries, we don't apply those same principles." She added, "The U.S. military needs to leave. Koreans can take care of themselves."
At a press conference in front of the U.S. embassy, KCTU officials also demanded a direct apology from President Bush and a revision of the SOFA. Motorists passing by honked in support of the activists. When three KCTU officials attempted to deliver a protest letter to embassy authorities, they were blocked by police at the entrance.
Meanwhile, twenty Catholic priests continued their hunger strike at a small park near the U.S. embassy. Reverend Moon Jung-Hyon, a prominent anti-U.S. activist and a participant in the hunger strike, was present at the KCTU press conference. Also, members of civic groups continued their daily protests near the U.S. embassy.
A large mass rally is planned for Saturday afternoon at Jongmyo Park.
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